Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dutch Henry Winery

Dutch Henry Winery is a small winery owned by the Chafen family and is located on the Silverado Trail in Calistoga.  Scott Chafen is the winegrower and winemaker who also functions as their cellar rat, sales guy, office manager, landscaper, olive picker, architect, delivery boy, forklift operator, customer service representative, etc.  The winery was established in 1992 and by 1999 the winery was named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top five wineries to visit in Napa Valley. In addition to their fame for very good hand crafted wines, they are also known for their picnic grounds and their dog friendly attitude. (see bottom of page.) There is a tasting fee, but it is waived with the purchase of a bottle of wine which are priced very reasonably, beginning at $28 and topping out at a mere $68 for their Cab reserve.

Entry sign

The winery was named after the nearby Dutch Henry Canyon which in turn was named after a mercury prospector who lived in the hills behind the winery. (Mercury was used to extract gold from quartz.)  This prospector became a farmer who sold produce to the stagecoach passengers visiting Napa Valley.  There is a story that Dutch Henry might have supplemented his produce sales as a highwayman on the Silverado Trail, possibly working with the infamous Black Bart. 

Picnic area

Some wines are sourced from single vineyards in Napa Valley. Estate wines are California Certified Organically Farmed.  Production is 4,000 to 6,000 cases a year with ten to fourteen different wines. There is also a wine cave that was completed in 2008

Tasting room entrance

Our gracious host was Julius, who is the Manger for the Wine Club, Hospitality and Retail and has been with the winery for over six years.  Our tasting began with the Chafen Family 2011 Sauvignon Blanc at $28.  Following a light lemon nose, I got crisp, dry lemon and grapefruit on the palate with a very clean finish.  It should pair very well with seafood.  Next up was the Dutch Henry 2009 Mount Veeder Pinot Noir at $48.  Hold this one up to some sunlight to appreciate the lovely color before putting it to your nose.  After a light aroma of strawberry, I got mostly strawberry on the palate with a touch of cherry, followed by a good finish.  This was followed by the Chafen Family 2009 Rutherford Zinfandel at $48.  I got mostly plum on the nose with more plum and some blackberry on the palate.  It was slightly jammy with some pepper.  I always welcome pepper or spice in a Zin and found this one very pleasing.  Next was the Dutch Henry 2007 Napa Valley Argos, a blend of 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 23% Cabernet Franc.  This was a very nice Bordeaux type blend for only $49 and my second favorite wine during the tasting.  Almost as appealing was the Dutch Henry Napa Valley Estate Syrah at $48.  It had a very good nose followed by a lush presentation on the palate of blackberry and currant, with a little plum and spice. It was very easy and pleasant to drink and had a great finish. 

Tasting room

The favorite for both of us, however, was the final offering, the Dutch Henry 2006 "Terrier Station" Cabernet Sauvignon at $50.  This wine is described as coming from their St. Helena vineyard and having the finest qualities of Rutherford bench terroir.  It is 100% Cab, sees 30% French oak and had a production of only 425 cases. Mostly blackberry on the nose, it hits the palate with a lush, concentrated, black cherry, with beautifully integrated dusty tannins, some pepper and a lot of personality.  It has good structure with a decent finish and is not at all jammy.  This was a real standout of a wine and will be added to our list of all time favorite Napa Valley wines.  It is very drinkable now but should cellar well.

Dutch Henry Winery offers a free tasting with the purchase of just one bottle of wine and has some very good wines reasonably price wines with a wide range of varietals, although the focus is more on reds.  Calistoga might seem somewhat far north to drive if you are coming from Napa, but you can zoom quickly up the Silverado Trail and find the winery right there on the roadside with plenty of parking.  They are also open without appointment.  We highly recommend you visit them.  If you can't, you should try to try some of their wines if you can find them.  They do have a club membership, providing discounts on the wine along with shipping, so that is another option.

4310 Silverado Trail  
Calistoga, CA 94515
(888) 224-5879
Date of visit: January 30, 2013

Here is some information from their site:
Picnic & Bocce
Our picnic tables and bocce ball courts are available for use by our guests.  We are happy to offer both of them for your enjoyment and space may be reserved on a first call basis.  We require our guests to experience our Current Release Tasting while enjoying these amenities. 
Dutch Henry winery is dog friendly. While Dogs are not allowed in the winery we are happy to set you up at a picnic table for a tasting. Leashes are encouraged and when possible a call ahead to alert our resident Airedales of pending four legged company.


  1. TJ,

    Always great to read about some of these smaller Napa wineries that are big on character. I'll definitely be hitting you up for recommendations when I'm back in Napa (2014 maybe).



  2. Hi Nick,
    More than happy to do so. Any readers may email me directly for suggestions on wineries to visit based on individual interests and preferences. Cheers, TJ


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