Passion and Privilege
Marilyn Hendrickson grew-up on the Atlas Peak acreage on which she now grows some of the valley’s most sought-after Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The Foss Valley property called simply ‘The Ranch,’ has been in the family for 100 years, and was utilized by her dad, Pop Debb, and his father as a weekend getaway where friends and family gathered for hunting expeditions and holiday celebrations. Hendrickson vividly recalls the family picnics that took place atop Soda Canyon Road, only then it wasn’t really a road – more like a dirt path for which her dad cleared the way with his bulldozer. “I remember winding up the canyon to the gorgeous views overlooking the rolling valley,” said Hendrickson, who maintains a great love for this land. “I delight in the feeling of duty and privilege to do all that is possible to maintain this special property.” When her dad passed away, Hendrickson considered her choices for the prime acreage that suddenly belonged solely to her. With an eye toward the future, she decided to optimize the rich, red volcanic soils by planting a vineyard. But the former accountant who ran a small tax practice didn’t know a thing about growing grapes. She enrolled at Napa Valley College in the early ’90s, studying with Dr. Stephen Krebs, Ph.D., Director of Viticulture (with whom she continues to consult) and found that she loved it.
Today, Hendrickson personally farms and oversees her 60 acres (on which she shares a fence line with both Stagecoach and Michael Mondavi) of Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and an additional 11 acres within the Coombsville AVA on the property she calls home. Her daughter Arianna Lyall, a former Deloitte & Touche CPA and Director, is her CFO, and her son Charles, a businessman and racing enthusiast, is equipment and opera- tions manager. Their spouses Michael and April are also actively involved with the vineyard, as are Hendrickson’s grandchildren Charles, Ava, and Jake. (Hendrickson raised Arianna and Charles as a single mom after their dad – the love of her life – passed away at an early age.)
Hendrickson sells her premium grapes to a number of esteemed wineries, such as Jamieson Ranch, whose winemaker Linda Trotta appreciates Hendrickson’s passion for growing the best Cabernet Sauvignon grapes possible. “Marilyn is very connected to her land, and she’s proud of that land and her family’s heritage,” said Trotta. “Her passion spoke to me. And the wine made from her grapes is delicious. Whenever I bring distributor reps and salespeople to the winery I always end their visit with a tasting of Marilyn’s Atlas Peak Cab. It literally raises eyebrows; it’s memorable.”
“I’m very particular about how my vineyards are farmed,” said Hendrickson. “And this attention to detail results in high-quality grapes year after year. Great soil, a great climate, superior rootstock and clones mean that my clients get a superior product every time. I love this land, and it’s a true honor to care for it.”
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Article By: Fran Miller