The Story of Hewitt Vineyard

Hewitt vineyards and varietal tag

History

The inaugural release of Hewitt Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was the 2001 vintage. It’s a fleshy, well-integrated and subtle wine. At the time, our founding winemaker, Tom Rinaldi had a very specific vision for this wine, “We already have plenty of in-your-face wines. I want a more polite wine, one that is neither aggressive nor abrasive. You get tired of all the undisciplined, over-the-top Cabernets. Ours is a complex, intellectual wine, one that requires a little effort to uncover and fully appreciate.” For over 13 years now, the winemaking team at Hewitt Vineyard has continued to craft a wine with this vision.

In 1992, in response to the threat of phylloxera, Bill Hewitt began upgrading the vineyard by replanting to Cabernet Sauvignon clones 4, 7 and 8 on five different rootstocks (5C, 5BB, 1103-P, 110R, and 039-16) as part of an experiment to identify which performed best on this site. With a variety of clones, rootstocks and soil conditions, our winemaking team can bring different elements to the wine, giving it great depth and intriguing personality.

Hewitt hand sorting grapes at harvest time

Philosophy

Although the wine is usually 100-percent Cabernet Sauvignon, blending is still an important part of the picture. With over 58 acres of fruit, the Hewitt Vineyard provides our winemaking team with a great range of flavor and quality. Only the best fruit to go into this limited bottling of the Hewitt Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and there are various blending sessions that take place along the winemaking process to ensure the team is crafting the finest expression Cabernet Sauvignon.

At the winery, the grapes are hand sorted on tables twice: first as clusters to remove any leaves or inferior fruit and then, after de-stemming, as individual grapes. This gentle process retained about 70 percent whole berries. In addition, grapes go through two to five days of cold soaking before fermentation, followed by extended skin contact, developed the rich varietal character. Bâtonnage (stirring) during malolactic fermentation in the barrel rounds out the acidity and softened the tannins. Four rackings during barrel aging naturally clarify our wine, and after blending, we bottled this perfectly balanced wine without fining.

Hewitt view of vineyard

Vineyards

By the late 1800s, Rutherford was already well-known for its high-quality wine grapes. The spot that was to become Hewitt Vineyard first came under vine in 1880, when Dennis Hanrahan planted the parcel bordering Gustave Niebaum’s Inglenook (now Rubicon Estate). In 1900 the region welcomed another winemaking pioneer when French emigrant Georges de Latour purchased land adjacent to Hanrahan and Niebaum and planted the first vines for Beaulieu Vineyard.

The Hanrahan Ranch later passed to Hanrahan’s daughter Julie and her husband, Joseph Gagetta, who made wine prior to Prohibition. During Prohibition, the Gagettas kept the vineyard viable by shipping grapes east to home winemakers. 

William A. Hewitt, head of Deere & Company (John Deere) from 1955 to 1982, bought the vineyard in 1962. He enlisted the assistance of Beaulieu’s famed winemaker André Tchelistcheff in replanting the site to Cabernet Sauvignon. For a number of years, grapes from Hewitt Vineyard were an important component in many great wines from Rutherford.

The inaugural 2001 Hewitt Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was the first single-vineyard wine produced from this historic spot.

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