e were just given one of the greatest wedding gifts!
Looking at the boxes and boxes of wedding bits and baubles blocking us from the switch of our floor lamp, Bill and I had been lamenting more and more frequently how we needed a honeymoon on the opposite end of all this wedding stuff. A weekend away before it all happens. But we couldn’t plan that trip yet without picking out a backup dress, picking up flowers, and picking out wine. WINE! O, the pressure of hosting an outdoor wedding in Northern California. Wine. I had managed exactly two research trips to places that sell bottles and bottles of wine, when Dutch Henry Winery invited Bill and me to visit their facility in Calistoga. Yes. I spilled how this was perfect timing, and we needed to sample more wines and schedule some off-the-grid relaxation before loading up for our wedding. In that case, they offered, would we also like to stay in their exclusive vineyard house overnight? YES.
The first thing you notice when you get to Dutch Henry is the Airedale Crossing sign. The second thing you notice is Sadie, sleeping at the front door (or in the middle of the road):
Sadie is just one of two resident Airedales keeping up the canine count among the chickens, cats, and any of Dutch Henry’s other visiting critters. After thoroughly introducing ourselves to Sadie and Maybelline (basically a pirate cat), Hospitality Manager John gave us our keys to tuck away our weekend bags. We ended up playing hookey from the tasting room for another hour because, View:
I make no hyperbole when I say that the house at Dutch Henry was truly a gift! It’s a villa, California style. A large family home perched at the top of the winery, it’s perfect for group retreats – though the two of us had the entire house to ourselves. Honestly, we barely noticed the three bedrooms at our disposal, instead spending most of our daytime hours on the deck (and napping on the couch with the French windows open wide – best, most blissful nap of my life). With a gaze overlooking one of the Chafen family’s two vineyards, and across the Silverado Trail, the famous Three Palms Vineyard – how could we not?
The only “work” we did was this digital plein air that Bill cooked up on Procreate:
It’s amazing what a little daytime snooze in clean vineyard air can do. Back at the tasting room, we met up with owner Scott Chafen for a private tour of the grounds. In the near distance, Sadie yelped at someone for petting her too long. “We’re a dog-friendly place,” Scott warned us, “for better or for worse.” Even without the free reign of their club’s house, Dutch Henry’s dog-friendliness was a deciding factor for us in visiting the place. Dutch Henry was exactly our type of wine-tasting scene: wholly casual, comfortable, and canine-friendly. It was evident from the picnic tables to the open barn of a tasting room.
It’s clear even without saying it: This isn’t Jack Dorsey’s Sightglass. It’s not some tech millionaire’s hobby-slash-excuse for a Napa getaway. Dutch Henry is a decades-old family-owned business producing less than 5,000 cases every season. There’s nothing humble about this brag: Having our first Dutch Henry experience involve a private tour and an overnight stay definitely has us converted to the cult (wine) life.
With bottling coming up next month, Scott took us to the wine cave. Quintessentially cool, Bill and I were first most stoked by the “hobbit door” entrance. Scott siphoned up some red for us straight outta the barrel, and our eyes were opened.
As the chief taste officer of the winery, Scott’s perfect blends are a never-ending project. No one wine is ever “complete.” In general, though, he goes more classic. Chafen’s Chardonnay, for example, follows a French style that goes against the grain of the buttery trend of overproduced California-style Chardonnays. Bill was a big fan of the petite sirah. The pinot noir was the smoothest I’ve ever tasted.
It’s a pretty token ritual for Nor*Cal urbanites to partake in weekends in wine country, but after Jennifer Fiedler’s Lucky Peach “Why Does Napa Cabernet Cost So Much?” it’s worth asking yourself what the value in these wine country getaways really is. Do you want the trendy wine? Do you want to murmur in line with groups you don’t know? Do you want to have to plan your outfit, or do you want to be able to just hop in the car on a whim with Fido? Dutch Henry was just the speed Bill and I needed – before getting hitched, and also in general. It’s the speed of a place that’s not so concrete, or driven by VC conversations, or speculative about potential feature releases for future phones. It’s sunny, it’s chill, it’s just what the doctor ordered – and I hope to make this a regular thing.
See you again soon, Sadie! We couldn’t leave without picking up a couple of bottles for the head table at Camp Aloha. *wink*