Recognizing the region’s potential for premium wine grapes, we planted our first vineyard in 1996 and named it for Rosella. In 1997 we planted the Garys’ Vineyard in partnership with our good friends and fellow grape growers, the Pisoni family. Since then we’ve planted two more vineyards; our “high-altitude” Sierra Mar Vineyard located at 1000ft above the valley floor and the Soberanes Vineyard a second partnership with the Pisoni family, located on one of the area’s oldest land grants.
In 2001, after years spent developing the pedigree of our vineyards with top-tier wineries, we launched ROAR Wines to showcase the signature flavors of our vineyards and Santa Lucia Highands in a small portfolio of single vineyard and appellated bottlings. The name ROAR is inspired by our family’s passion for work and play; paying homage to the Monterey Bay winds that roar through our vineyards and the thunderous roar of a stadium full of sports fans.
ROAR WINES produces limited production Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay and Viognier from grapes grown at the Rosella’s, Garys’, Sierra Mar, Soberanes and Pisoni vineyards in Monterey’s famed Santa Lucia Highlands.
Gary and Adam, together with winemaker Scott Shapley make the ROAR wines at our new San Francisco winery, one of the few “urban wineries” in the city.
Each wine is made barrel by barrel with minimal handling and maximum attention. The winery is completely gravity flow; the wines are not inoculated for malolactic (allowing natural ml to take place) racking is limited to the barest minimum and only at bottling.
Hand-sorting and punch downs are standard. Critical timing of fermentation for maximum extraction and balanced tannins is followed by extended rest – up to 16 months – in the finest French barrels.
KATHLEEN HEITZ MYERS – PRESIDENT & CEO, HEITZ WINE CELLARS
In many ways, the history of Heitz parallels the history of Napa Valley as it evolved from walnut and prune orchards into an exceptional wine destination. When Joe and Alice Heitz founded Heitz Wine Cellars, fewer than a dozen wineries called Napa Valley home. It was 1961 and the Napa Valley was, in Joe’s words, “asleep.” At the time, the belief that Napa Valley could become a globally recognized wine region had yet to take root, and creating a winery in the area was still considered a risk.
But Joe and Alice agreed that this was their shared dream. In fact, Joe had decided back in the 1940s not to pursue his original plan to become a veterinarian because he loved his work as a enologist much more—and this in an era when being a “vintner” carried none of the glamor but all of the grit.
By 1951, Joe had earned his Master’s Degree in Enology from UC Davis and was working hard to hone his skills in wineries located in Lodi and Fresno. He caught the eye of revered winemaker André Tchelistcheff at Napa Valley’s historic Beaulieu Vineyard and became his right-hand man. Recognized as an excellent winemaker in his own right, Joe applied his prodigious knowledge and expertise to launching the Department of Enology at Fresno State College.
In 1961, Joe and Alice purchased their first property: an eight-acre vineyard south of St. Helena in Napa Valley. Working out of the small winery attached to the parcel, they put in round-theclock sweat equity to build their business.
By 1964, Joe and Alice had discovered 160 acres in Spring Valley, where Joe sharpened his focus on Cabernet Sauvignon. The following year, the Heitz and the May families shook hands on a deal that would change everything—and would form the foundation for a friendship that would grow over the next five decades.
The handshake that changed history
When Tom and Martha May bought their home and vineyard in 1963, the previous owner left them two bottles of Heitz Cellars wine as a gift. Impressed with the wine, they decided to visit Heitz Wine Cellars, where they purchased more. Soon a friendship grew between the two couples that marked the beginning of one of the most important relationships in the winemaking industry.
In 1965, visiting what Tom had impishly named “Martha’s Vineyard” after his wife, Joe admired the quality of Tom’s first harvest of Cabernet Sauvignon and offered to buy all of the grapes. The two shook hands and the deal was done—and the rest, as they say, is history. The wine Joe made from that fruit so impressed him that in 1966, he and Tom decided to recognize this amazing vineyard by putting the actual vineyard name on the bottle. Napa Valley’s first vineyarddesignated Cabernet Sauvignon was born, long before American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) existed. Half a century later, Heitz Cellars Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon continues to garner acclaim and is beloved by both critics and connoisseurs.
Second generation Richard May and Laura May Everett are a major force in their family business as well. They approach the farming of Martha's Vineyard—which was one of Napa’s first organically farmed ranches—in the May family tradition: with great energy and ardor. Both are devoted to the preservation of the extraordinary land that is their heritage. And the May family’s friendship and exclusive arrangement with the Heitz family continues to this day.
Three generations of excellence
For the Heitz family, a successful generational business is defined by its future, but relies on a deep respect for the foundation built in the past. Joe and Alice Heitz had the foresight to recognize that Napa Valley wines could find their place among the upper echelon of wines from around the world, and they envisioned bringing those wines to new global markets. They worked hard to put the foundation in place, setting unparalleled standards of quality and commanding higher prices that set the tone for greater parity with European wines.
Their daughter, President and CEO Kathleen Heitz Myers, studied in Switzerland and holds a degree in Biology. It was Kathleen’s understanding of the European and Asian markets and her business expertise that held the key to realizing Joe and Alice’s global vision. “Living abroad gave me an international perspective and a strong foundation to build upon, especially when it came to the perseverance of introducing California wines to markets that really weren’t open to them at the time,” she says. Kathleen developed and implemented Heitz Cellar’s export strategy; Heitz Cellars wines can now be found in all 50 states and 25 countries. She also modernized and diversified the business, positioning it for continued success.
Winemaker David Heitz received his degree in enology from Fresno State University in 1974—the same year he was called upon to step into his father’s shoes at harvest when Joe was sidelined by an injury. David did more than just keep things afloat: their teamwork gifted collectors around the world with the 1974 Martha's Vineyard Cabernet. David continued to fine-tune his craft as he worked beside his father until the mid-1990s, when he officially assumed full responsibility for winemaking. Joe instilled in his son a patient, thoughtful approach to winemaking and meticulous standards. Today, David faithfully upholds those standards, deliberately staying true to a vision of classic, polished wines with restraint and elegance, and allowing the quality of the wines to speak for themselves.
Representing the family’s third generation, David’s son Harrison Heitz joined the team at Heitz Wine Cellars in 2012 with an appreciation of the family’s legacy and his sights on contributing to the future success of the business. Like the rest of the family, Harrison holds education and hard work in high esteem, and he continually pushes himself to learn more. He is currently focused on sales and marketing and has been instrumental in developing the winery's solar energy plan. He has also become an effective ambassador for the winery during extensive travel through Asia with Wine Institute and Napa Valley Vintners Association.
Heitz Wine Cellars today
The Heitz family loves the work, and is hands-on with daily operations in the vineyards and winery. In the words of Kathleen, “No matter how much your heritage sparkles, 'automatic pilot' does not work. Our business is thriving today because the Heitz team actively pursues and implements innovative farming and production practices without losing sight of our signature winemaking traditions.” Being a family-run business, they continually work to “ask the right questions” to evaluate technological advances and new ideas to determine whether they adhere to the winery’s—and the family’s—core values of quality, integrity and innovation.
From the beginning, the Heitz family understood that in order for them to continue doing what they truly love with integrity and purpose they must be stewards of the land. Of the 1,100 acres in their care, only 425 are planted. They have granted a conservation easement to the Land Trust of Napa County, restored riparian areas and provided wildlife corridors in their vineyards. They also practice sustainable and certified organic farming in order to preserve Napa’s rich agricultural heritage and contribute to a healthy future for everyone who calls the Napa Valley home.
The family has curated a collection of vineyards in six of Napa Valley’s appellations, carefully selected to convey the incomparable breadth of geography and climate that makes the Napa Valley one of the world’s finest winegrowing destinations.
Heitz Wine Cellars offers an illustrious portfolio of prestige Napa Valley varietals, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery also creates a Port made from Portuguese grape varieties and a crowd-pleasing Grignolino; it is one of the only US wineries to offer this charming Italian varietal.
All current vintages can be found in the Heitz Cellar Sales & Tasting Room, located at the winery’s original site just south of downtown St. Helena. In a long-held tradition of hospitality, there is no charge for tastings.
The Heitz family values their relationships, approaching business partners, employees, customers and their community with an enduring integrity that has brought them admiration and respect. One of the very few remaining true Napa Valley legacy wineries, Heitz Wine Cellars has been a cherished family business for more than half a century—and is looking forward to the next half.