Address: 3104 Redwood Rd. Napa,California 94558.
Phone Number: 707-226-8320
Tasting Hours: By appt.
Region: Napa Valley AVA, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley AVA, California
Reviewer: Elizabeth Smith
Review Date: 8/8/2016
Reviewer: Elizabeth Smith
When a few of my colleagues planned a visit to Hendry Ranch, I jumped at the opportunity. In February 2015 at ZAPs (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers) Zinfandel festival, I tasted one of Hendrys Zinfandels and wanted to learn more about the winery. A year and a half later, in August 2016, I visited Hendry for their owner/winemaker seminar tour (three hours, $75 per person) hosted by George O. Hendry.
During the first couple of hours of the visit, Hendry spoke to us about the ranchs history and day-to-day operations from his perspective as a scientist turned vintner and winemaker. He led us on an extensive tour of the ranch, including outstanding views of the vineyards and every area of the production facility, from fermentation tanks to the barrel area. We happened to visit on bottling day, so were able to watch the operation of Hendrys in-house bottling line, added in 2008.
While the land that comprises Hendry Ranch had been farmed by various owners beginning in 1859, it was not until 80 years later, in 1939, that Georges parents, George W. and Margaret Hendry purchased the ranch. They had only six acres of vineyards and the remainder was allocated to fruit orchards and pasture. When George W. passed away in 1944, it was Margaret who led the ranch for the next 30 years and raised sons George O. and his brother, Andrew. Holding degrees in both electrical engineering and organic chemistry, George O. became a renowned cyclotron designer. Although he kept his day job, in the early 1970s, he replanted the ranch to grapevines, including pinot noir and zinfandel, later adding cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. Hendry sold his grapes to the likes of Robert Mondavi and Kent Rosenblum. In 1992, Hendry crafted his first vintage of pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, and zinfandel under the family label. He purchased adjacent property in 1994 and, after replanting the vineyards, began producing albariño, cabernet franc, malbec, merlot, petit verdot, pinot gris, and primitivo by the early 2000s.
Today, Hendry Ranch totals 203 acres (114 acres planted to vine) and produces eleven grape varieties. Hendrys nephew, Mike Hendry, son of his brother, Andrew, manages the vineyards and the winerys direct sales. He oversees a team of twelve, year-round vineyard and cellar workers, many of whom have worked for Hendry over 20 years. Hendry added a production facility in 2000 so all winemaking from vineyard to bottle takes place at the ranch. The winery now makes 15,000 cases under the Hendry label, 18,000 cases total. Hendry continues to sell some grapes and bulk wine to other producers.
Hendry dedicated the last hour to a thorough and educational tasting of nine Hendry wines. We were asked not to use our mobile phones or take photos so that our focus remained on the wines. Hendry presented them in a way that allowed us to compare, contrast, and discuss them. We tasted the 2014 Albariño and 2015 Pinot Gris, the 2014 Unoaked and 2013 Barrel Fermented Chardonnays, the 2013 Pinot Noir, the 2013 Primitivo and 2012 Block 28 Zinfandel, and the 2012 RED and 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. The tasting was one of the most academic in which I have ever participated, with an emphasis on how wine and food interact with each other for a pleasant or a not-so-pleasant experience. We learned aroma and flavor differences between stainless steel and barrel fermented wines as well as how certain foods, like fats, can coat the palate, masking the sometimes harsh tannins of red wines. Although I have taken wine certification coursework, I took copious notes for future reference, as Hendry addressed the chemistry of wine and food pairing in great detail, including what works and what does not.
By far, this was the most comprehensive tour and tasting I have ever experienced. Those who are new to the Napa Valley, grape growing, winemaking, how to taste wine, and wine and food pairing would benefit greatly from a morning spent with second-generation vintner and winemaker, George O. Hendry.