Ralph Hertelendy, Hertelendy Vineyards
“I can’t even express how excited I am that Napa and California are opening up again. There is a lot of lost time to make up for and we at Hertelendy are excited to be part of Napa’s resurgence. I personally want to invite wine lovers to relish the elegant Hertelendy wines with me at The Caves at Soda Canyon. The wine, venue plus outstanding view overlooking the entire Napa Valley present an exceptional experience.”
Experience Hertelendy wines at The Caves at Soda Canyon. The underground winery
is located above the famed Stags Leap District with breathtaking views of Napa Valley.
Ralph Hertelendy is one of those young, talented, winemakers determined to conquer the wine world. It’s a sign of youth, dreams, talent, and an uncompromising work ethic to be the best. This rising star, however, has not been down an easy path.
In 2015, in his early 30s, Ralph burst into the Napa Valley wine scene, receiving a Robert Parker score of 95 on his initial release, a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. Since then, Ralph’s line of elite, small-production wines has selectively expanded, along with scores, accolades and recognition from critics, wine lovers, and the community at large.
Half a decade later, Ralph produces select wines that complement his Cabernet Sauvignon: A Cabernet Franc, some red blends, plus a sophisticated Ritchie Vineyards Chardonnay. Recognition continues from Robert Parker, Jeb Dunnuck, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Texsom (gold medal), and the Sunset International Wine Competition, awarding scores of up to 99 points to Hertelendy wines. These scores affirmed that the initial 95 received in 2015 was just the beginning for this exceptional winemaker.
Then Came 2020
Napa had experienced fires, floods, and drought before, always rising to the occasion. However, the devastating fires of 2020, plus the pandemic shutdown threw new, almost insurmountable hurdles at the world, the country, our state, and Napa Valley.
Ralph shared with me that due to the fires, he made the gut-wrenching decision not to produce a 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon, his flagship wine. His vineyards had suffered severe smoke influence and Ralph was not going to make a sub-standard wine with his name and reputation behind it.
Additionally, the fires, the pandemic, plus the financial and psychological toll of 2020 made him confront everything he loved, and for a moment thought: “Maybe I should move and make a change.” But it was a moment. “I’m Hungarian-American, stubborn, and Napa strong. Making elegant wine is my passion, and my life, as is this community. So, I dug in my heels, determined to do whatever was necessary to help where I could and be even better. No way was I raising the white flag of surrender.”
Now, Ralph is enthusiastically looking forward to the release of his 2018 vintage, which he describes as “that stellar vintage where the earth, stars and moon align. This vintage will be epic, it’s like when you make that perfect slow-roasted marshmallow over a campfire.”
Ralph is realistic and optimistic. He knows there will always be challenges going forward – and embraces them to keep himself sharp, focused, and excited.
One of the greatest challenges he sees is the environment. He believes we should study the past to protect the future. An example he gave was the farming practices of Native Americans. They were successful agrarians, and many of their methods for growing crops and land management (they practiced, for example, controlled burns), should be learned from and integrated with modern practices and technology. After all, they were the first organic/sustainable farmers. “We can learn a lot from the Native Americans in our efforts to minimize the effects of natural disasters,” Ralph said.
Ending our visit, Ralph mentioned, “You know, Wine Country This Week is celebrating their 40th anniversary, and I’m celebrating my 40th birthday. I guess I’m no longer the young kid on the block anymore.”
Ralph also had some advice for up and coming winemakers, saying he would counsel them to realize they must have unbridled commitment, passion and love for what they do, which will help navigate through the challenges that will come … never give up, never give in.
And to wine lovers and drinkers, Ralph added with a laugh and smile, “Wine drinkers need to hunker down with a great glass of Hertelendy wine.” I’ll drink to that! Cheers!
Hertelendy Fun Facts:
• Ralph made beer in his parents’ basement at the age of 15 – he admits it was horrible
• He speaks five languages
• He is a trained classical pianist
• Hobbies: World travel, sports (including skydiving and race car driving)
• Most important achievement: Marrying his beautiful wife, Lauren
• Most important goal: To raise a family
• He just signed a 5-year commitment with Caifornia’s Adopt-A- Highway program to help keep our highways clean and green
To schedule a tasting appointment click here, call (510) 629-9463 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Ralph tries to personally host tastings.)
For more information, visit www.hertelendy.com.
Don Sonderling is a freelance writer covering California’s Wine Country lifestyle from
Santa Barbara through the Napa Valley. He may be reached at email@example.com.