Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Van Der Heyden Vineyards & Winery

Van Der Heyden Vineyards & Winery is a very unusual, unique and oddly eccentric winery that offers some great desert wines and a very nice Syrah.  But be forewarned that you will either really love this winery for its authenticity, character and delicious wines, or you will not like it because it is too funky.  You won't, however, ever forget your visit there.

Duck, turtle & wino crossing

Entry sign

The grounds and tasting room look like something out of a Monty Python movie or what you might encounter in the backwoods of the Ozarks. All that is missing is an outhouse and moonshine still.  If you are turned off by rustic settings, then just skip Van Der Heyden and go to Darioush down the road where they have very good wines along with opulence and splendor. (I like Darioush, and you should go there. The last time we visited I actually took a photo of the gentlemen’s room it was so luxurious.) But please don’t go to Van Der Heyden and expect it to be similar.  If you want to be really adventurous, then go to Darioush first, try their wines and pistachios, visit their restrooms, take some photos (even the restrooms are photgenic) and then head over to Van Der Heyden to enjoy the contrast.

Driveway to winery

Van Der Heyden is famous for their Late Harvest Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m not into desert wines, although I have had friends who were and I’ve tasted many of the finest in the world, including Chateau d’Yquem and aged German Trockenbeerenausleses.  I tend to skip many California desert wines because I find them too one-dimensional, lacking the interesting complexity of great French Sauternes or German or Austrian late harvest Rieslings. They tend to be overly sweet and flabby, without enough acid or fruit and frequently without botrytis. (Port style wines are another story, and I do like a number of California “ports.”)

Tasting room on left

Van Der Heyden Vineyard is located across from the Soda Canyon grocery store on Silverado Trail and Andre Van Der Heyden and his family have been living there since 1977.  They make as many as 30 different wines, all in extremely limited amounts.  Most notable is a late harvest Cabernet Sauvignon, the only regular production late harvest Cab in the world.  Other wineries have tried to make it but apparently without success.  Andre Van Der Heyden figured out how to do it. For a mere $10 and a reservation, you can get to sample some. (I think you may obtain a reservation with very short notice.)  You will then get to have your tasting in the most unusual tasting room you are ever likely to encounter.

Tasting room

Our tasting began with the Van Der Heyden 2006 Syrah at $60.  It had a lot of character with great Syrah fruit that was not overly done.  No fruit bomb here.  It had good black pepper on the nose (very pronounced) and palate and was in a style I just love.  Sometimes you will get pepper in a Petite Sirah or Zinfandel, although not as often as in the past. Some Syrahs have it, too, and I find it most welcome.  Both of us really enjoyed this Syrah!  The Van Der Heyden 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($65?) was also very nice.  It is well balanced and had a very good finish.  But the wine we had come there to purchase was the late harvest Cabernet Sauvignon, which is sold in half bottles, full bottles or magnums.  My friend’s brother-in-law in Southern California fell in love with this late harvest Cab so we were purchasing some for him since Van Der Heyden wines are so difficult to find.  We sampled the Van Der Heyden 2004 Late Harvest Cabernet Sauvignon and it was quite interesting and very nice indeed.  If I’ve ever tasted a late harvest cab in the past, I don’t remember it.  I also tried the Van Der Heyden 2007 Late Harvest Chardonnay which sells for $40 a half bottle.  It had a voluptuous honey nose and was very well balanced.  I liked it as well as the late harvest Cab, although it is very different.  What blew me away, however, was the Van Der Heyden 2002 Late Harvest Semillon that sells for $125 a half bottle.  Although this did not have the lively acid that some French Sauternes have, I found it well balanced.  This 2002 Late Harvest Semillon is one of the finest late harvest California wines I've tasted in recent years.  It is the sort of wine I think of when I hear the phrase, “nectar of the gods.”

Art exhibit

Andre Van Der Heyden was, by the way, our host and full of anecdotes and humor. If you guess one of his riddles, you might get an extra taste, but if you fail, then you have to hear another riddle. Andre emmigrated from the Netherlands as a teenager and you can still hear some Dutch in his pronunciations. We were also introduced to one of their friendly rescue dogs and a rescue cat. I'm not sure where all the ducks and turtles were but there were crossing signs for them.

Tasting room ceiling

Van Der Heyden Vineyards makes some fantastic desert wines, and their other wines are well worth exploring, especially the Syrah.  It is a very unusual and fun place to experience and we look forward to a return visit.

Parking lot

4057 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558
Date of visit: September 12, 2012


  1. Many wineries offer tours of their vineyard and or cellar in addition to tastings. I'm not sure if Van Der Heyden does. Recently we did such a tour at Hendry, which offers one of finest complete tours, spending an hour in the field, one more hour in the cellar and the third hour tasting wine with pairings. The owner himself conducted the entire tour.

  2. its really very nice post to read and am really thankful to you give me such awesome idea to spend with my friends ......


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