Hartwell Vineyards was founded in 1986 when Bob Hartwell purchased 90 acres of Wappo Hill—the half of Wappo Hill not owned by Robert Mondavi—in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley.
From the outset, Bob maintained the importance of farming all of the fruit used in Hartwell Estate Vineyards wines. "Grow the best grapes, make the best wine" was his philosophy, and remains ours today as we continue to maintain control of all aspects of our grape growing and wine production.
The first vines the family planted were one acre of Bosche clone Cabernet Sauvignon grafted to budwood provided by Dick Grace of Grace Family Vineyards. The first few vintages were also made at Grace Family Vineyards, until the winery on the estate was completed, with Andy Erickson as winemaker. The winery's first release was an estate Cabernet Sauvignon in 1990, which sold out immediately, and with subsequent vintages, Hartwell established a reputation for fine Cabernet Sauvignon.
Over the years, other parcels of the property were planted, allowing the winery to produce other Cabernet Sauvignons, as well as Merlot, a red dessert wine, and a red wine blend. In 2006, the Hartwells purchased a 4.5-acre vineyard in Carneros from which they produce a Bordeaux-inspired Sauvignon Blanc, and brought acclaimed winemaker Benoit Touquette on board to oversee production.
Bob Hartwell passed away in 2016. In his honor, Blanca and the other family members chose to refocus their efforts, returning to their roots to produce just an estate 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that they feel offers the best reflection of the Hartwell estate and style of wine, and the Sauvignon Blanc from its Carneros vineyard.
Over the years, thanks to the Stags Leap District's reputation for producing fine Cabernet, the family had been approached with a number of offers to purchase all or part of the Stags Leap District estate, which they declined. But with their decision to focus on just the two wines and an offer from a group the family respected, they agreed to sell a small portion—20 acres—of the estate, retaining the other 70 acres.
Blanca passed away in 2018, and today, the second and third generation of Hartwells continue operations.
Linda La Ponza joined her parents in the business in 2005, putting her management background to work as the winery's general manager, overseeing marketing, viticulture and enology. Bob and Blanca's granddaughter Jennelle joined the family business in 2007, managing off-premise sales in California and national distributor relationships. In 2012, Debbie Estrada, Blanca and Bob's other daughter, joined the winery part time to manage the winery's finances. A year later, she became full time, managing day-to-day business operations, including compliance, shipping, distribution and club allocations, as well as finance.
Benoit Touquette has continued to serve as winemaker since 2006.