Meet the Winemaker Ralph Hertelendy
Meet the WinemakerRalph Hertelendy
A Man for All Seasons
He speaks five languages (plus a few others, such as Hungarian, he can “get by” on). Classicly trained as a pianist, Ralph is also a sports enthusiast who loves golfing, snowboarding, driving fast cars (on racetracks), skydiving, and keeping his mind and body active. In 1997 his family started a non-profit organization focusing on education, science and the arts, The Hertelendy Foundation, (formerly known as GRAMP), of which he is a director. Ralph Hertelendy is a relatively new, up and coming winemaker extraordinaire, already having made a mark in the wine industry beginning with the release of his 2013 vintage. When I asked Ralph to describe himself, he replied: “I like to think of myself as a modern day Renaissance man.” At the age of 36, imagine what the future holds.
Sipping a glass of wine with Ralph, opens up about the path that led to his winemaking career, his goals-disappointments, ambitions and dreams. Laughing, he relates how he made beer (at the age of 15) in his parent’s basement, and it was the worst beer he ever tasted (but made him an instant hit with his school friends). Keeping his “experiments” to the basement, Ralph moved onto making basement wine in 2006, a Bordeaux blend….which was also “pretty awful.” However, this experience made him realize you couldn’t make good wine out of bad grapes, and his winemaking journey began. In 2009 Ralph tasted a Del Dotto 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, intuitively realizing “this was what wine should be: deeply complex, beautiful and perfect in every regard.” From then on, Ralph started working with some of Napa Valley’s top winemakers, learning about wine, terroir, sourcing, evaluating and doing whatever was necessary in order to strive towards excellence “in pursuing the balanced holy grail of wine making.”
Ralph loves interacting with people, so it is he, not a representative that travels the country presenting and pouring his wines at wine events, dinners, and charity events. His success is validated by the praise (including 95 and 96 point scores) he has received from the likes of Robert Parker and Jeb Dunnick, and his wines are found on the wine lists of such esteemed restaurants as The French Laundry, Press, The Plumed Horse and Morimoto.
It is no understatement to say that Ralph’s personality is reflected by his wines….he bottles his personality. Summing up what he loves about wine, people who love wine, and his outlook on life, Ralph tells you: “The wine industry and people who love wine stimulate me in all facets: Intellectually, artistically, hedonistically and creatively. I don’t follow rules, and I never look back-only forward.”
What drives him is the goal to reflect excellence with beauty and art in his wines, to create “a wine concerto” in order to share the extraordinary with others.