The new owners of Napa Valley’s iconic Heitz Cellar, the Lawrence family, are fulfilling a long-held goal of the winery’s founders to extend the boundaries of its Trailside Vineyard in the Rutherford subappellation. The winery has purchased the Wildwood Vineyard, adjacent to its Trailside property, from wine giant Treasury Wine Estates and plans to combine the two properties. The sale price was not disclosed.
“We always knew the pedigree of the wines that came from the Wildwood Vineyard,” Heitz CEO Carlton McCoy told Wine Spectator. He says the owners leapt at the chance to buy the vineyard when they learned it was potentially for sale. “For us, it was the quality of the dirt and the history there,” he said.
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The 51-acre Wildwood Vineyard is planted on a gently sloping three-mile swath of alluvial fan on the western side of the valley that runs between Oakville and Rutherford, referred to as the Rutherford Bench. Planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, the grapes were used by wineries such as Sterling and Provenance. The property is contiguous to the Trailside Vineyard and McCoy says the soils are identical. They hope to produce wines that express the flavors and tannic profiles that Rutherford Cabernets are known for.
Drawn to Rutherford during his time working at Beaulieu Vineyard, Heitz founder Joe Heitz acquired the Trailside Vineyard in 1984. Two years later the Heitz family purchased a sliver of the Wildwood Vineyard. They then replanted the combined 105 acres to Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. In 2018, agriculture magnate Gaylon Lawrence Jr. purchased Heitz from Joe’s children. Production currently hovers at 40,000 cases of wine a year.
The Lawrence family plans to convert the vineyard to organic and biodynamic farming and will use the grapes to expand the selection for the Trailside Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. But McCoy says the winery does not plan to increase production of the Trailside Cabernet, limiting it to around 2,000 cases a year. Instead the winery will vinify small amounts to discover the quality of each block, and sell the remainder of the grapes.
The sale is part of the family’s long-term goal of maintaining the Heitz family’s original vision for the winery. “What we are trying to do is to continue the work but do it with more resources so we have a louder voice,” said McCoy.
In a statement, Rachel Ashley, Treasury Wine Estates’ senior vice president of wine production, said, “The vineyard was considered non-core to the business’ requirements.” Based in Australia, Treasury owns more than 70 brands around the world. But in recent years the company has been refocusing its efforts on a select group of labels that offer the best potential for growth.
Treasury currently owns six Napa brands including Beaulieu Vineyard, Hewitt and Sterling. “Viticulture and world-class winemaking in the U.S. remains important to TWE, along with marketing and selling our renowned California wine brands,” said Ashley.