Heibel Ranch Vineyards
Napa Valley AVA
Heibel Ranch has always produced world-class wines and should continue to do so for many years to come
It’s a tiny property located on a piece of land that has been in the same family for more than seventy years. It is called Heibel Ranch Vineyards and is a tribute to the original 1300-acre ranch that was acquired by George Bennett Heibel way back in 1945 as the Aetna Springs Resort.
George Heibel was a visionary and modernized the existing resort and its excellent golf course that was the second oldest course in California. He realized the resort that was the backbone of the property and even included an airstrip for his celebrity clientele. Ronald Reagan used the resort to announce his first run for the governorship of California in 1974. Division of the land into smaller parcels occurred after Heibel’s death among his survivors and their families.
Today, Heibel Ranch Vineyards is in the capable hands of Heibel’s grandson, Trent Ghiringhelli, 44, and his family. They own 185 acres of land and planted a small portion of it in 2003.
Heibel Ranch Vineyards’ setting is in bucolic Pope Valley, a sub-region of Napa Valley located in Napa Valley’s northeastern end. It lies around the more famous Howell Mountain’ western side and is rumored to be in the running for Napa Valley’s next sub-appellation, but nothing has been finalized thus far.
“We have an ideal growing environment,” Trent Ghiringhelli pointed out. “Pope Valley is almost directly east of Calistoga and is warmer in the summer and colder in the winter than other growing areas of Napa Valley. That factor allows for great balance in our fruit and the ability to make truly fine wines.”
After the initial 2003 planting (Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah) Ghiringhelli decided to try his hand at making an unconventional blend of varietals. He called the new blend “Lappas” after his father’s longtime nickname. For the record, Lappa's means pumpkin sucker in the Northern Italian dialect of his forbearers. The three varietals came from his estate vineyards and Ghiringhelli added a fourth varietal, Cabernet Franc to the final blend. Only 135 cases were produced of the 2006 Lappas, a minuscule number for the fledgling winery. By the way, Trent Ghiringhelli utilizes both French and American oak in the ageing process for his wines, but limits the time spent in barrel. “I feel it is more important to focus on highlighting the vineyard aspects and fruit character present in the wine rather than the oaken impact the wood produces,” he verbalized.
Heibel Ranch Vineyards is owned by Trent’s mother, Helen Heibel Nelson and his stepdad, Bruce Nelson. This year’s production will total out at just fewer than 400 cases, a figure that Trent Ghiringhelli sees as near perfect for his small operation. “We want to maintain our size and quality and since I am the only employee, 400 cases is an ideal level for me to produce." The University of Colorado graduate added, “I have a master plan that provides for our planting an additional 15 -20 acres, but that is definitely in the future. We will let demand for our wines lead us to additional plantings and increased wine production."
Ghiringhelli’s wines have met with excellent critical acclaim since their first release and are held in high regard by the winery’s growing number of fans. To reach more consumers, Heibel Ranch Vineyards opened a tasting room in nearby downtown Calistoga, near the Calistoga Depot Building. The tasting environment is actually a retired railroad caboose car (Number 12) and could easily be considered Napa Valley’s most ambient above ground tasting spot. If you are in the area, do not miss this one!
Only the future can know what’s in store for this tiny Napa Valley winery that is surrounded by larger, more adequately financed properties and wineries. Sometimes minuscule operations like Heibel Ranch Vineyards become lost in the ever-changing wine world that exists in California and throughout the world. Through its tenacious approach to the wine industry and the dedicated passion of its ownership team, wine insiders are betting on this meticulous winery and its excellent portfolio of innovative, unconventional wines.
In Trent Ghiringhelli, Heibel Ranch Vineyards has the right person see it through unto fruition. It has always produced world-class wines and should continue to do so for many years to come.
We salute Heibel Ranch Vineyards for its excellent history and well-made wines. Such operations are necessary to produce a balance between large and small producers and the overall quality present in each bottle.
Here’s to raising pour glasses to this significant small winery! Enjoy!
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
Heibel Ranch Vineyards is a small Napa Valley vineyard and winery crafting less than 400 cases per vintage. Lappa’s is our proprietary red blend focusing on our CCOF certified organic estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah, and it’s blended with Cabernet Franc. The origin of the name is often overlooked or unspoken, so I’ll share it with you.
Lappa’s, short for “lappa suc” in our family’s Northern Italian dialect, loosely translates to “Pumpkin Sucker,” yes pumpkin sucker . . . and was my father’s, Johnny Ghiringhelli’s, nickname. The Lappa’s jar was the tip jar from Ray’s Place in St. Helena, and helped put me through college, amongst other things, but most importantly, Lappa’s brings a smile to everyone’s face who knew Johnny or is just hearing the story for the first time.
Our first vintage was 2006 and back then, the “red blend” category was non-existent, so we selected “Lappa’s to be the fanciful name to brand our flagship Napa Valley red wine. Thank you for your purchase and we suggest that you enjoy it with some grilled lamb.
Proprietor & Winemaker