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Hartwell Estate Winery - Napa Valley


95 Points - Wine Spectator & 92+ Points - Stephen Tanzer's Int. Wine Cellar

Bob Hartwell first started enjoying wine when he was in his mid twenties (the mid-1950s) at a time in our country’s history when, in his own words, “wine wasn’t considered a big thing.”

Hartwell can now be considered as coming full circle in his continued passion for wine and his personal pursuit of producing the finest Cabernet Sauvignon in California.

Hartwell is a third generation Californian, whose grandparents settled in Southern California in the 1870s. His family traces their origins back to Massachusetts where his ancestors came to this country from England in the 1600s.

Harwell is currently entrenched in his second official career, this time as a winery owner. His first line of business was manufacturing plumbing equipment and is where he made his fortune. He continues to be involved in that initial concern but his real heart and focus these days is on his Napa Valley treasure that is named Hartwell Vineyards.

When he finally became serious about entering the wine business, Bob Hartwell wisely decided on hiring a consultant to aid his search for the perfect site and climate for his new venture. By the mid 1980s, he was busy scouring many parts of California’s wine domain, including locations around Santa Barbara and Carmel and all the way up to both Sonoma and Napa Valleys. He finally settled on the classic soils of Napa and in one of its more specific areas, now officially known as the Stags Leap District of eastern Napa Valley.

“My consultant felt that the closer you are to San Pablo Bay, the more chance the Cabernet will have to mature on the vine,” Hartwell recently related. “We found some really beautiful hillside property owned by Harry Sees of the noted candy family. I was fortunate to be able to close escrow in early January of 1986.”

Hartwell Vineyard’s initial plot consisted of some sixty acres. Hartwell chose to plant but one original acre, opting to “take my time and learn what there was to know about planting and growing. I really wanted to see what kind of quality grapes I would be able to grow there.”

After several years and opportunistic findings, another 19 acres were planted. In 1990, Hartwell Vineyards released the first two hundred cases of wine to exceptional reviews and plaudits.

The rest is now part of Napa Valley lore. Hartwell Vineyards has grown slowly and currently makes somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 to 4,000 cases per year. There are no immediate plans to enlarge the winery according to its self-effacing owner.

“I think we will stay right where we are at,” he smiled. “We are at a most comfortable level at present and we sell out of our wines each year. I see no reason for changing anything right now.”

Hartwell Vineyard’s state-of-the-art winery was completed in 1999 with the help of Bob’s wife Blanca, a noted designer with a national reputation. Bob Hartwell is particularly proud of his underground tasting room, a candlelit affair that offers three wines, three cheeses and chocolate truffles filled with Hartwell wines. It is all very picturesque, including the strange herd of cattle that grazes Hartwell’s hillside domain.

“There’s a real explanation to all of this,” Bob Hartwell continued. “When we first bought the property it was all knee-high in weeds and difficult to control since it is mostly hillside. We found a couple of Scottish Highland Cows that can eat anything, including poison oak and poison ivy. They eat everything and keep the area well groomed.”

Crafted in the old-world tradition in limited quantities, Hartwell’s wines are highly sought after, having earned high marks and an incredible following among discerning wine buyers, sommeliers and wine critics.

We know that you will really enjoy this month’s Diamond Series selection from Hartwell Vineyards.



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