Mike & Molly Hendry is a small wine brand run by Mike and his wife Molly – focusing on a single vineyard, single wine each year – a Zinfandel. Both Mike and Molly have vineyard connections to the Napa Valley. Mike’s grandparents purchased 120 acres in 1939 at the base of the southern Mayacamas Mountains on the way up Redwood Road to the Mt. Veeder appellation. The property remains in the family to this day (location of Hendry Winery). And Molly’s uncle owns the vineyard that sources all the grapes for their wine.
Mike’s background is interwoven with Napa and its grape growing. He was born in Davis – which isn’t a bad place to be born if vineyard management and wine making is to become a career. His uncle is George Hendry who runs the successful Hendry Winery (on the edge of Napa’s suburbs in the southern part of the valley). Mike moved to Edmonton Alberta when he was two due to his father’s work. He returned to Napa in the summers during his teenage years helping work in the vineyards.
He went to UC Davis and earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering. However, while he was in college he took full advantage of the campus’s fine viticulture and oenology programs and took a number of classes in both fields. Today he is the vineyard manager at Hendry Winery and also oversees the vineyard management of the R.W. Moore vineyard which produces the grapes for his own wine.
Mike has a strong interest in Napa’s grape growing history and is an encyclopedia of knowledge about various varietals and the ebb and flow of the percentages of different grapes planted in Napa over the decades. In 1887 Zinfandel was the most planted grape varietal in Napa; it was a very popular varietal in the 1870’s and 1880’s.
The historic R.W. Moore Vineyard – an approximately 10-acre vineyard, is located in the southern part of the valley in Coombsville. This vineyard is one of only a select few in the Napa Valley that still produces fruit commercially from vines that are more than 100 years of age (with most of these few vineyards planted predominantly to Zinfandel). The earliest vines here date from 1905. Based on the age of this vineyard, many of the vines have been replaced due to disease and other factors. As they are replaced, Mike preserves the heritage of the vineyard and replants with varietals that historically have grown here. These are varietals such as Carigne, Napa Gamay and Petite Sirah.
In 1995 UC Davis scientists took samples from many of California’s oldest Zinfandel vineyards and identified 19 “heritage” varietals of Zinfandel. Ultimately this project led them to identify 19 of these Heritage clones – this vineyard was one of these producing a Heritage Zinfandel clone.
The majority of the vineyard is planted to Zinfandel. But as a result of this “field blend” about 5% of their wine is composed of these other varietals. These low yielding vines are also head pruned and dry farmed.
Mike speaks reverently about managing this special vineyard. He uses the same vineyard workers employed by Hendry (where their average time spent with Hendry is 20 years). He wants those who touch these vines to think ahead when they prune them and be the same people still pruning them years down the road. A vineyard like this takes a lot of work – from having to be very careful when using the tractor (the old vines grow very low to the ground) to weeding by shovel to selectively picking the fruit.
The property has changed ownership something like twelve times over the years. Mike has copies of most of the deeds from the property showing historical sales of the vineyard property ranging from $10,000 to $3. One deed dating from 1895, simply states the sale was completed for “love and affection” and no money changed hands. Current owner, Bill (R.W.) Moore has owned this vineyard since 1983 (Molly’s Uncle).
The fruit from this vineyard was going into Turley Vineyard’s well regarded “earthquake” wine for many years. When the contract was up for renewal, timing worked out and Mike was able to purchase fruit from Bill starting in 2009 (their first vintage).
The 2012 vintage is 15% alcohol. In this case one who enjoys the balance of lower alcohol wines should not simply look at this number and pass on trying this wine. We have smelled and tasted many wines in this alcohol range that aromatically are to ripe, pruny in nature – or jammy on the palate. Once you try this wine, it is clear that this wine is not one of these.
The bouquet is elegant with bright fruit, blackberry, raspberry and red licorice complemented with baking spices and just a hint of mocha that show deeper in the aroma as the wine breathes. Mike mentioned that these old vines seem to have a good balance in the vineyard and that quality is evident in the wine. The palate is smooth on entry with well integrated fine grained tannins that linger slightly, outlasted by the fruit flavors. More red fruit shows than black fruit on the palate. This wine has good acidity.
530 cases were made of the 2012 vintage – a normal year sees anywhere between 300 to 500 cases. A typical vintage spends approximately 18 months in both French and Hungarian Oak and then a year in bottle before being released.
There is less of the 2013 vintage. Hendry Winery (where the wine is made and stored) sits right on two earthquake faults and some product was lost during the 6.1 earthquake in August of 2014. Mike described items on one side of the winery leaning one way and on the other side leaning the opposite way. Unfortunately they lost several barrels of their 2013 vintage. But the silver lining was that there was no current vintage wine in the large tanks which would have most likely toppled over in the earthquake.
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Video from Best Wines Online