An Interview With Oscar Henquet

Apr 12, 2019

On Wednesday morning I had the pleasure of sitting down and discussing biodynamic and organic winemaking with the Estate Director at Rudd Winery in Napa Valley, Oscar Henquet. While enjoying omelettes and coffee, we discussed Mr. Henquet’s background, how he ended up at Rudd, and what his role is in facilitating the vineyards new biodynamic initiative. Rudd Winery is a very well renowned vineyard situated on extremely iron rich soil. Over 3 million years ago a volcano erupted whose volcanic rock, once decomposed, gave birth to Rudd’s famous red soil. Napa Valley’s geographic location also plays a fundamental role in the development of Napa wines. This region experiences dry, sunny, and warm days and is followed by cool nights. This pattern is ideal for optimal grape growth. The combination of volcanic soil and Mediterranean climate is what gives Rudd’s wines their site specific terroir. Even more astonishing, Napa Valley’s 30 mile stretch of land contains half of all soil types found throughout the entire world; allowing for the great variety found between different vineyards and their wines.

Mr. Henquet was recruited to help run Rudd seven years ago. Past founder Leslie Rudd had recently past away and his daughter Samantha Rudd was left in charge. She brought in Mr. Henquet to help organize and run a revolutionizing Rudd Winery. They were on a mission to break free from the outsourced Napa Valley winery mold, and to change into a Bordeaux-esque family winery who is completely organic. Mr. Henquet was given 30 days to hire new, permanent, staff who would work in the vines and to begin this new chapter in Rudd’s history. Mr. Henquet tackled this situation but quickly learned that being an organic vineyard meant nothing more than a label. For example, organic sprays were applied to the vines up to 25 times a year. Each time harming the necessary root system that ensures healthy grapes. After five years of organic farming, Rudd decided to expand on its natural initiative and began biodynamic winemaking. Through this process, no “organic” sprays were used. Rather, homegrown tea sprays were developed and only needed to be applied twice a year. Similarly, individual winemakers were assigned to specific rows of vines in order to created a sense of intimacy and knowledge between vine and winemaker. Rudd’s mission with this biodynamic initiative was to create a vineyard with a self sustaining ecosystem. In its preliminary years, as biodynamic farming at Rudd began in 2017, the vineyard has experienced new wildlife such as blue birds and sheep grazing its land and a new richness to its grapes.

Since Rudd has only farmed using biodynamics for two years now, they have only produced two vintages of biodynamic wines, both of which are still in their barrels. However, Mr. Henquet claims that from preliminary tastings, they have found the wines to have a new liveliness and freshness to them. As well, the vineyard has taken a new approach to tasting the wines. In the biodynamic thought, each planet in our solar system is said to have specific characteristics. When tasting the wines, they match the taste and feelings they receive from the wine to the corresponding planet. It is extremely exciting to see the preliminary success that Rudd has had with biodynamic winemaking thus far. They serve to be an example to the rest of the agriculture industry that biodynamics may be the future to healthier and happy lives without chemicals. I look forward to seeing what is in store for Rudd Winery in the future and wish them all the best!

One Reply to “An Interview With Oscar Henquet”

  1. Noha K. says:

    Fascinating! It seems like a big part of the shift from “organic” to biodynamics is integrating the vineyard into the natural landscape of the area. How do you think changes like individual winemakers for each row of plants and new approach in wine tasting have impacted the vineyard? What measure of success have other vineyards had in previous experiments with biodynamics? Good luck with the rest of your project; I am interested to see how it turns out!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *