Winemaking is the perfect blend of Mother Nature, science and art.
That’s how Pat Henderson sees it.
Henderson, 53, is the chief winemaker behind our wine-of-the week winner, the Kenwood Vineyards 2012 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon at $19.
The cabernet has enticing aromas of black raspberry and currant. On the palate, the wine is weighted to concentrated black fruit, with notes of herbs and pepper in the mix. It’s a smart pick for the caliber of cab.
“With our Kenwood style of cabernet, we want a wine that has a lot of complexity and intensity of flavor,” Henderson said. “It should be well-balanced so it complements food rather than fighting with it.”
Bottling comes only after some serious tastings.
“When the wines are ready to come out of barrels, we taste them and spend a lot of time determining what the most flavorful combination will be,” Henderson said. “After we get the cabernet portion figured out, we start tasting it with small amounts of other Bordeaux varietals to improve the balance and complexity.”
The 2012 Sonoma County Cabernet has 2 percent cabernet franc, 2 percent malbec, 2 percent petit verdot and 1 percent merlot.
“(The additions) make for a much more interesting wine,” Henderson said.
The winemaker began crafting wine in 1981 when he was 19. His first vintage at Kenwood was in 1983, when he was still going to school at UC Davis. He returned as chief winemaker in 2003 when founder Mike Lee retired.
“I had big shoes to fill,” Henderson explained. “Mike was a great winemaker, as well as my mentor and friend.”
Endeavoring to fill those shoes, Henderson acknowledges his strengths and weaknesses.
“I think my main strength as a winemaker is knowing how much I don’t know,” he said.
“There are so many variables in growing grapes and making wine, you have to keep your mind open and never stop trying to improve your product. We have a great team of winemakers at Kenwood, and I also know to listen to them and take advantage of their skill.
“As far as weakness goes, I think my biggest regret is not being able to speak Spanish.”
Henderson said he likes to teach students about wine almost as much as he likes to make it. He is the author of a textbook for culinary students called “About Wine.”
He said the most gratifying part about wine is the celebration of uncorking it.
“Wine makes good food and good company even better. I love to think that there are people all over America enjoying the wine that we make every day. They are having it while they are on first dates, having an anniversary dinner and family holidays, as well as just having a glass with pizza in front of the TV on a weeknight.
“If we’re doing things right, it makes each of those occasions a little more special.”
THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING
Kenwood Vineyards, 2012 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.5% alcohol, $19. ★★★★
Enticing aromas of black raspberry and currant. On the palate it’s weighted to concentrated black fruit, with notes of herbs and pepper in the mix. It’s a smart pick for the caliber of cab.
Louis M. Martini, 2013 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.8%, $20. ★★★★: A smart, layered cab. Aromas and flavors of currant, black cherry, herbs and cracked black pepper.
Bogle Vineyards, 2013 California Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.5%, $11. ★★★1/2: A tasty cab with notes of cherry, tobacco, tea and black pepper. Firm tannins. Easy drinking.
Pedroncelli, 2012 “Wisdom” Dry Creek Valley Estate Vineyards, Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.4%, $36. ★★★★: A solid cab with notes of cherry, plum, herbs and spice. Soft tannins. Nice length. A smart value.
Rockpile 2013 Rockpile Ridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.6%, $50. ★★★★1/2: A striking cab with generous fruit. Aromas and flavors of black raspberry, black cherry and cracked black pepper. Seamless texture. Ripe tannins. Lingering finish. A standout.