Wine crush | Eyes on the future, heart in the past

05 Sep 2016
3 min read
Napa Valley’s Heitz Wine Cellars has been handed down over three generations to consistent acclaim. FOUR finds out more…
Napa Valley renaissance

In 1961, when Joe and Alice Heitz founded Heitz Wine Cellars on an eight-acre vineyard, there werefewer than 12 wineries in the Napa Valley. Three years later, they acquired an idyllic property in theeastern hills of St. Helena that was destined to become the heart of their winemaking operation.

The stately cellar located there, built of hand-chiseled stone in 1898, was surrounded by pristinefarmland that had been all but forgotten during the post-prohibition era.While Joe and Alice waited for their newly planted vines to mature, they agreed to purchase the firstharvest of grapes from growers Tom and Martha May. Thus,the start of an historic relationship thatcontinues today with the third generation.

The Mays’Oakville vineyard, rolling gently across an alluvial plain at the base of the Mayacamasfoothills, was meticulously planted with a proprietary clone. In 1966, Heitz Wine Cellars introduced thefirst single-vineyard Cabernet in the Napa Valley with theexquisite fruit from that site–the legendaryMartha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

As pioneers during the renaissance of Napa Valley winemaking, theHeitz Family believed that NapaValley wines could compete on the world stage. They worked hard to make that vision a reality, settingunparalleled standards of quality and commanding higher prices,which set the tone for greater paritywith European wines. They were also among the first to export their wines,helping to secure aninternational reputation for California wines.

For over half a century, the Heitz family has consistently produced a dazzling portfolio of wines.TheirMartha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon has long been considered one of the elite wines of the world.

Accolades for this Cabernet include selection by Wine Spectator as one of the Top 12 Wines of the 20thCentury.In 1989, the Heitz family introduced another vineyard-designated Cabernet, sourced exclusively fromtheir Trailside Vineyard. Situated on the eastern side ofthe valley in the famed Rutherford appellation,this wine is noted for its bright, opulent flavors. All ofHeitz Cabernets are produced with 100% of thevarietal.

From the beginning, the Heitz Family has believed that it takes time to produce cabernets that arebalanced and well integrated. Their Cabernets are alwaysallowed to mature at an uncommonly slowpace,patiently developing character in oak foudres before being transferred into French oak barrels.

Although best known for Cabernet Sauvignons, the winery hasa dedicated following for its other wines:Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Grignolino Rosé,Grignolino, Zinfandel and Port.The winery’sdiverse agricultural operation now encompasses vineyards insix of Napa Valley’sfinestappellations.Thisaffords the winemaker many opportunities for experimentation and the latitude toconvey the remarkable breadth of terroirs and niche climates that make this region so unique.

As committed stewards of the land, the Heitz Family wasamong the earliest to practice sustainablefarming in Napa Valley. Today, the majority of their vineyardshave been certified organic by the Stateof California (CCOF). This approach has proven to be a success for the health of their vineyards, and ithas also allowed for the true characters that each site possesses to come through in the complexities ofthe wines.

The Heitz brand is flourishing under the leadership of second-generation siblings Kathleen Heitz Myersas president and David Heitz as winemaker.

They have propelled the family business into the 21stcentury with strategies that have kept them in the forefront of the California wine industry. At the sametime, they have continued to safeguard the traditions that make Heitz wines memorable. With their eyesonthe future, thefamily is especially pleased that third generation HarrisonHeitz has joined the team.

“My parents believed in the American dream of building a family business,”says Kathleen.“I think theywould be amazed at the far-reaching impact of our small winerytoday. We hear stories from peoplearound the world who celebrate life with Heitz wines, and wepromise that we will continue to polishour legacy.”

Heitz Wine Cellars

Sales & Tasting Room

436 St. Helena Highway

St. Helena


+1 707-963-3542