My Visit to Dutch Henry Winery
When I told everyone that I was going to Napa Valley for the first time recently, everyone agreed it was one of their favorite places and that I was going to absolutely love it. I can confirm that they were right. I could not have asked for better host for my first visit than the Chafen family.
You may know Maggie Chafen as the owner of Dottie Doolittle, a famous children’s store in San Francisco. It’s where everyone shops for their kids, grand-kids, and gifts. She and her husband Less, a radiologist, bought their first vineyard in Calistoga in 1986 and have been fixtures in the community ever since. Fun fact, their first home sat in the vineyard was used in the movie Nine Months too. They later moved to another vineyard in St. Helena and eventually opened their current vineyard Dutch Henry Winery off the Silverado Trail in 1992.
The name Dutch Henry comes from the nearby Dutch Henry Canyon which was named after a prospector turned farmer whose local produce was sold to stagecoach passengers and others who arrived in Napa Valley to enjoy the fresh country air and natural surroundings. Still always the gentleman, It is rumored that Dutch supplemented his produce sales as a Highwayman on the historic Silverado Trail.
While Maggie and Less work in San Francisco during the week and come out on weekends, it is their son Scott who lives in the Napa Valley full time with his family and runs Dutch Henry Winery. Compared to some wineries in the area, it is a relatively small vineyard but Scott has gained a reputation for quality winemaking and has produced many award winning wines. In 1999, Dutch Henry Winery was named one of the “top five” wineries to visit while in Napa by the Wall Street Journal.
Scott Cafen gave me a tour of the winery and vineyards where I learned that there are a lot of rules and regulations that each winery must abide by. Only a few wineries including Dutch Henry are certified organic and use solar power too. They also grow organic produce and even keep bees. The grape skins are composted on every vineyard and you can often smell the fermentation as you drive.
I also didn’t know before this trip that most wineries in the area also grow olive trees although only a few actually make olive oil like Dutch Henry. It was said that one of the winery owners in the area visited Italy and realized that the landscape conditions in the area were very similar to the Napa Valley and started planting them in the area. The olive oil produced by Dutch Henry is award winning and has a spicy little kick to it. Less Chafen told me it’s all related to the ration of green, green/black, and black olives used in the final product.
I visited right after the grape and olive harvests at Dutch Henry but their neighboring winery Three Palms had yet to harvest some of their grapes. The beautiful warm sunlight and landscape really did remind me of Italy. If you are someone who has yet to visit Napa Valley, I highly recommend booking a trip soon. I also guarantee that you will love it.
N.B. I took so many photos that I had to break them out into different posts. Check back later for a look at the cave and a beautiful luncheon that Dutch Henry hosted for their friends and family.
Photos by Heather Clawson for Habitually Chic