Don LaBorde. Photo courtesy Paraduxx.

Vintage pursuits: Don LaBorde bring his creative mind to wine

The first time Don LaBorde had a sip of real wine, he was a freshman at LSU. It was Coppola Diamond Claret, served—unsurprisingly, for a college party—in a plastic cup. He was unimpressed.

“I thought it was nasty,” says LaBorde with a laugh. Twelve years later, this Louisiana native became the assistant wine maker for the Diamond Collection at Francis Ford Coppola Winery, the very wine that he rejected as a novice. But the road from fraternity row to the Silverado Trail certainly was the one less traveled for a Southern boy. He started out with a simple desire to create and produce, and he’s now the head winemaker for Paraduxx, a Duckhorn brand, in Napa.

“I always wanted to be a maker,” says LaBorde, who began college as an art major. “I always felt like a craftsman, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Winemaking combines art, science and craft in a way that is really appealing to me.”

LaBorde left Baton Rouge for Oregon with a friend in 1998 and managed a wine shop outside of Portland. It was there that he fell in love with the idea of creating wine. He pursued a degree in oenology at Charles Sturt University in Australia, then landed a job at Trefethen Family Vineyards in Napa. He served as winemaker at Francis Ford Coppola, then was recruited by Duckhorn for its Decoy brand. Now with Paraduxx, LaBorde can be experimental because it’s the only Napa Valley winery devoted exclusively to Napa Valley blends.

“We are like Duckhorn’s irresponsible younger brother. So it works well with my personality,” says LaBorde, who actually is the youngest of three siblings. “Our wines are inspired by iconic blends throughout the world. I work with a lot of creative people and we have fun creating cool wines. It’s like the job was written for me.”