The Man, Wine and Vision

Ralph Hertelendy describes himself as a Renaissance Man and overachiever. He speaks five languages, loves participating in sports (including skydiving and driving fast cars), is a classically trained pianist, artist and winemaker. He is introspective, understanding himself, which may be his greatest asset.

Ralph started a new high school when he was fifteen. Eager to fit in, he made beer in his parent’s basement. Although not particularly good, Ralph recognized how it brought people together, eliminating personal barriers. This observation was further reinforced while noticing how food and wine melded people together at his parent’s dinner parties. The idea of pleasing people while giving them singular experiences made an impression on Ralph, forming the nexus for his eventual career.

In the beginning, Ralph said of himself: “I was a pompous, arrogant, smart-ass.” However, that arrogance was tempered because Ralph was intelligent enough to understand (as a 32-year-old), that he needed a balance to his personality in winemaking. He was brash, self-taught, intuitive, and knew that a “yin” to his “yang” was necessary to help him fulfill his youthful vision.

Ralph sought out a consulting winemaker, meeting with Phillip Corallo-Titus, intuitively knowing he found the perfect match. Ralph refers to Phillip as “my Yoda.” With forty years of experience as head winemaker at Chappellet, Phillip brought to the table what Ralph needed. Ralph reflected that Phillip’s personality, being his opposite, “taught me humility.” Phillip had formal education and decades of experiential knowledge in winemaking, farming, cooperage, etc. These years of experience came in handy quickly during the fires of 2020; Ralph commented, “when the fires hit, I was like a deer in headlights; in his calm manner, Phillip took charge and knew exactly what to do.”

Their winemaking style also differed. Being more old school, Phillip emphasized terroir, while Ralph leaned towards being more-new world, loving robust, ‘hit you in the face’, fruit-forward characteristics. These two winemakers, a generation apart, became the perfect, flawless symbiotic fit, creating exciting wines, reflecting both philosophies and personalities. A testament to this relationship was Hertelendy’s initial release. The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon received a 95 score from Robert Parker, stating that “….this wine merits serious attention.”

Together, Ralph and Phillip create wines fulfilling Ralph’s vision as a teenager: crowd-pleasers, making people smile. These premium wines appeal to millennial wine drinkers and older generations. They should be enjoyed sipping on their own, or alongside a well-seasoned Tomahawk steak (in the case of his Cabernet), with pasta, fowl, or fish being a perfect complement to his Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and blends.

Ralph and Phillip demonstrate how opposites in personality, generations, and philosophy blend seamlessly together, creating unique, exciting, liquid experiences. Ralph, with that twinkle in his eyes, remarked, “Phillip’s contribution to Hertelendy wines has added nuances of refinement and sophistication that would be absent if it were just me. Phillip is the greatest teacher,” and laughed continuing, “without Phillip, Hertelendy would be “hurt me plenty.”


Story By: Don Sonderling // Photo by: Brian Gray Photography // Inset Photo by: Scott Phillips