When Heitz Wine Cellars was established in 1961, there were fewer than a dozen wineries in the Napa Valley. Founders Joe and Alice Heitz could never have anticipated that their American dream of a small family winery would become an iconic label, recognized around the world as the symbol of luxurious wine. Today, the family business continues to flourish in the hands of the second and third generations.
How does the story of Heitz Wine Cellars complement the narrative of the Napa Valley?
Our family takes great pride in knowing that our winery has helped to shape the history of Napa Valley during the last half century. My parents were early believers in the idea that Napa Valley wines could compete on the world stage. My father, Joe Heitz, was a leader in producing and advocating for wines of exceptional quality, and he commanded pricing that reflected greater parity with European wines.
In the mid-1960s, my parents agreed to purchase the first harvest of grapes from an Oakville vineyard owned by Tom and Martha May. In 1966, Joe produced the first single-vineyard Cabernet in Napa Valley with the fruit from Martha’s Vineyard, the beginning of an historic relationship that continues today. During the past 49 years, Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon has captured international attention for its consistent quality and age-ability, and it is now considered to be one of the elite wines of the world. Our family was also one of the first to export our wines which introduced people around the world to the Napa Valley and helped to bring global recognition to our region.
How has your family business changed over three generations?
My parents started out with the lofty goal of trying to make the best Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and our team is still motivated by that idea today. From the beginning, our family committed to the core values of quality and innovation, and those values have become a solid foundation for us.
As the second generation to lead the family business, my brother David and I have tried to safeguard the traditions that make Heitz wines memorable, but we realize that no successful business can rest on its laurels.We have implemented technologies that have transformed our production facility,laboratory and farming operation. I think the first generation would be amazed at where we’ve taken the company. As exciting as it is to invest in new technology, we still believe it is the unwavering passion for excellence that helps us continue to stand out in the crowd.
One ofour strengths has always been family participation in every facet of the winery’s operation. Though we have expanded our agricultural operation, we choose to keep our production level on a small scale to make sure that we can uphold the integrity of our brand. For us, it has always beenabout quality, not quantity.
Can you give us a glimpse into the future?
Currently, we have several wines in development. Our family vineyards are located throughout the Napa Valley in six appellations. That gives us a wonderful diversity of terroir and the opportunity for continuous experimentation. We like to allow the true character of each of our vineyards to be reflected in the complexities of the wines.
We are also committed to conscientious stewardship of the land as one of the best ways to preserve our heritage for generations to come. We were one of the earliest wineries to adopt sustainable farming practices, and today the majority of our vineyards—almost 450 acres—have been certified organic. In 2001, our family donated 21 acres to the Napa Land Trust as a conservation easement at Linda Falls.
We are confident that Heitz Wine Cellars is headed for a very bright future, and we are especially pleased to have David’s son Harrison as the third generation on our team. For people around the world who love to celebrate life with Heitz wines, we will continue to polish the legacy of Heitz Wine Cellars.
Sales & Tasting Room
436 St. Helena Highway