One of the biggest names in Napa is changing hands. Heitz Cellars, a pioneer of Napa 1.0 and a standard bearer of the region’s golden age, was sold by the namesake Heitz family to Arkansas billionaire Gaylon Lawrence Jr. for an undisclosed sum.
“We feel this is the right time for us to pass this rich legacy to another family,” said Kathleen Heitz-Myers in a statement. “When we met with Gaylon, it seemed a perfect match. In the wine business we are all farmers, and with the Lawrence family’s history in agriculture, we feel Heitz Cellars will be in good hands.”
The Lawrence family business, the Lawrence Group, owns of the largest agricultural companies in the nation boasting farms in Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi and Florida. For good measure, they also own several banks and an HVAC company.
The Army Air Corps Joe Heitz transferred Joe Heitz to California in the 1940’s and he never left. After logging time at Gallo and Beaulieu Vineyard, he founded Heitz Cellars in 1961. The vineyard grew steadily over time; and is credited with raising the bar for New World wines as well as popularizing single vineyard cuvées in California.
Prior to Heitz’s 2000 death, his son, David Heitz assumed responsibilities as winemaker and hi daughter, Kathleen Heitz-Meyers took the reigns as Chief Operating Officer. The sale came as a shock as many industry insiders expected grandson Harrison to succeed David.
Instead, Robert Boyd, previously of Joseph Phelps Winery, was named President and CEO.
Although over 400 acres of vineyards and production facilities changed hands in the deal, ownership of the flagship Martha’s Vineyard land and label did not. Tom and Martha May will retain ownership of that celebrated 34-acre plot in Oakville. Heitz is expected to continuing making the Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet.