Great Tastes

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Dutch Henry Winery

Author: Alexandra Russell
October, 2014 Issue
Dutch Henry Winery
4300 Silverado Trail
Calistoga, CA  94515
(707) 942-5771
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily
Tasting Fees: $25-$50
Wines Currently Offered: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, Argos (a Bordeaux blend), The Wanted (a Merlot and Pinot Noir blend), and Chafen Family Wines including Reserve Pinot Noir and Three Red Heads (a red blend)
Appointment necessary: For groups larger than six
Picnics: Encouraged
Pets: Dog friendly
In Napa Valley, wine tasting can get downright opulent, with showy, art-filled tasting rooms and high-priced tchotchkes and accessories—and that can definitely be a lot of fun. But sometimes, that’s not the kind of mood you’re in. So if you find yourself looking for something more down-to-earth, check out Dutch Henry.
Located near a deep curve on Silverado Trail, there’s just a small white sign and modest gate to mark its entry. Drive in, and that understated vibe continues. No Corinthian columns, water features or gift sets of Riedel glassware to be seen—just a straightforward, warehouse-like structure that houses both the working winery and a small tasting area. But across the narrow driveway, there’s a lovely, welcoming picnic ground, nestled under shady oaks and strung with party lights, where guests can while away an hour or an afternoon. There’s a bocce court next to the 2-acre California Certified Organically Farmed Syrah vineyard and a bike rack for hearty travelers. Up a small hill but not far away, you can see the wine cave entrance.
It’s a friendly, relaxed place, made all the more welcoming by all the furry and feathered residents. An enclosed chicken coop and yard sits among the picnic tables, and resident Airedale terriers are always up for a walk and a wag. Floyd the cat rides herd over the tasting room, inserting himself into conversations and snuggling up on the left shoulder (always the left) of those visitors he deems worthy.
Speaking of “worthy,” Dutch Henry wines are delicious, and guests can choose from three different tasting experiences. First, you can opt for a tasting of six wines in the tasting room (barrel samples and tastes of award-winning estate olive oil are often available as well). Choices may include Zinfandel (spicy and barbecue-ready), Argos (a signature Bordeaux blend that’s both bold and smooth), the estate Syrah (juicy and seductive, it was the first wine ever bottled under the Calistoga AVA), a barrel sample of The Wanted (a unique blend of Merlot and Pinot Noir that balanced the boldness of the former with the delicacy of the latter; it had a distinct port-like oakiness) or its estate Cabernet Sauvignon (I tried the 2006, sourced from a vineyard the family no longer owns). Every time I said I’d found my favorite, I was offered another to taste—I loved them all.
For a few dollars more, tasting can include a tour of the wine cave, which was built in 2008, where an intimate dining room is available for winery or private events of up to 40 people. The picnic grounds and/or bocce court (with it’s own picnic area) can also be reserved for large groups; the winery works with a local caterer to provide pig roasts and other delectable food options. If you have a bit more time, the reserve tour and tasting takes place in the cave dining room and includes cheese pairings (advance notice required).
Dutch Henry Winery, which is named for a colorful local prospector-turned-farmer (and possible highwayman), was founded in 1992 by San Franciscans Less and Maggie Chafen and their son, Scott. Today, Scott is not only co-owner with his folks, but also winemaker and director of operations (though, over the years, he’s also served as cellar rat, sales guy, olive picker, delivery boy and in a host of other lofty positions). In addition to the Dutch Henry label, he’s added a small production line of Chafen Family Wines (available at the tasting room) that includes Pinot Noir and Three Red Heads (a red blend named for his children), Estate Reserve Syrah and Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The family has also recently purchased—and is in the midst of replanting—a Cabernet vineyard in Rutherford.
So what are you waiting for? Pack a basket—don’t forget the doggie treats!—and get on over to your new favorite hangout.

Did you know?

Winery animals (dogs, cats and chickens) outnumber the employees nearly two-to-one.


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