Joe Heitz and his wife Alice were true pioneers of modern California winemaking when they moved to the Napa Valley in 1951. Joe earned an advanced degree in oenology from the University of California at Davis and he worked with famed winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff at Beaulieu Vineyards for several years before he and Alice bought a small winery in 1961. Over the decades the couple turned the estate into one of California’s most admired estates. Joe died in 2000 but his children continued to run the estate, making the distinctive Heitz Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, among other highly acclaimed wines. In 2018 the estate was sold to Gaylon Lawrence Jr., a businessman whose family owns farmland throughout the Midwest and South as well as banks and industrial enterprises. Lawrence has brought in Napa wine industry veteran Robert Boyd as Heitz CEO. The estate owns 400 acres of vineyards.
Rutherford AVA is just north of the Oakville AVA in the heart of Napa Valley, and it is equally distinguished. It is home to Beaulieu Vineyard and inglenook, arguably Napa Valley’s most historically influential wineries. Inglenook started making in wine in the late 19th century, and Beaulieu Vineyards was producing by the first years of the 20th century. BV founder Georges de Latour is particularly esteemed for having recruited Andre Tchelistcheff, a renowned research oenologist, to move from France to Napa Valley in 1938 and run BV’s winemaking. The legendary Tchelistcheff brought European winemaking techniques to Napa Valley and vastly improved wine quality. Other Rutherford winemakers followed his lead. Today there are 5,000 vineyard acres in Rutherford and many acclaimed producers. The famous Silverado Trail with its exclusive, limited production wineries, runs partly through Rutherford AVA. Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignons are characterized by supple tannins, richness, notes of cherry and plum, depth and the ability to age for several decades. Besides Cabernet Sauvignon the AVA also grows Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel. It received its AVA designation in 1994.
One of the most widely grown grape varieties, it can be found in nearly every wine growing region. A cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a hardy vine that produces a full-bodied wine with high tannins and great aging potential.