Hendry Vineyards - From Physicist to Vintner
By Katie Kreifels
Small, family-owned vineyards with a strong commitment to quality,
the art of growing, and knowledge of the vineyard's terroir (soil and
climate) might usually be associated with small Burgundy estates, not
Napa Valley, California. However, some of the finest California wines
are made with grapes grown on small estates run by families with a longstanding
tradition and passion for perfecting the art of growing. These families
have an intimate knowledge of the subtle differences between growing
conditions and vines' growing tendencies on different plots of land.
Hendry Vineyard, 120 acres nestled between Napa Valley's Carneros and
Mt. Vedeer viticultural districts, is one of the rare, special, and
family-run vineyards. Hendry is known for producing some of the highest
quality wine grapes in California, distinguished by their commitment
to quality, and highly regarded by great winemakers; their Cabernet
is used in Opus One and their Chardonnay wine and Pinot Noir are used
in Mondavi Reserve wines. Kent Rosenblum even receives Hendry Zinfandel
from the vineyard for a "Hendry Vineyard" designated bottling.
Hendry's focus has long been on perfecting the art of growing their
grapes, and until the 1992 vintage, they focused only on growing: all
of the grapes were sold to other wineries. Starting with the 1992 harvest,
Hendry started reserving small lots of fruit from the best vineyard
blocks for Hendry's own label. Hendry's goal now is a natural next step:
to produce great wines with their own grapes because they believe that
viticultural greatness is determined by a delicate balance of terroir,
viticulture, and enology-a balance they have worked diligently and successfully
to understand. Hendry's mission is to search for and improve that balance.
George Hendry is more than qualified to conduct his study, as he is
well versed in analysis-aside from his lifelong research at the winery,
he has earned a graduate degree in physics and is the President of Cyclotron
Inc., where he designs and manufactures accelerators that are used to
make radio pharmaceuticals for cancer research. He applies the same
dedication, attention to detail, and desire for perfection to his work
in the vineyard as he must necessarily use in the laboratory-from overalls
to labcoat, pruning shears to generators, Hendry knows what he's doing.
Interview with George Hendry
StarChefs: How did Hendry Winery begin?
George Hendry: In 1939, my parents came
to Napa and founded "the Ranch." The 70 acres of land had
an old vineyard, and my father started to grow grapes.
SC: You make wine and study molecules?
GH: Yes, I grew up on this vineyard,
and have worked in it for 40 years. For college, I went to UC Berkeley
and studied Physics. My second career is as a physicist
I am the
president of Cyclotron Inc, where we design and manufacture particle
accelerators that are used for cancer research. But my first priority
is and has always been the vineyard.
SC: How big is the vineyard?
GH: When my parents moved here, they only
had 70 acres. In 1970, we developed "the Ranch" into vineyards,
and in 1994 we expanded our operation, so that we now have 200 acres,
and 115 of those are grapevines. The land is divided into 44 individual
SC: How do you determine the division
of the blocks?
GH: Different land, different soil and
climate, produces different varietals. Each block has a different terroir,
which is everything the site brings to a bottle of wine.
SC: I know that many of your grapes are
used by other wineries in some of their best wines. When did you start
producing under your own label?
GH: 10 years ago.
SC: What kind of advice would you give
to other winemakers?
GH: Don't impose a style on the wine.
Give the wine a chance to get to its fullest potential. You can see
to it that it has the right things. Make sure not to overcrop your vineyard.
In order to achieve the right flavor and complexity, your grapes need
to be ripe but not overripe. You get more complexity by knowing the
physiological maturity: when are the skins and seeds really ripe? In
Napa, there is too much sun, so sugars mature quickly and tannins mature
less quickly. You need to be careful with the ripening.
SC: What is, to you, the most important
thing about winemaking?
GH: Remember to focus on the bottom line,
which is not profit. It is the glass of wine.
New Spring 2002 Releases:
- 1999 Block 28 Zinfandel
- 1999 Pinot Noir
- 2000 Blocks 9 & 21 Chardonnay
- 2000 Blocks 19 & 20 Chardonnay
- 2001 Napa Valley Rose
- 2001 Pinot Gris
Still Available from other vintages:
- 1998 Block 8 Cabernet Sauvignon
- 1999 Block 7 Zinfandel