Hungarian Heaven in the Napa Valley
Ralph Hertelendy recalls four particular life moments that predicted his destiny as a wine- maker. The first was at age five when his parents offered him a sip of wine with dinner. “They told me I wouldn’t like it,” said the Howell Mountain vintner. “But I did, and I have a clear memory of enjoying that first sip.” The second moment took place during high school when as a 15-year-old beer brewer he threw a party, offering-up his homemade suds. “I was shy in high school, but my party was a hit, and as a result, I made many new friends which illustrated for me the power of a beverage to bring people together.”
The third moment was his true ‘a-ha’ epiphany. After having worked nearly every angle of the wine industry throughout his 20’s, Hertelendy realized one day that he was most drawn to the creative aspects of the business, and he vowed to start his own label. And the fourth moment occurred well after he founded Hertelendy Vineyards in 2013 and purchased four acres on the slopes of Howell Mountain. A deep dive into his family history revealed a predilection for winemaking; unbeknownst to him, his Great Uncle Gabor Hertelendy and additional 18th-century ancestors were winemakers in Hungary, working with the same type of volcanic soils that make up the Howell Mountain vineyard. “Winemaking, particularly with volcanic soils, is in my DNA,” said Hertelendy, whose surname is recognized within Hungary as one of distinction.
Hertelendy’s brand – and his wines – are a study in contrasts. His New World varietals borrow heavily from his family’s Old World traditions while his ornate logo is a modern and spirited take on the traditional Hertelendy coat of arms. And his playful wine labels contrast with the seriousness of the wines themselves. His Chardonnay label changes color; his Audere red blend label glows in the dark. His Heavy Metal red blend label features augmented reality (AR) animation. Download the Heavy Metal AR app, place it over the label, and watch the logo come to life. “I like to provide a total sensory experience,” said Hertelendy.
And the wines? “Big yet elegant, sexy and seductive,” said Hertelendy, who works closely with winemaking consultant Phillip Titus on his consistently high scoring cabernet sauvignons, chardonnays, and red blends, which are comprised of his estate merlot blended with mountain fruit from Napa’s choicest vineyards. While his wines are primarily sold directly to his club members, he also distributes them within ten states, and several can be found at high-end Napa restaurants such as The French Laundry, Press, and Morimoto. Private tastings are currently hosted in Downtown Napa at Vintner’s Collective, and The Caves at Soda Canyon by appointment only.
Article By: Fran Miller