The Wandering Wino Blog


Adam Henkel Crown Point Wine


Recently I had the opportunity to speak with a former winemaker from a California cult winery, Adam Henkel. Adam packed his family and left behind Napa Valley and a few 100 point scores to come to Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara.
Q - How is the transition for you from Napa to Santa Barbara County?

A - "Certainly more relaxed down here even though this project itself is kind of pressure packed in terms of expectation for this property and the wines that come from this property, and I knew that coming in. I am cool with that, but it is much more relaxed community down here. It's kind of nice that not everyone is in the wine business.
"You go in to sit down, have a hamburger, and sit next to a cowboy on one side of yo,u and an Arabian horse breeder on the other side. Even just driving around, there is so much more agricultural diversity in the Santa Ynez valley than there is in Napa Valley. My wife and I love it. There are great schools here for the kids." (Twin girls 3, and two boys,age 5 and 7)


Crown Point Vineyards
Q - How are you approaching winemaking in Santa Barbara County, compared to Napa Valley in relation to Bordeaux varieties?

A - "I am approaching it very intrinsically very similarly as I did in Napa Valley. The lessons I learn by making Cabernet Sauvignon, and working with Bordeaux varieties up at Harlan Estate for 8 years. I am bringing those lessons I learned down here. I am not disregarding any of that."
"There are adjustments that have to be made in terms of, how the vineyards down here respond to water, and different weather patterns."
"My winemaking for Bordeaux varieties I am completely indebted to my experience up in Napa to take to things down here, although tannin structures are different here than they are up north, so extraction regimes,long maceration, things like that. It is tasting, tasting every day, and knowing when to pull things of the skins. The make up of the fruit is different."
Adam Henkel Crown Point
Q - Your wines from Harlan Estate received some pretty amazing scores. What is your expectation of the wines you are producing at Westerly/Crown Point?

A - "I have a lot of respect for wine critics. I want to put the wines in position to the best they can be for me and my palate and others as well. It is always great to see wines reviewed really well, but that's not how I was trained to make wines for points, it's always respect the fruit, make the wines to the best of your ability, honor the vineyard, honor the wines, and good things will come."
"I am just trying to take that same philosophy down here. Not a whole lot of shenanigans in terms of tricks or anything,it's pretty simply, it's cleshey but it all comes down to quality of fruit. That's the great thing about the Santa Ynez Valley, there is really great fruit down here."
Crown Point Vineyard
Q - What are you doing new in the vineyard, and is there anything on it's own rootstock? 

A - "There are some of the original blocks the Higgins (former property owner 3CV/Cimarone) planted that I am keeping. There is also quite a few blocks I am taking out. I wanted to change the row direction, and the rootstock. I wanted to change the direction the vines faced. I wanted to change the spacing. I wanted to change everything. We bulldozed it, ripped out everything. This is an awesome block (as Adam points behind the winery), it's a great piece of dirt."(6 x 2.5 density rows) 
Crown Point Vineyard
"Everything is really high density. I did another planting, Cote Rotie, that block is just shy of meter by meter planting of Happy Canyons first Petite Sirah. I knew right when I moved down here, I was like oh my gosh, we have to grow Petite Sirah." 
Crown Point Vineyard
"There was Sangiovese we ripped that out and planted a couple different clones of Cabernet. I still have two really nice blocks of Sauvignon Blancs on the property. The lower section is going to be Petite Verdot, but the upper section is going to be another clone of Cabernet."

"Below the house they planted Syrah, but on the back blocks, Viognier, Semion, Malbec, a pretty good selection of things planted. In 5-6 years it is going to be firing on all cylinders."
Crown Point
Q - What do you think needs to happen for Happy Canyon to gain notoriety?

A - "There are three wineries back here, us, Grassini and Starlane. Grassini is emblematic of that great American winemaking family. They have a beautiful estate, beautiful property, really well run, a new winemaker that is extremely talented and they are going to be making a small amount of very high quality wines off the property going forward in the future. To have a neighbor like Grassini, we are extremely lucky."

"Starlane, I think same thing with a little bit of a broader reach. Beautiful ranch, but it's big. So they are making a lot of wine, which gets the name out there. They are distributed to Asia and Europe. They have a little further reach than anyone else back here, so I think that is really good too. Again, their winemaker is young and really, really talented. For us, same thing, estate wine, focusing on quality. So we are just three properties back here. There are numerous growers, but in terms of brick and motor wineries, there are three. It is going to take some combined efforts, and hopefully good press." 

"What you were eluding to earlier with scores, it would be great if we got a big splashy score on an estate wine for this property. I think it will bring some attention here. I can't even go there now. I am so concerned with all the logistics. It is tough to put so much credence into something, into a number, but I do know it does carry a lot of weight."

Crown Point Vineyard

Q - If you could only pick one grape for Happy Canyon, what would you choose?

A - "Cabernet Sauvignon hands down. In my opinion it's the greatest of the Bordeaux varieties. It's 90% of what my winemaking experience is in the past with that grape."

"For me it's the greatest red grape in the world, and it is what I want to make for the rest of my life." 

Click here to learn more about Westerly and Crown Point.