John Tyler Wines
Russian River Valley AVA
Continuing to build upon and embrace their families' legacy
The creation of John Tyler Wines is a fateful story in which two of California’s great wine and grape growing families came together to honor their legacies through a critically acclaimed private label. On their own, both the Bacigalupi and Heck families have left their mark on the California wine industry and have undoubtedly helped the state to become a leader in fine wine production, however, together, they may be even more powerful.
Rewinding to the mid 1950’s, Charles Bacigalupi was just settling in the town of Healdsburg with his wife Helen after graduating from school in San Francisco. Charles worked as the local dentist and Helen as a pharmacist, but both dreamed of owning a vineyard in nearby wine country. In 1956, they purchased 121 acres in the Russian River Valley that included 16 acres of Zinfandel, Mission, Golden Chaslis, and Muscat. Charles began to care for the vines, but needed all the advice he could get. A good friend named Paul Heck was just the answer he needed.
Paul Heck was a man Charles became friends with through his dentist practice, as Paul would bring his family in for regular check ups. Paul was no stranger to the wine business, having winemaking and viticulture in his blood since the day he was born. His father had managed the Cook’s Imperial Champagne Cellars and Cooks label, and Paul followed right in his footsteps. After running a number of wineries across the country, Paul, his brother Adolf, and Carl Wente, purchased the famed Korbel Winery in 1953. Paul was able to live his dream, perfecting the California style of French Champagne production and leading the state’s sparkling wine industry.
The friendship that blossomed between Paul Heck and Charles Bacigalupi was incredibly valuable as Paul offered insight and advice for Charles’ new property. He envisioned the demand for premium wine grapes and encouraged Charles to plant Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to sell to nearby wineries. Before that time, Charles had never heard of the Pinot grape and even had to write the name down to keep from forgetting it! As fate would have it, Pinot Noir would become the most cherished wine at John Tyler Wines some fifty years later.
In 1976, the Bacigalupi name was put on the map in a big way. Across the world at the renowned Paris wine tasting, a Napa Valley Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena (with Bacigalupi fruit) triumphed over many acclaimed French wines to be named the absolute winner. This event would forever change America’s global wine image, and it made the Bacigalupi family an incredible part of history.
In 1982, another significant event happened for the Bacigalupi family. Charles’ son, John, married Paul Heck’s daughter, Pam, joining these two legendary families together. What an exciting marriage!
John had grown up on his family’s Healdsburg ranch and developed an intimate knowledge of the vineyard and its fruit. Working alongside his father, he helped manage the vines from a young age and today carries a deep passion for his family’s roots. Pam, on the other hand, grew up at Korbel Winery, learning the intricacies and day-to-day maintenance of running a major worldwide known estate. From working the bottling line, to checking the vineyard, working the winery gift shop, and learning the basics of enology, Pam truly had a well-rounded winery experience. Together, their possibilities were endless.
In 2002, John, Pam, and Pam’s nephew, Tyler Heck, decided to solidify their families’ wine and grape growing legacies through the creation of John Tyler Wines. This private wine label combined John Bacigalupi’s world-class Sonoma Country fruit with Tyler Heck’s inherited passion for winemaking. It was the ultimate dream Come true for these families who have incredible roots in the history of California’s wine country.
John Tyler Wines also involves a fourth generation with the twin daughters (Katey and Nicole) of John and Pam Bacigalupi. Katey Bacigalupi has a plethora of responsibilities ranging from accounting to sales to driving tractors and working harvest. Her sister Nicole runs the marketing and managed the successful building of the winery’s tasting room in 2006.
Today, the efforts of the Bacigalupis and the Hecks have certainly paid off, as they celebrate their twelfth year of producing unforgettable small lot wines exclusively from their family’s own estate. We expect great things from this tiny brand, who continues to build upon and embrace their families’ legacy.
About the Vineyard
John Tyler Wines are 100% estate grown, produced, and vineyard designated from the Bacigalupi family’s properties in Russian River Valley and Alexander Valley. This month’s featured wine, the 2008 ‘Bacigalupi Vineyard’ Pinot Noir comes from the Russian River region just south of Healdsburg, on the family’s ranch property.
The Bacigalupi family holds a strong commitment to sustainability, a practice that can be seen in vineyard and one that promotes a healthy and resourceful legacy for the generations to come. All of the vineyards are hand-tended and hand-harvested by a consistently trained team to the meticulous standards of the Bacigalupi family farm. The results speak for themselves.
Overall, the Bacigalupi family manages and produces wine from four vineyard sites within the Sonoma County region. Varietals include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah with total acreage reaching 275. The original site that was purchased by Charles Bacigalupi in 1956 is one that helped put the California wine industry on the map and is still managed to this day.
Tyler Heck - Winemaker
Tyler Heck has developed many skills and a deep understanding of the wine industry. He tributes most of his knowledge and passion for wine to his father, Patrick Heck, and grandfather, Paul Heck (who was the co-proprietor of Korbel). Tyler's education at both Fresno State University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo gave him a deeper breadth, a solid foundation, and it prepared him for a successful career in winemaking.
When Tyler and John Bacigalupi first discussed the venture of making wine together in 2001, they knew they had to offer something different. With well known neighbors such as William Selyem and Rochioli, the duo wanted to create a unique program that would set them apart from the rest. To do this, they decided to produce wines with extended barrel and bottle aging, thus making the winemaking process a slow and meticulous one. Their efforts have certainly paid off, as John Tyler Wines are now recognized and awarded around the world for their distinctive quality and old world style. Tyler Heck is deeply passionate about his work and hopes to continue making wines that honor his family's legacy.