Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hendry Vineyard and Winery

Hendry Vineyard and Winery provides the most interesting and informative winery tour and tasting in Napa Valley.  If you want to learn more about wine, this is the place to visit!

Our tour and tasting was conducted by George O. Hendry himself, whom we met at the Zinfandel Festival in January.  He made such good Zin and was such a down to earth, pleasant and interesting person that we knew we had to visit.  Although George may appear as a humble farmer who grew up on an old-fashioned Napa dairy, plum and wine farm, he is extremely knowledgeable and has advanced degrees in physics, chemistry and engineering and he designs nuclear cyclotrons.  Although he did grow up on the farm that is now his vineyard, he is equally at home talking to wine experts or people who know very little about wine. He can also explain everything about vineyard management, wine making, marketing, and wine appreciation from choosing rootstock, to the complex chemical processes in making a wine, to the art of cooking and paring foods with wine.  George is something of a wine encyclopedia with charm.


The ranch has been a vineyard since the 1859 when it was planted by the Sigrist family and was one of the most extensive vineyards in the valley.  It has been owned by the Hendry family since 1939 when George W. Hendry, an agronomy professor at UCB and UCD, purchased the property which was taken over by his wife and two sons when he died in 1944.  A growing increase in demand for premium wines in the 1960s and 1970s led to their move away from plum orchards and dairy farming to focus on vineyard planting.  In the 1970s they sold their grapes to Mondavi and in the 1980s they sold to Mondavi, Opus one and Kent Rosenblum.  The first Hendry vintage was in 1992. During the tour, you will learn the history of the vineyard and how they decided to diversify by matching different wine varietals to the many microclimates on the property.

After the vineyard tour and history, the tour continues inside the winery where you will learn everything you always wanted to know about making wine.  George encourages questions and no question is too simple or too technical for him to manage in a way that is geared specifically to the level of the person asking the questions.  He makes everything so clear that you will wonder if he also has an advanced degree in communication.

Winery building

After over two hours in the vineyard and winery, the tour continues up to the tasting room where an hour is spent tasting ten different wines.  This is not your usual pour and taste experience.  George describes what to look for in each wine, what foods it would pair with and helps you to understand wine appreciation.  You will taste a wine, proceed to another and then return to the former wine to see how the taste changed.  You will taste a wine and then some crackers with olive oil, returning to the wine to see how the wine is now completely different in taste.  This is carefully conducted wine appreciation class, not just a hurried tasting.  The entire tour and tasting will last at least three hours.  (Reservations are required, of course, as clearly noted on their web page.)  Other wineries have good tours, but this is the most comprehensive tour and tasting I know of in Napa Valley.  It is well worth the $20 but can be free if you purchase wine.  It is no surprise to see that Hendry is the highest rated tourist attraction in Napa Valley with Trip Advisor and why there are hundreds of highest rating reviews on Yelp.  Hendry is probably the best place for many people to begin their Napa Valley wine tasting.

Tasting room

All Hendry wines are grown on their property so are Napa Valley wines.  Many Napa Valley wineries purchase some grapes from outside Napa Valley so they can sell less expensive wines.  Usually any wine sold for less than around $20 is not from Napa Valley because of the price of Napa Valley grapes.  Wine prices at Hendry begin at $18 for their Pinot Gris, although they also have two other wines for $20 or less.  The highest price current release is their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon at $55, which is the only wine sold for over $38.  Varietals include: Pinot Gris, Albarino, Unoaked Chardonnay, Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, various blocks of Zinfandel, two levels of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Italian Primitivo and Cabernet Franc.  The Albarino and Primitivo are rarely found at any Napa Valley wineries, and you will not find much Pinot Gris or 100% Petit Verdot.  So Hendry also offers you an opportunity to taste some varietals that you won’t find at most other Napa Valley wineries.
Our tasting notes of the ten wines would continue for many pages, so a summary seems more appropriate. We did not taste the Petit Verdot or Cabernet Franc.  Of the red wines we really liked the Hendry 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($55), the Henery 2008 Pinot Noir ($33), the Hendry 2007 Red Wine ($38) and the Hendry 2007 Block 28 Zinfandel ($35).  The Hendry Primitivo ($35) was good, but I must confess I find Primitivos in general to be less interesting than Zins to which they are closely related.  Primitivos often seem to me to be Zins without tannin or spice.  The HRW Cabernet Sauvignon was just okay; but then it is only $23 which makes it a decent Napa Valley Cab for the price.  With the white wines, I liked both of the Chardonnays, the Hendry 2010 Unoaked Chardonnay at $19 and the Hendry 2009 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay at $30.  It was very interesting to compare the oaked and unoaked ones side by side.  Neither one has had malolactic conversion, so you really taste the Chardonnay varietal on the unoaked one and can easily identify the effects of French oak on the other.  The Pinot Gris ($18) and the Albarino ($20) were both good.  I don’t drink Pinot Gris very often but love good Albarinos.  Most Albarinos in the $20 or less range are not that good, but this one was quite decent.

If I had to pick my two favorites, they would be the 2007 Cab and the 2007 Zin.  The red wine blend at $38 is darned good and very interesting.  This has the traditional Bordeaux varietals but unlike Bordeaux blends that are either predominately Cabernet Sauvignon (Left Bank) or Merlot (Right Bank), this wine is an unusual blend (percentage wise) of 36% Petit Verdot, 21% Malbec, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot and 11% Cabernet Franc and was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels,  with 70% of them new barrels.  The 2007 Cab is a free run Cab that was in new French oak for 21 months.  It is very drinkable now but will cellar well.  With cherry on the nose, well-integrated tannins and oak, and very good balance, this is a very high quality Napa Cab.  The 2008 Pinot Noir was also very good, a lighter style Pinot but bursting with red fruit flavors.  We really liked every one of the wines we tasted.

Hendry Vineyard and Winery should probably be at the top of the list for many people when they visit Napa Valley.  They provide a great introduction to wine and wine appreciation and also offer outstanding quality wines with many different varietals.  It is a wonderful winery to visit.

Hendry Vineyard and Winery
3104 Redwood Rd
Napa, CA 94558
(707) 226-8320
Date of visit: March 21, 2012 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.