As the executive manager and director of winemaking for Acumen, acclaimed winemaker Henrik Poulsen guides a team dedicated to creating the next great Napa Valley wine estate. With a philosophy deeply rooted in Acumen’s two remarkable estate vineyards, and a winemaking approach that takes its inspiration from the legendary Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons of the 1960s and 1970s, Henrik crafts classically structured mountain-grown wines that are recognized for their balance, vineyard-driven complexity and age-worthiness.
Born in Denmark, Henrik was raised in a wine-loving family, and he purchased his first bottle of classified Bordeaux when he was just 14 years old. While attending university in Copenhagen, Henrik found himself falling deeper under wine’s spell. As he began reading books about wine, attending tastings, and working in a local wine shop, he realized that wine was his true path. He soon left school and traveled to Bordeaux to gain hands-on winemaking experience working at Château de Haux. In 2000, after meeting Newton Vineyard Founder Su Hua Newton in Paris, Henrik moved to Napa Valley, eager to gain a more global winemaking perspective. Over the next six years, he immersed himself in the world of Napa Valley wine, while working alongside renowned European winemakers Luc Morlet, and later Jean Hoefliger.
In 2006, following Newton’s purchase by LVMH, Henrik and Jean joined the founding team at Alpha Omega, where they quickly established it as one of the most exciting wineries in Napa Valley. There, Henrik made wines using grapes from some of Napa Valley’s greatest vineyards, including Stagecoach, and Beckstoffer’s To Kalon, Dr. Crane and Georges III vineyards. During his seven years at Alpha Omega, he gained invaluable experience from legendary consultant and master blender Michel Rolland. While at Alpha Omega, Henrik also had the opportunity to explore some of the great Napa Valley wines of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
“Experiencing the great older Napa Valley wines was a revelation,” says Henrik. “I was deeply impressed by their complexity and longevity. It was an epiphany to see many of the qualities I loved about the greatest wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux realized in a uniquely Napa Valley way.” After founding his own Release Winery, and a wine consulting business, Henrik joined Acumen in 2013 as director of winemaking, working alongside founding winemaker—and Château Latour veteran—Denis Malbec. Together, Denis and Henrik established the Acumen style, crafting wines that artfully balance the robust mountain tannins of Atlas Peak with the nuance and complexity of Acumen’s two exceptional estate vineyards.
Today, as both director of winemaking and executive manager, Henrik collaborates with Viticulturist Garrett Buckland and Vineyard Manager Jesus Gonzalez to grow grapes that possess perfect phenolic ripeness, while still retaining complex structure due to their naturally high tannin levels. To tame these robust tannins, in the winery Henrik uses special yeasts, cool fermentations, gentle extractions and ideal cooperage pairings to create silky wines with the structure to reward long-term cellaring. “Our aim is to make wines with an ideal balance between tannin, acid, intensity and fruit;” adds Henrik, “wines that celebrate the character of each new vintage, and the complexity of our Atlas Peak estate vineyards
Country born: Denmark
Education: University of Copenhagen
Years in the wine industry: 20-30 years
Honors / Awards: