INCEPTION: AN ACT, PROCESS, OR INSTANCE OF BEGINNING
Welcome to Hartwell Estate Vineyards! The moment I saw this beautiful hillside, I knew this land – along with a lot of hard work! - would yield the caliber of wines I enjoy as an avid collector. After years of exploring vineyard land in every corner of California, it became clear to me that there was no better wine region than the Napa Valley; and within the Napa Valley, that there was no better climate than what is now known as the Stags Leap District; and within the district, no better terrain than this property’s dramatic hillside slopes on the southern side of Wappo Hill.
This area was originally settled by the Wappo tribe, but by the time I came along in 1986 the property was owned by Harry Sees, heir to the Sees Candy fortune. Harry owned half of the mountain; Robert Mondavi owned the other half. I purchased the estate from Harry in 1986, brought in Scottish Highland cattle to keep the grasses in check, and later remodeled the main residence at the top of a narrow winding road. I started the vineyards with a single acre of Bosche Clone Cabernet Sauvignon at the top of the hillside in proximity to the residence, using budwood provided by my friend Dick Grace. Dick also lent us the use of his winemaking facilities at Grace Family and helped tout our wines in the early days. Our little vineyard saw its first harvest in 1990, and after 22 months in new French oak chateau barrels, the first Hartwell Estate Cabernet Sauvignon was released!
The response was enthusiastic, and the wine sold out immediately. But even more important, our inaugural release established the tradition for quality and style I had been hoping for. We planted a few more acres with different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, and by 1993 we had a good following for our wines and the time had come to dig into the hillside to build a winery and caves. Under the guidance of my wife, Blanca, construction began in 1997 and was completed by harvest 1999. Nature and perfectly engineered cave gives us ideal humidity and a constant temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit without air conditioning.
To celebrate the winery’s completion, we added two new Estate releases to our portfolio: the 1999 Estate Merlot, from our seven year-old vines planted in a special corner of our vineyard, and the 1999 Estate Miste Hill Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend, named in honor of our often foggy hillside as well as my most prized Highland Cattle. In 1999, we also purchased an ideal little vineyard in the cool Carneros region of southern Napa Valley where we would plant three clones of Sauvignon Blanc to complement our portfolio of Bordeaux-varietal wines. In 2006 we released our inaugural bottling of the 2005 Estate Sauvignon Blanc. We are thrilled to see the continued recognition this distinctive and delicious wine varietal has gained.
I invite you to visit our lovely estate in the southeastern corner of Stag’s Leap District, taste our spectacular wines, and take in our breathtaking view. Don’t forget to bring a camera!
Today, I find my dream realized – to grow the best grapes and make the best wines!
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