Let us take you on a short, virtual journey to one of our favorite places. V. Sattui’s Henry Ranch is located in the Los Carneros appellation at the southern end of Napa Valley. It is the one appellation that is shared by both Sonoma and Napa counties.
Henry Ranch is on the Napa side of the border and it is made up 528 acres that have seen their share of history, yet have remained relatively untouched by time. When you’re there, you can close your eyes and almost hear the sounds of antique farm equipment powered by horses and humans.
Once home to Wappo Indians and then Spanish and Mexican settlers living on one of General Vallejo’s grants, the land was acquired by the Henry Family in 1850. It operated as a dairy ranch with an ingenious tram system of moving hay into the barn and taking milk out when Carneros Creek made road passage impossible during the winter months.
Dario Sattui purchased this property in 1993 from Herb Henry, one of the last living Henry family members, now in his late 80’s. Dario remains friends with him today.
“He is eccentric, almost innocent and unspoiled and a throwback to a previous generation of people who worked the land. He lived without a phone, without a TV, in a trailer and eventually in a culvert under the ground. He never drove a car to my knowledge and did the farm work with primitive equipment. I don’t know if he and his brother Ralph ever had a tractor on the farm. He even spun thread from wool and tanned hides.”
A small portion of this land, 111 acres total, has been planted to grapes. Henry Ranch’s cooling breezes from the San Pablo Bay and daytime heat on the lowlands and the hills that are part of the Mt. Veeder appellation, are the perfect mix for growing acclaimed Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat Canelli, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah, Grenache, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Add in rolling grassy hills, old oak trees and slopes over 900 ft. with views of the Napa Valley to the north and San Francisco to the south—you see why Dario was attracted to this property. But of course, so were many developers who wanted to build homes. To keep this place intact, Dario had to buy out these developers’ options and place their escrows in his name. Since then, he’s placed 528 acres of the property including historic buildings, Carneros Creek and tributaries to the creek in the Land Trust of Napa County. Three quarters of this land will remain forever wild and undeveloped.
“It was and is such a beautiful valley I didn’t want to see it spoiled with homes. I wanted to preserve it, so it will never be built upon. We want to preserve the beauty for future generations. We have also fixed up the historic barns attempting to preserve what was. We are only custodians who must preserve the historic and wild nature of the property to pass it on as we found it for those who come later.”
We do our very best to take care of Henry Ranch with sustainable vineyard practices. We use cover-crops in the winter that attract beneficial insects that feed on harmful ones that can damage the vines. Cover-cropping also reduces soil erosion and, in the spring, we plow down the cover crop which acts as a natural fertilizer and returns valuable nitrogen to the soil. We compost our pomace (leftover skins and seeds after pressing) for a year, then use the composted material as nutrient-rich, organic fertilizer in the vineyard. To combat vertebrate pests such as birds and turkeys, we use an audio system in the vineyard with speakers that emit actual bird distress and predator calls which ward off pest birds. We’ve also continued our Fish Friendly Farming certification that protects harmful runoffs into creeks and streams and provides wildlife corridors between vineyard blocks.
At V. Sattui we believe the best grapes and the best wine comes from a land that is loved and cared for. Our Henry Ranch is a shining example of that.