Hendry Zinfandel

Mo Wine Please

Mo Wine Review – Hendry Zinfandel

The cover story of this month’s Wine Enthusiast Magazine features what they call California’s most iconic grape – Zinfandel.

According to the article, Zin is “in”… as in it is currently enjoying huge popularity. Not to be confused with (although it often is) “white zinfandel”, this varietal is a hearty wine that pairs very well with lots of different types of food.

One of our very, very favorite Zinfandel producers is Hendry Wines of Napa Valley.

Hendry makes a couple of different variations, designated by the specific block within the vineyard from which the grapes come.

This week we enjoyed the 2010 Hendry Blocks 7 & 22 Zinfandel.

Hendry zin

One night we enjoyed the wine with an Italian sausage, red pepper and spinach risotto.  The wine was equally delicious the next night when we paired it with chicken breasts smothered in barbecue sauce.

Perhaps you have heard the term “Old Vine Zinfandel”.  Although there is no legal definition of “Old Vine” most folks agree that the label describes vines that are at least 50 years old, some even say 100 years is the magic number. By comparison, most vines have a useful life of only 25 years before they are dug up and replaced. Although Block 7, planted in 1975 and Block 22, planted in 1995, are old-ish, in the wine world they are only considered “middle-aged”.

But, just like those of us who describe ourselves as “middle-aged”, these vines have been around long enough to mellow and to become even better versions of their younger selves. Their roots have dug deep, making them able to benefit from the minerals in the soil from the surface down to the really ancient layers.  See, there are good things about getting older!

Expertly blended, the grapes from these two blocks combine to make a wine that is a beautiful dark color with deep berry flavors with a little lingering smokiness at the finish.

The tasting notes for the 2010 Hendry Blocks 7 & 22 Zinfandel say that the wine pairs well with “tomato-based Italian plates…simple pastas, as well as just about anything on the barbecue.” And we would agree!

If you travel to Napa Valley, especially if you are looking for a wine tasting experience that is low key and different than most others, I recommend you visit Hendry Wines.

Their tours and tastings are by appointment only. The tasting fee is $20, a tour and tasting costs $40 but both will be refunded if you make a wine purchase of equivalent cost. I’m betting you will.

We had been impressed by a Hendry wine in a restaurant so on one of our trips to Napa, Peter and I decided to visit the winery to check it out.  I called to make an appointment and was given directions to the ranch and told that our tour guide would be George.

“Ok, sounds great!”

hendry sign

It took us a couple of drive-bys to find the place. This modest sign, the only indication that we had arrived at our destination, was a symbol of the laid back feeling of the place.  Nothing flashy, nothing showy, just a ranch where they happened to grow grapes and make kick-ass wine.

One other couple joined us for the tour and tasting. And it was, in fact led by George – as in George Hendry, winery owner.  The land has been in the Hendry family for over 100 years and George has spent his whole life there – oh, except for when he went to college and grad school to become a nuclear physicist. Now George splits his time between winemaking and the design and manufacture of particle accelerators.

He is the most unassuming, gentle (and obviously brilliant) man who is absolutely passionate about the wine he makes. George had us tromping through the vineyards and tasting grapes. Once we got back to the farmhouse (aka tasting room) George started pouring and talking. With each wine we tried, George described a mouthwateringly delicious dish he likes to make to pair with the wine.  Before long we were trying to figure out how to wrangle an invitation to dinner.

(Seriously, Mr. Hendry – you need to write a cookbook.)

After each taste, George would say, “Oh, I want you to try this!” and he’d open yet another bottle.  By the end of our 4 hour (was supposed to be 2 hour) visit we had sipped and spit our way though 11 different wines and heard story after story about the family, the winery and what George likes to cook.  It was incredible. George’s obvious pride in his product made this one of the most memorable tasting experiences we have ever had in Napa.

I’m not saying that you will be able to replicate our experience – I really think ours was one of those serendipitous moments. But I will guarantee that the tour and tasting will be very different from the more scripted and polished ones you will experience on the main highways of Napa Valley. You will learn a lot, taste some wonderful wine and truly get a feel for the land.

If you see George, please tell him we say hi!

Note: This is not a paid review. It’s just little old me talking about a wine I love.

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  1. Oooh I have never had Hendry wine and Zins are my favorite varietal. I will have to go to the tasting room next time we are in Napa, although we tend to go to Sonoma. Have you had Ridge or Rosenblum? Those are some of my favorite Zin makers.

    • Hendry is in the southwest part of Napa Valley so not too far from Sonoma. Worth the trip! I will definitely check out Ridge and Rosenblum. Thanks for the recommendations! I’m assuming you have had the Cakebread Zin. 🙂

  2. Napa Valley is totally on our bucket list for places to visit! I am making a mental note of this so if we ever get there we can check it out! :)-Ashley

  3. What a terrific experience! George sounds like the perfect host.

  4. That is such a treat that you got the tour with the winery owner! I’m a beginner wine enthusiast – I like the sweet reds. I think I would enjoy the zin, too!

    • We had no idea he would be our host until we got to the winery! For a wine geek like my husband it was like meeting a rock star!

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