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Napa's Realm Cellars Purchases Hartwell Estate's Winery

Bob Hartwell looks to step back while Realm's Juan Mercado finds a permanent home in Stags Leap

Aaron Romano
Posted: February 18, 2016

The owners of Napa Valley's Realm Cellars have purchased Hartwell Estate Vineyards' winery, caves and a portion of their vineyards, Wine Spectator has learned. Hartwell founder Bob Hartwell and his family will retain the brand, an onsite residence and the remaining vineyard parcels. The purchase price was not disclosed.

Realm founder Juan Mercado said he had been looking for a home for his brand for nearly two years. "We knew inevitably we would want our own home and be able to control our own vineyards and production space," he told Wine Spectator.

Realm's team had previously been making their wines at Chateau Boswell in St. Helena. The transition should be seamless for both parties, as Benoit Touquette makes the wines for both Hartwell, located in the Stags Leap District, and Realm. "There was definitely a comfort having him already knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the property, and where time and money needs to be spent," said Mercado.

Realm's first vintage was in 2002, and the brand has grown from 300 cases that year to approximately 4,000 cases in 2015, sourced from some of Napa Valley's most esteemed vineyards. Mercado plans to update the winery and replant most of the vineyards, hoping to expand production to 6,500 cases once the vineyard is in full production. "As land gets more expensive and the fruit sources become less available, owning your own vineyard becomes important," said Mercado.

The owner of a company that manufactured plumbing equipment, Hartwell was looking for a slower-paced life in Napa Valley in 1986 when he migrated north from Southern California, purchasing the Stags Leap property. Hartwell began with a single acre of Cabernet Sauvignon, and within five years had expanded to 10 acres, producing his first wine in 1990.

According to Linda LaPonza, Hartwell's daughter and general manager for the winery, keeping up was beginning to be too much for the 87-year-old Hartwell. "He wants to slow down and still be involved, but in a much smaller capacity," said LaPonza. Hartwell wasn't actively searching for a suitor, but felt his legacy could be carried on through Mercado and Touquette. "If Benoit wasn't a partner, it probably wouldn't have been sold," said LaPonza.

She noted that they still have the 2013 and 2014 vintages to sell and will be giving wine club members the option to join a small allocation list for future wines that will be made from the portion of the estate that they have retained. Touquette will continue to make their wines at the facility.

Bill Belkin
Edina, MN —  February 22, 2016 9:14am ET
Congratulations to the Hartwell family. I just opened a 1999 Stag's Leap District this past weekend and it was a wonderful expression of the terroir! Bravo effort!

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