Vineyards can be fickle teachers, convincing you of one truth in one vintage, and then turning it all on its head in the next. When Larry planted his first vineyard in 1979, he followed the example set by his neighbors and followed an east-west orientation. Now, he shrugs that off, “what did I know?” The vineyard, suffering from less-than-ideal sun exposure, was struck by phylloxera. When he replanted, he oriented the new vines north-south. “That’s the beauty of a vineyard. You can do everything one way and, if it doesn’t work, you do everything the other way.” (SFGate)

That’s a pretty remarkable way to look at what could have been a dream-killing disaster, but Larry is a remarkable guy. His willingness to take risks and learn from mistakes, plus his openness to collaboration, have earned him the respect of the biggest names in the business. James Hall, co-owner of Hyde’s biggest buyer, Patz & Hall, credits much of Larry’s success to his “aggressive experimenting… Larry is always willing to try something new.”

Larry is in good company, there. Literally. He has worked closely with a number of seriously talented winemakers who have helped make him an even better grower. Initially he picked by the numbers but the years have honed his instincts and taught him to listen to the vines – the only teacher that really matters. Each variety has its own needs, just as each winemaker has their own ideal. For Pinot Noir, he says, he threw out the refractometer years ago. Taste is the only reliable test.

Larry Hyde wasn’t born a farmer; his father was an attorney and he was headed down the same road. But chemistry and entomology were way more interesting than law. After working for a decade with some of the most iconic producers in Napa, he set his own sights on Carneros. His father helped him to secure the land that would become the now legendary Hyde Vineyards.

A year later Larry recruited Jose Padilla, a carpenter who, alongside Larry, became a viticulturist. Today, Jose manages the crew – many of whom have been around since damn near the start. Hyde Vineyards is very much a family affair – and not just by bloodline. Folks who work with Larry just seem to stick around. It’s more than just the quality of the grapes; it’s the quality of the man himself.

Today, that family stretches all the way to France and his cousin’s husband, Aubert de Villain, co-owner of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. Aubert and Larry’s collaboration in California has been a boon to both of them, opening new avenues in growing and winemaking alike as the two share knowledge and a love of well-made wines. The French influence on HdV Wines is evident in the old-school elegance, buoyed to greater heights by the quality of the fruit.

In 2020, Larry was honored by the Napa Valley Grape Growers Assoc as their Grower of the Year for his commitment to sustainability, community, and his pioneering work with clonal material. The real reward, of course, has always been the work itself.

Larry Hyde with his family and Bounty Hunter Wine Buyer, Olivier Kielwasser (back center) at Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin' BBQ in Napa this summer.

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