Napa Valley AVA
95-Points, Wine News magazine
Bob Hartwell first started enjoying wine when he was in his middle twenties (the mid-1950’s) at a time in our country’s history when, in his own words, “wine wasn’t considered a big thing.” Now a sprightly 75, Hartwell can 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 1870’s. His family traces its origins back to Massachusetts where his ancestors came to this country from England in the 1600’s. Hartwell 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 1980’s, 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 on 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 all our wines each year. I see no reason for changing anything right now.”
Hartwell Vineyards new state-of-the-art winery was completed in 1999 with the help of Bob’s new bride Blanca, a noted designer with a national reputation. Bob Hartwell is particularly proud of his new 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 Domaine.
“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.”
Hartwell’s herd of bovine lawnmowers has grown sizably and certainly controls the environment to their owner’s satisfaction. The grass is maintained at about one inch and remains so throughout the summer. The cattle’s stark presence also adds a dimension to the winery that has brought it legions of fans.
Hartwell Vineyards is about to add another varietals to its portfolio, a Sauvignon Blanc produced from a five-acre property Bob Hartwell secured some time ago in the Carneros area of Napa. It is a project dear to his heart and certain to win him additional admirers among wine industry individuals, particularly among the winemakers themselves.
“I’ve always enjoyed a challenge,” remarked Hartwell, “ and I’ve always believed in doing things right. I produce wines that make a statement and wines that people really enjoy.”
From past experience, Bob Hartwell’s new wines will be no exception.
We are confident that you will find this Diamond Series selection from Hartwell Vineyards to be a superlative choice.