“I have a lot of respect for the past, and value tradition more than most. Traditions are built on experience, and there is nothing more valuable in winemaking.” – Kale Anderson
2021 is Kale Anderson’s first vintage at Duncan Peak, but it is his 25th vintage in Napa Valley. He had created many 90+ score wines under his label, Kale Wines, and others. He has worked for auspicious wineries like Pahlmeyer, Cliff lede and Colgin, establishing his preeminent reputation over the years.
When Max and Jane re-started Duncan Peak wines in 2021, they created their label to make rare and remarkable wines bearing the finest organic fruit from their property.
Kale brings together his experiences working at different sizes of wineries with a proudly local sensibility. A local California, Kale pours his respect for tradition and the land that has been his home all his life.
At Duncan Peak, we only hand-pick our grapes. Handpicking reduces damage to berry and maintain vines’ health. More importantly, handpicking allows us to be more selective with the grapes going into our wines – inferior grapes never enter the juice, meaning our wine never requires corrections or additives to cure inferior flavors.
Hand-picking is more labor-intensive and expensive than machine picking, but we take the extra time to preserve the integrity of our vines and wine. Our grapes undergo two sorting periods to ensure product quality. The first sorting happens at harvest when the picker throws out any damaged clusters or leaves. The second sorting occurs at the sorting table during crushing, which our expert winemakers and cellar workers usually conduct. A final sort of all the grapes occurs before the fermentation to remove the MOG Materials from the fruit. By the end of the sorting process, only grapes enter the oak barrels for fermentation.
At Duncan Peak, no batch of wine is the same. We break down our five lots into “slices and dices” for fermentation and craft each lot differently. When combined, the unique profile of each lot contributes to the finished wine’s overall complexity.
Creating vibrant and unique flavors is key to our brand. Therefore, we use different yeast strains and implement other winemaking practices in every lot based on their soil profile and health. As a result, each lot is one-of-a-kind, and we select only the most premium ones to make our final blend.
Our barrels evolve differently over time because of the small batch process – we separate the free run and press lots as the wine is pressed off its skin to bring out its true character and flavor during aging. Small-batch fermentation requires extensive labor and attention from the winemaker because fermentation moves at different speeds, but it is well worth the effort.
When wine ages or matures in oak barrels, it absorbs some of the wood’s flavors and aromas. Our wines’ hints of aromatic spices, rich coffee, and chocolate flavors come from our oak barrels. So critical are oak barrels in developing a wine’s flavor that our wine spends 90% of its life in a barrel before bottling.
We pride ourselves on the quality of our materials and work with the world’s top french cooperage companies to find them. Our team is incredibly selective when choosing oak barrels. We select only the best French Oak capable of retaining the terroir characteristics of our vintage while providing the olfactory complexity and rich, rounded flavors that define our wines.
Kale Anderson, our remarkable winemaker, has said, “I make wine with my senses, and I use science to gauge risk.” Some winemakers claim the craft is an art form, others a science. We believe winemaking combines both.
Winemaking is art influenced by the expertise and senses of the winemaker, who must hone the natural flavors of grapes and the soil into its final product. However, it is also science reliant on chemical reactions, acidity, and timing.
When deciding what products to bottle, our decision is based 70% on taste and the instinct of our winemaker. We base the other 30% on science and the acidity of our wine. Our decision process is hands-on; we smell and taste grapes, juice, and wine throughout the creative process.
Ultimately, all the essential steps in winemaking (such as harvest time, blending, and aging) culminate in the delicious first taste of the vintage.
Shortly after Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821, Alta California became a Mexican Federal Republic territory. Between 1821 and 1848, over 600 land grants were awarded to rancheros throughout California.
As a reward for his military service, Don Fernando Feliz received one of these grants from the Mexican government. Don Fernando Feliz stood atop the pinnacle of his new land where all the eye could see was his to cultivate. The highest point on which he stood would later become known as Duncan Peak.
After the conclusion of the Mexican-American war in 1848, California became a territory of the United States. During this time, Elijah Duncan had moved to Mendocino County, where he purchased land from Don Fernando Feliz. This newly acquired land by Elijah would become Duncan Ranch.
For generations, the Duncan family used most of the land for ranching. Duncan Ranch was home to countless cattle and sheep throughout its untamed plains. The Duncan family used the fertile grounds along the Russian River to grow hops. This popular crop would later lend its name to the town of Hopland.
In 1962 the Lenczowski family acquired Duncan Ranch from Bessie Duncan. The Lenczowski's would continue using the land for cattle and sheep for many years. The head of the family, Hubert Lenczowski would spend his formative years growing up on Duncan Ranch before deciding he wanted something different for this coveted patch of land.
In 1987, Hubert Lencsowski and his wife, Resa Lenczowski, both Harvard graduates, began growing Cabernet Sauvignon. Hubert and Resa became inspired by the elegant wines of the Bordeaux region of France. Soon after the first harvest, the Lenczowski's became a certified and bonded winery with the state of California. Duncan Peaks Vineyards was born and made its first marvelous appearance in the winemaking world.
Tragedy struck in 2012 as the Mendocino Fire claimes the southern block of Duncan Peak Vineyards. Within this block were the two acres of Cabernet Sauvignon planted by Hubert and Resa Lenczowski. Hubert had reached retirement age when the fire swept Duncan Peak Vineyard. With no family willing to take over the vineyard, Hubert decided he would sell both the ranch and the winery.
In 2014, the Jiang family purchased Duncan Peak Vineyards from Hubert Lenczowski. With their knowledge and experience spanning three generations in china, the Jiangs saw untapped potential in Duncan Peak Vineyards. With much work ahead of them, the family began to plan the future of the winery and vineyard.
Due to the growing business overseas in China, Max Luo would return home after completing his Master's Degree at UCLA. His sister, Jane Jiang, would take the reins as she studied alongside some of California's most revered educators in Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. Duncan Peak Vineyards would enter a five-year dormancy during this period.
During the five-year dormancy of Duncan Peak Vineyards, Max established valuable business partners throughout Asia. Following Jane's success at UC Davis, she worked with over ten different wineries spanning the United States and Australia.
Max and Jane would oversee the rebirth of Duncan Peak and restore the vineyard to its previous glory. Together, this brother-sister duo could combine their collective experiences and share this hidden gem with the world again.
Utilizing modern technology and traditional winemaking methods, combined with the vineyard's unique characteristics, a new chapter for Duncan Peak Vineyard begins. In 2021, renowned winemaker Kale Anderson was brought onto the team as the lead winemaker. With Kale Anderson being the youngest winemaker to receive 100 points from Robert Parker Jr, the sky became the limit for Duncan Peaks.