Why Visit Heitz Cellar?
- You love true varietal wines or want to experience what true varietal wines are all about.
- You’re the live-life-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type. You like to roll without a plan, man!
- You’re into Cabernet Sauvignon or are looking for a Cabernet Sauvignon to love.
Heitz Cellar was at the top of my list for my family’s holiday trip to Napa and Sonoma wine country. While researching the seemingly infinite number of wineries in the area, I vaguely recognized the Heitz label and name. Then it hit me. I had tried a Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon about a year ago pulled from the wine collection of the guy I was dating at the time. While the memories of that relationship still make me cringe, I have very fond memories of savoring that Heitz Wine Cellars bottle.
Heitz Wine Cellars
Little did I know and soon did we find out, Heitz Cellar is a pioneering force behind the global success of the Napa Valley region. Husband and wife team Joe and Alice Heitz founded the winery in 1961 as only the 12th winery in the region. Though Heitz began by solely producing single vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noir, Joe Heitz soon moved into Cabernet Sauvignons.
Heitz’s 1970 Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon received critical acclaim at the infamous Judgement of Paris tasting that put Napa on the map. Today, Heitz Wine Cellars is well-known for their bold yet elegant single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons. Other Heitz favorites including a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Grignolino, and Port are nothing short of remarkable. What’s truly admirable is even with such widespread success, Heitz still remains a boutique winery, producing just 40,000 coveted cases or less per year.
My favorite aspect of Heitz Cellar is that even with such a renowned history, this winery is effortlessly warm, inviting, and wholly unpretentious. With a rustic, farmhouse-style tasting room, a friendly winery dog, a back door that opens up to an outdoor seating area on the gorgeous vineyard, and even a fireplace to cozy up to with a glass of Cab, Heitz is not to be missed.
But that’s not all! Heitz Cellar is one of the few wineries in the region that does not require a reservation and does not charge a tasting fee! If that’s not enough to get you in the door, then I don’t know what is. The wines are also fairly priced, especially for the beautiful quality of wine offered. We purchased a $120 magnum bottle of the 2007 Bella Oaks Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. While this may have been a special…$120. For a MAGNUM. Need I say more?
Throughout our tasting, it became evident that Joe Heitz is a winemaker who loves to produce wines by staying as true to the varietal as possible. Tasting notes from my visit to Heitz Cellar included below.
- Chardonnay 2015 – While foregoing barrel aging in oak and not allowing for malolactic fermentation, Joe Heitz gifted us with a true Chardonnay. Notes of honeysuckle, pear, white peach, and a smooth finish. If you are one of those Chardonnay-haters, please give this wine a try. I think it will change your mind!
- Zinfandel 2014- A Zinfandel to best all other Zinfandels. Not overly jammy, sweet, or fruit forward. I picked up that signature Zin spice on the nose, with notes of white pepper, wood , and bit of nutmeg. This wine had very well structured tannins that danced along the palate without overwhelming the mouth. I also tasted notes of blueberry jam and tangy clove.
- Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 – This Cab is made from grapes of multiple vineyards, five to be exact, as opposed to a single vineyard wine. A very easy drinking Cab with notes of blackberry and cassis with silky tannins. Delicious currently or could easily be laid down for 20+ years.
- Trailside Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 – WOW was the first word that came to mind upon sipping this wine. Aged in the barrel 6 months longer than the first Cab, the Trailside Vineyard Cab has developed incredible nuances. I immediately picked up notes of caramel and clove on the nose. Then dark cherry and tart berry with velvety tannins on the palate. A Cab for a celebratory occasion!
- Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 – A well-balanced Cab, though to my palate not as complex and nuanced as the Trailhead Vineyard.
- Bella Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 – Different vineyard, different notes! The magic of terroir. This Cab was much more cherry forward with hints of bell pepper and a bit of mushroom or forest floor on the nose. The tannins hit my palate more towards the tip of my tongue, which was a welcomed new experience.
- Ink Grade Port – If you’re not yet convinced Heitz Cellars does it up right, this port should do the trick. Heitz imported classic Portuguese varieties to produce the Ink Grade Port. Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cao, Souzao, Tinta Bairrada, Tinta Madeira, Tinta Amarella, and Bastardo all thrive on Heitz’s sun-soaked, hillside vineyards. I’m not a big Port drinker, but this is a Port I can get behind. A full-bodied port that is very smooth drinking and delicately sweet.