Hartwell Estate Vineyards is a gated property located on the West side of Silverado Trail just north of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. Hartwell sold the winery and caves and part of their vineyards on site to Realm Cellars in early 2016. Hartwell continues to produce very limited production wines from the portion of the vineyard they retained for themselves – a two-acre vineyard next to the family home on the hill and they still own the vineyard on the north side of their driveway which they are currently leasing. The small vineyard was their original vineyard back in 1990 – Bob purchased the property in 1986. Their wines continue to be produced on site. Tastings are for serious wine enthusiasts, are highly personalized and offered based on the family’s availability.
Their driveway used to be lined with cypress trees (since removed by the new owners). Several long horned, long haired Highland Cattle roam on part of the property. These are huge majestic creatures from Scotland and are the only animals of their kind we have seen at any winery in the Napa Valley. Hartwell’s first vintage dates from 1990 from a clone that was given to founder Bob Hartwell (deceased in June 2016) by Dick Grace of the well known Napa winery, Grace Family Vineyards.
This property used to be owned by Harry Sees, part of the Sees Candy family.
A number of prominent winemakers have come through their doors over the years including Andy Erickson and since 2006, Benoit Touquette.
Hartwell makes one white, a Sauvignon Blanc but their specialty is really estate grown Cabernet and Merlot and they are very good at hand-crafting both of these types of wines. Their grape production is lower than many wineries as they actually heavily thin back the vines to produce smaller quantities of grapes, resulting in higher quality fruit. All red wines produced come from their hillside estate and their Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from property they used to own in the cooler Carneros region to the south. This is a small family owned winery and you may get to meet the actual winemaker on your tour. Bob had a background in sales with aerospace and when he owned this winery – visitors would see several aerospace air filters located within the wine caves.
Their Estate Cabernet is exemplary – we tried the 2004 vintage. Unlike previous versions which were 100% varietal Cabernet Sauvignon this vintage was blended slightly with Petit Verdot. There is great depth of flavor in this wine and it is very dark in color with layered flavors of ripe blueberry and blackberry. The finish is anchored with smooth tannins and just a bit of dustiness representing their unique terroir.
The Miste Hill 2004 is a Cabernet Sauvignon based blend; it is softer than the Cabernet Sauvignon we tried but with great acidity, this also has some age-ability ahead of it. This is perhaps the softest of their red wines. Have a sweet heart who likes sweet wine? Try the 2004 SweetHart, as in the Hart of Hartwell. This is a rare Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Late Harvest dessert wine. There is only one other winery in Napa that made this type of wine on a regular basis (they are no longer in business). Hartwell produces this wine during only the best vintages – their most recent release at the time of our update is the 2010 vintage. Older vintages of their other wines are also available for purchase.
The T5 is their most premium Cabernet Sauvignon – always 100% varietal it is picked from vines growing in their tiny vineyard. This wine ages in special Taransaud (the cooper) barrels for 2 years. These are rare barrels, this is rare wine indeed as only 100 six-bottle cases are produced annually. The wood is from trees that were planted during the time of Louis XIV (he was the King of France from 1643 until he died in 1715) and only the best French coopers are allowed to work with this wood. The staves are seasoned for a remarkable 5 years before being assembled (up to 3 years is more the norm for oak barrels being used for aging wine).
Also of note is the blending master Michel Rolland was their consulting winemaker for some time. We read somewhere that Michel tastes between 30,000 and 35,000 different wines a year. Now that is impressive!
Ask about their exclusive “collectors club”. For more information visit: www.hartwellvineyards.com
NOTE: This review has been identified as needing a major update.