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88/7 fe 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

The Wine Spectator California Winemen Oral History Series 

Joseph E. Heitz 

With an Introduction by 
Maynard A. Amerine 

An Interview Conducted by 

Ruth Teiser 

in 1985 

VD! - * ' , TBJ- 

Copyright c 1986 by the Regents of the University of California 

All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal 
agreement between the University of California and 
Joseph E. Heitz dated July 29, 1986. The manuscript is 
thereby made available for research purposes . All literary 
rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, 
are reserved to The Bancroft Library of the University of 
California at Berkeley. No part of the manuscript may be 
quoted for publication without the written permission of 
the Director of The Bancroft Library of the University of 
California at Berkeley. 

Requests for permission to quote for publication 
should be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 
486 Library, and should include identification of the 
specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the 
passages, and identification of the user. The legal 
agreement with Joseph E. Heitz requires that he be 
notified of the request and allowed thirty days in which 
to respond . 

It is recommended that this oral history be cited 
as follows : 

Joseph E. Heitz, "Creating a Winery in the Napa 
Valley," an oral history conducted in 1985 by 
Ruth Teiser, Regional Oral History Office, The 
Bancroft Library, University of California, 
Berkeley, 1986. 

Copy No. 

San 3rancisro (Djronicle B5 

Joseph Heitz 

ST. HELENA, Napa County Jo 
seph Heitz, who made one of the 
United States' most famous wines 
and helped put the Napa Valley of 
California on the map as a source of 
fine wines made from Bordeaux 
grapes, died there Dec. 16 at a hospi 
tal in St. Helena. He was 81. 

The cause of death was not dis 
closed, but he had had several debil 
itating strokes in recent years. 

Joe Heitz no one ever called 
him anything but Joe was the 
founder and president of Heitz Cel 
lars, at St. Helena. Oventhe years he 
produced a variety of wines, but his 
teputation was based almost entirely 
on just one of them: his Martha's 
Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 
named not for the island off Massa 
chusetts but for the vineyard that 
supplied him with the grapes. That 
vineyard, in nearby Oakville, is 
owned by Tom and Martha May 
and is named for Martha May. 

For over two decades, Heitz Mar 
tha's Vineyard was the benchmark 
by which California Cabernets were 
judged. A wine of astonishing depth 
and staying power, some of its earli 
est vintages, including 1966, the 
first, are still delicious. 

In his 1989 book, "California's 
Great Cabernets," James Laube rat 
ed Martha's Vineyard the best of all 
of them from 1966 through 1970 
and in 1974, and among the top 
three in 1973, 1975, 1979 and 1985. 

Some connoisseurs call the 1974 
Martha's Vineyard one of the finest 
Cabernets ever made in California. 

Mr. Heitz was born on a farm in 
Princeton, 111., some 100 miles west 
of Chicago, and joined the Army Air 
Corps after two years at a junior 
college. For most of World War II, 
he served as a mechanic at an Air 
Corps base near Fresno. On his days 
off, he later recalled, he knocked on 
doors looking for part-time work "to 
pick up beer money." 

One of those doors was at the 
Italian Swiss Colony winery, which 
hired him and set him on his career 

After the war, he enrolled at the 
University of California at Davis and 
earned bachelor's and master's de 
grees in winemaking. He worked for 
E.&J. Gallo in Modesto for a time, 
and in 1951 went to Beaulieu Vine 
yards in the Napa Valley as an assis 
tant winemaker, for $325 a month. 
He stayed at Beaulieu almost 10 
years, working for the legendary An 
dre Tchelistcheff. 

In 1961, after four years teaching 
enology at Fresno State University, 
he decided to go into business for 
himself. He found a small vineyard 
just south of St. Helena planted en 
tirely with grignolino, an obscure 
Italian grape. Scraping up about 
$5,000, he bought the eight-acre 
tract and set out to support his fami 
ly on the $4,500 a year he was told 
the place would earn. 

His first break came in 1963, 
when he bought several barrels of 
wine from Hanzell Vineyards in So 
noma, which was shutting down 

temporarily. Blending the wines in 
his own cellar, he produced some 
exceptional Chardonnay and some 
respectable Cabernet Sauvignon. 
His reputation began to grow. 

In 1965, he bought his first Ca 
bernet grapes from the Mays. He 
blended them into his regular Ca 
bernet that year, but the result was 
so good that in 1966 he vinified the 
Mays' grapes separately. That was 
the beginning of a California leg 

The Mays' vineyard, like almost 
all vineyards in the Napa Valley, was 
devastated in the early 1990s by 
phylloxera small insects that at 
tack plant roots and subsequently 
replanted. No Martha's Vineyard 
Cabernet has been released since 

In the mid-1960s, Mr. Heitz 
moved his home and winery across 
the Napa Valley to an almost hidden 
spot off the Silverado Trail known as 
Spring Valley. He expanded over 
the years, eventually owning 350 
acres of grapes. But he never owned 
any of Martha's Vineyard or of Bella 
Oaks Vineyard, the source of his 
second Cabernet, a wine that some 
connoisseurs have preferred to the 
Martha's Vineyard. 

Heitz was not given to the laid- 
back California style or the heavy 
social schedule of many of his 
neighbors. Tall, intense and some 
times irascible, he detested the 
small talk of wine dilettantes and 
would often subject guests, particu 
larly journalists, to an informal tast 
ing before submitting to questions. 
But while he was a private person in 
a gregarious world, he helped more 
than a few wine newcomers get 
started in the Napa Valley. 

Mr. Heitz's son David began to 
take on winemaking responsibilities 
in the late 1970s and is currently the 
Heitz Cellars winemaker. A daugh 
ter, Kathleen Heitz Myers, is now 
president. Also surviving are Mr. 
Heitz's wife, Alice, and another son, 

"Joe transcended the narrow view 
of winemaking that prevailed in the 
'60s," said his friend Warren Winiar- 
ski, founder of another Napa Valley 
winery, Stag's J^eap Wine Cellars. 
"Joe looked at wine as an outsider. 
When he pushed his price to $9 a 
bottle, people said, This is mad 
ness.' But he persisted. He asked, 
'Would an artist base his price on 
the cost of the paint and brushes?' In 
the Napa Valley, he was the first 





INTRODUCTION, by Maynard Amerine 




Education and Wartime Service, 1919-1944 

Learning about Wine 

Starting a Career, 1949 

At Beaulieu Vineyard, 1951-1958 

Establishing the Fresno State Enology Curriculum, 1958-1961 21 


Return to the Napa Valley 

Making Wine in the Brendel Winery 

Expanding, 1965 

Prices and Standards 

The Taplin Road Property ^5 

Cabernet Sauvignon 

Other Heitz Wines 

Auctions and Competitions 62 

Vineyards and Wines 66 


The American Society of Enologists 
The Napa Valley Vintners 
State Fairs 
The Wine Institute 
Trade Missions and Travels 
The Future 




The California wine industry oral history series, a project of the 
Regional Oral History Office, was initiated in 1969 through the action and 
with the financing of the Wine Advisory Board, a state marketing order 
organization which ceased operation in 1975. In 1983 it was reinstituted as 
The Wine Spectator California Winemen Oral History Series with donations from 
The Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation. The selection of those to be 
interviewed is made by a committee consisting of James D. Hart, director of 
The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley; John A. De Luca, 
president of the Wine Institute, the statewide winery organization; Maynard 
A. Amerine, Emeritus Professor of Viticulture and Enology, University of 
California, Davis; Jack L. Davies, the 1985 chairman of the board of directors 
of the Wine Institute; Ruth Teiser, series project director; and Marvin R. 
Shanken, trustee of The Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation. 

The purpose of the series is to record and preserve information on 
California grape growing and wine making that has existed only in the memories 
of wine men. In some cases their recollections go back to the early years of 
this century, before Prohibition. These recollections are of particular value 
because the Prohibition period saw the disruption of not only the industry 
itself but also the orderly recording and preservation of records of its 
activities. Little has been written about the industry from late in the last 
century until Repeal. There is a real paucity of information on the 
Prohibition years (1920-1933) , although some commercial wine making did 
continue under supervision of the Prohibition Department. The material in 
this series on that period, as well as the discussion of the remarkable 
development of the wine industry in subsequent years (as yet treated 
analytically in few writings) will be of aid to historians. Of particular 
value is the fact that frequently several individuals have discussed the same 
subjects and events or expressed opinions on the same ideas, each from his 
own point of view. 

Research underlying the interviews has been conducted principally in 
the University libraries at Berkeley and Davis, the California State Library, 
and in the library of the Wine Institute, which has made its collection of in 
many cases unique materials readily available for the purpose. 

Three master indices for the entire series are being prepared, one of 
general subjects, one of wines, one of grapes by variety. These will be 
available to researchers at the conclusion of the series in the Regional Oral 
History Office and at the library of the Wine Institute. 


The Regional Oral History Office was established to tape record 
autobiographical interviews with persons who have contributed significantly 
to recent California history. The office is headed by Willa K. Baum and is 
under the administrative supervision of James D. Hart, the director of 
The Bancroft Library. 

Ruth Teiser 
Project Director 
The Wine Spectator California 
Winemen Oral History Series 

10 September 1984 
Regional Oral History Office 
486 The Bancroft Library 
University of California, Berkeley 


Interviews Completed by 1986 





Burke H. Critchfield, Carl F. Wente, and Andrew G. Frericks, THE 



William A. Dieppe, ALMADEN IS MY LIFE 1985 




Horace 0. Lanza and Harry Baccigaluppi, CALIFORNIA GRAPE PRODUCTS AND OTHER 

Louis M. Martini and Louis P. Martini, WINEMAKERS OF THE NAPA VALLEY 1973 

Norbert C. and Edmund A. Mirassou, THE EVOLUTION OF A SANTA CLARA VALLEY 
WINERY 1986 



Antonio Perelli-Minetti, A LIFE IN WINE MAKING 1975 




Victor Repetto and Sydney J. Block, PERSPECTIVES ON CALIFORNIA WINES 1976 




Andre' Tchelistchef f , GRAPES, WINE, AND ECOLOGY 1983 



Albert J. Winkler, VITICULTDRAL RESEARCH AT UC DAVIS (1921-1971) 1973 



These interviews with Joe Heitz and, in some, his wife Alice, cover his 
career as a student , as a serviceman in and out of the armed forces , as a young 
man in the wine industry, as a winery owner (with his family), as a traveller, 
and as a participant in various wine-related and community affairs. They 
reveal a fine memory, particularly on his career in winemaking . Of interest 
also are details of farm life in Illinois, cadet training, and his work as an 
employee in various wineries . 

One is struck by Heitz 's keen sense of duty and values: duty to his 
family, to the community, to the wine industry and its organizations, and to 
success, monetary included, as a reward for hard work. To each of his employers 
as well as to his own business he has obviously given a great deal of himself. 
The path to being a successful winery owner with a reputation for producing 
fine wines may not be straight or fast, but he makes it abundantly clear that 
he had no rich uncle and that the achievement is due primarily to hard work on 
the part of Alice and himself. 

There are also expressed here strong feelings on various subjects: wine 
auctions and judgings (he doesn't like them or has strong reservations about 
them), democracy in the wine industry, public members of semi-government 
agencies, the strong mutual -assistance history of the Napa Valley winemakers , 
low penalties for drunk driving, the value of a dollar, pricing wines according 
to their perceived sensory value, his Cabernet wines being Napa Cabernets and 
thus incomparable to Cabernet wines of other regions, and a number of other 
subjects. Joe doesn't like high -alcohol Zinfandels, some wine writers, 
wineries that over-price the first wines they produce, or over-sized bottles 
for aging wines. Also he doesn't like Sauvignon blanc wines! 

Present here too is Joseph Heitz the philosopher: you can only scalp a 
person (the wine consumer) once; let a wine judging do as it wants as long as 
he doesn't have to participate; know that popular demand for a wine type or 
style can change overnight; stay away from things that are going to be fights. 

Although he claims that nothing big has ever happened to him, Joe Heitz 
and his family have contributed their share and more to the making of fine wine 
in the Napa Valley which is a major "happening." 

Maynard A. Amerine 

September 1, 1986 

St. Helena, California 



The interview with Joseph E. Heitz was conducted at his home and winery 
on Taplin Road near St. Helena in three sessions, on July 8, August 15, and 
August 20, 1985. The first was in the quiet antique-filled sitting room of 
his home, to escape the noise of the air conditioner in his winery office, 
where the other two were held. In the second, Mrs. Heitz, Alice, was a 
participant . 

Characteristically independent and outspoken, Joe Heitz has a reputation 
for crustiness and occasional irritability, which have the value of bringing 
direct and candid responses to an interviewer's questions. Less easily 
perceived in the transcript but present is the characteristic humor which 
tempers his outspokenness. A very serious and analytical man, he nevertheless 
has a flexibility of mind that does not allow the ridiculous or ironical to 
pass unnoticed. 

Mr. Heitz read the transcript of the interview carefully and made a few 
changes, none major. He very kindly supplied a number of photographs. 

Ruth Teiser 

2 September 1986 

;>om 486 The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 94720 


(Please print or write clearly) 



Tour full name 

<T\ "V 

Date of birth Vj&2-r~#*r ft, <7'?Place of birth 

Father's full name 


Birthplace (/ 

rd f 


Mother's fun name ffl^^tZ __?_ $J>^Z*4 ^2^ 



Where did you grow up ? 


Present community 

Education % S ff H ^ . 


Special interests or activities 




ST. HELENA, CA 94574 


Born Dec. 10, 1919, Princeton, Illinois. First 21 years were spent on family farm. 
During school years was active in, and a leader in, state farmer and 4-H groups. 

Married. Three children. 


High School: Princeton, Illinois. Graduated 1938. 

Prior to World War II, attended University of Illinois majoring in agriculture. 

1948: B.S., Enology, University of California, Davis. 

1959: M.S., Food Science, University of California, Davis. 


1948-1950: Chemist for several wineries in San Joaquin Valley of California. 
1950- Jan. 1958: Plant Manager, Beaulieu Vineyards, Rutherford. 
Jan. 1958- June 1961: Enology Instructor, Fresno State College. 

1961: Started own winery in St. Helena. 



1942-1946: Crew Chief, P-61 Night Fighter, U.S. Air Force 


American Society of Enologists (Past President) 

Napa Valley Vintners (Past President) 

St. Helena School District School Board (Chairman for one year) 

Institute of Food Technologists 

Wine and Food Society 

Wine Institute: Member since 1961. Currently Chairman of the Board of Directors 

and Executive Committee. 


Extensive travels abroad. 

In the summer of 1979, was a member of the California agricultural mission to China 
headed by Richard Rominger, Director,. California Dept. of Food and Agriculture. 

April, 1980, participated in March Fong Eu's Wine Trade Mission to the Orient. 


[Interview 1: July 8, 1985]## 

Education and Wartime Service, 1919-1944 

Teiser: This is the first interview with Mr. Joseph E. Heitz. We're in the 
sitting room of his home. 

Let us start then with the beginning, with your birth date and 
place, if we may. 

Heitz: You want to go way back! I was born December 10, 1919, on a farm 
outside of Princeton, Illinois. 

Teiser: What kind of farm was it? 

Heitz: Just a diversified farm. We had corn, oats, alfalfa, cattle, pigs, 
chickens . 

Teiser: No wine? 

Heitz: No. Well, my grandfather grew grapes. This is in Illinois, 

remember. He had some Concord-type grapes. Later on, when I was 
a young boy, I would have to help go out on the creek banks and 
fence rows and pick wild grapes and chokecherries and elderberries, 
and we would make wine out of those. But I always considered it 
just a chore. 

MThis symbol indicates that a tape or a segment of a tape has begun 
or ended. For a guide to the tapes see page 86. 

Teiser: So you had a little reference; you probably didn't think of it 
later, did you? 

Heitz: No, that was just work. Of course I didn't like the wines that 

were made from that kind of fruit. They were basically just used 
for flavor. You added sugar, you know. Most civilized people like 
to drink some form of alcohol, and you use these other things a lot 
of times just for flavor. 

Teiser: Did your family drink them, these wines, with pleasure? 

Heitz: Well, they didn't really drink them with the meals. My grandfather 
particularly, and grandmother, would have a glass of wine before 
lunch and before dinner. But then with the meal they would drink 
milk or water or something. As I say, these were not Vitis 
vinif eras . A little different type of beverages, but they were 
wine. But that had nothing to do with my interest in wine later. 

Teiser: Did they make that through Prohibition, then? 

Heitz: Oh, sure. 

Teiser: So it was just a family custom, I suppose. 

Heitz: Right. 

Teiser: They say there's not much farm tradition of wine-drinking. 

Heitz: No, the Midwest is not a wine-drinking region. Mostly beer, a 
little whiskey. 

Teiser: What was your early education? 

Heitz: First eight years in a one-room school, one teacher. Then I went 
through high school, of course, and graduated in 1938. Then I 
went directly to the University of Illinois for two years. 

Teiser: What did you study there? 

Heitz: General agriculture, with emphasis on animal science, because my 
dream was to be a veterinarian. But Illinois did not have a 
veterinarian school at that time. It was during the Depression, 
and I had a scholarship to go to the University of Illinois, and I 
didn't have money to go out of state. Indeed I had to drop out of 
college at the end of two years for financial reasons primarily. 
But anybody with any brains could see the war was coming anyway . 

Heitz: So I dropped out and enlisted in what was then called the Flying 

Cadets, and was sent to Muskogee, Oklahoma. It didn't take long 
I did not have flying ability, and I was washed out. Then I didn't 
want to go home in embarrassment, so I hitchhiked to California and 
got a job in aircraft, in Southern California. 

Teiser : Where? 

Heitz: Northrop Aircraft, in the then little town of Hawthorne. 

Teiser: Then what? 

Heitz: Well, time moved on, the war did start, and eventually I was drafted 
and went through a series of this, that, and the other things. Never 
did get overseas . But in my civilian life I had been an experimental 
inspector on the P-61, the Northrop Nightfighter . It was stationed 
in Fresno, so I went there as a crew chief on the P-61 Nightfighter. 
I was a ground crew chief, because it was only a two-man crew, 
a pilot and a gunner. 

Teiser: Did your early experience teach you enough to help you in that job? 

Heitz: Oh, sure. Yes, I had been inspector with Northrop for, oh, three 
years or more . 

Teiser: I mean your earlier service experience. 

Heitz: Well, my service experience was all mangled up. I had gone through 
school to be the flying mechanic crew chief and gunner on the 
B-24. But then, just as our whole unit was ready to go out to the 
staging area and get ready to go overseas, I got a telegram from 
Uncle Sam saying, "You're going to be discharged and go back to work, 
because aircraft production is down, and we need you to help bolster 
aircraft production." I said, 'Veil, that's silly. I'm single, I 
want to go overseas." I was foolish then. Today I wouldn't do that, 
but "There are married men and so forth, and I think I should 
stay." And they said, "Well, you dummy, you didn't argue when you 
were drafted, you're not going to argue now. Go up to Salt Lake 
City and get your discharge papers." 

So I went back to Northrop and worked as inspector on the 
assembly line. It was just a matter of a few weeks. (I'm sure 
you've had dealings with the government in the past.) Then a new 
order came out from the government: "Nobody, but nobody, shall be 
deferred because of their job alone." And that's when I was put 
back into the service. 


Learning about Wine 

Heitz: Of course all my crew friends and planes were overseas by then, and 
frankly as a lone individual, the army Air Corps didn't know what to 
do with me. So I started writing letters, and ended up in Fresno. 
Which probably, as chance goes, was all right, because being a 
PFC I didn't have much beer money, date money. So I went up and 
down the street knocking on doors, looking for work in the evening, 
and I got a job working for Dale Mills at Italian Swiss Colony 
winery, their La Paloma plant, just out of Clovis . It was primarily 
just running the evaporating pan, making concentrate out of grape 
juice. As I was all alone in the winery, and Dale Mills, the 
manager, lived on the property, he would come out and see me once 
in a while. And gradually he built up confidence in me, and they 
would add other little duties for me to do. Simple things. They 
would leave machinery running. They would leave a refrigeration 
unit, or a filter or something running, and when I got tired and 
ready to go home, there were very simple instructions to follow: 
pull switch B, open valve A, that sort of thing. But because labor 
was very scarce at that time at least they could stretch their day 
a little bit by having me finish off the job. Dale would also take 
me into the laboratory and show me the simple tests. He's the one 
who got me interested in winemaking . 

Teiser: What sort of a person was he? 

Heitz: Well, I thought he was a very fine person. He had a nice family. 
The wine business was tough in those years. 

Teiser: This was 19 

Heitz: '44-ish. 1944. Later on, when I was in Davis going to school, he 
had moved up north and was working for the Gibson Wine Company in 
Elk Grove. And we had kept in contact, of course. 

As a matter of fact, I probably should back up a little bit. 
Before I was discharged from the service, I had met and married 
Alice in Fresno on October 16, 1945. So I went back to Fresno. 
I talked to Mr. Mills about my future. He said, "Well, Joe, I 
can give you a job, but it would be just a job. You've got two 
years of college, with good grades. Why don't you go to the 
University of California and get a degree in enology, and then you 
can "get a good job." Well, that made sense, and so that's what I 
did. But in the meantime I worked for him nights and Saturdays to 

Heitz: help pay my way through school when I was at Davis and he was 
winemaker at Gibson Wine Company. Then finally I graduated in 
1948, and you know enough about wine history to know that somebody 
pulled the rug out from under the wine industry then, and there 
were not only no good jobs available, there were no jobs available. 

Teiser: Let's go back a minute. Your first winery experience was at Italian 
Swiss Colony in La Paloma. What were they making there then? 

Heitz: Mostly, or maybe I should even say exclusively, although I'm not 
positive, dessert wines. Port, sherry, muscatel. And making 
concentrate, which was my job. 

Teiser: Did you get some feeling for how wine was made, what the procedures 

Heitz: Oh, a little bit, yes. 
Teiser: Did it interest you? 

Heitz: Yes, that's why I went back when I was discharged, to talk to 

Mr. Mills. And why eventually, then, I went back to school to finish 
my degree . 

Teiser: Why did it interest you more than animal husbandry? 

Heitz: Well, I've always thought that I was just a little dumb. Because 
that has always been my dream, and here in the meantime I'd 
become a California resident, and I could have gotten into the vet 
school at Davis immediately. There was a great demand for vets. I 
could have gotten out of school and made a lot of money. But, I 
repeat, in the meantime I had been off the farm, working in aircraft, 
being in the service and met and married a California girl. I just 
really didn't think about it. I just was thinking about wine, and 
I guess it worked out all right. 

Teiser: Was your wife interested in wine? 

Heitz: We were all kids then (21 to 25). I hope she was interested in me! 

Teiser: Did she have any part in your decision to go to Davis? 

Heitz: Well, I don't know if she had any part in that she must have, but 
not a major influence. 

Teiser: So you worked also at Elk Grove for Dale Mills? 








Yes. When I was a student at Davis, during the harvest season, I 
would go down there and work in the laboratory two or three nights 
a week and all day Saturday. 

Mainly on sweet wines? 

Oh yes, sweet wines, berry wines, 
those days . 

That was the wine business in 

So when you went to Davis in '46 you had two years of undergraduate 
work and you had to go two more, didn't you? 

I tell people I'm a slow learner. I graduated from high school in 
1938, got my bachelor's degree in 1948 and my master's degree in 
I like to say 1958, but I think it was actually 1959. I wanted to 
make a ten-year gap, but it took eleven years to get my master's. 
There were other things, such as family and wars, and things like 
that that intervened. 

You got your bachelor's in two years of study, though, at Davis? 


Whom did you study with? 

Well, the whole gang there: [Dr. Albert J.J Winkler, [Dr. Maynard A.] 
Amerine, Dr. [James] Guymon, Dr. [John G.B.] Castor, and obviously 
other professors in horticulture, chemistry, math, et cetera. While 
I was there I also worked part-time as a student assistant for 
Dr. Guymon, doing both winery work and distillation work and 
laboratory work. So I really feel that, when you're going to 
college, if at all possible, if you can work in the department in 
which you're studying, it's a great advantage, because you're putting 
your hands to work along with your head. If you just go four years 
to school, and simply study out of books, and then at the end of 
four years you want to put that knowledge into the end of your 
fingertips, it's tough to do. 

Were there any of these people that you've mentioned who had more 
influence upon you than others? 

Oh, they all influenced me in different ways, I'm sure. I didn't 
have any idealized heroes, no. 

Did you find there a direction in winemaking that you were going to 
take, or were you just interested in the whole field? 

Heitz: Again, I was quite young. I was looking for a job, a source of 
income, to buy groceries and pay rent. It happened to be wine. 
So I just wanted a job in a winery. 

Teiser: You didn't care if it was sweet or dry, or a distillery? You did 
pick up some distilling experience. 

Heitz: Oh, yes. My master's degree is in distillation. 
Teiser: Oh it is? 

Heitz: Yes, much of my early work, with the Wine Growers Guild* certainly, 
was on improving the quality of sweet wines primarily through the 
improvement of the quality of the fortifying brandy. 

Teiser: Oh, I see. 

Heitz: I've trotted up one road and down another. 

Teiser: So with your brand-new degree in '48, then what did you do? 

Heitz: Well, of course, being at Davis, I was acquainted with Napa valley. 
And everybody in the wine business wants to be in the Napa valley, 
even back then. So I was looking all over for a job, and there 
wasn't much doing. I had had a conference with the people at Gallo, 
and I was also talking to the Ahern family that at that time owned 
Freemark Abbey. Anyway, I had those two prospects and over the 
weekend I talked to Mike Ahern. He needed assistance, and Alice and 
I were delighted. We made an agreement. We stook hands. Went up 
to his house, had a drink, and the next morning, Monday morning, 
I went in to call Gallo and tell them that I wasn't interested, 
I had another job. Fortunately the line was busy. About ten 
minutes later I got a call from Ahern, who said, "Joe, I talked to 
my mother and father. We can't hire you." Well, you know what 
I thought of him ever since. I just don't know why people make 
commitments if they don't have the authority to make commitments. 

Starting a Career, 1949 

Heitz: So anyway, I did call Gallo that same Monday morning and accepted 
their offer. So I went to work for Gallo in their quality control 

*The name was later changed to Guild Wineries and Distilleries. 


Teiser: Whom did you work with there? 

Heitz : Primarily Charles Crawford. But I would be making trial blends and 
trial treatments and everything, striving for uniformity or 
improvement. But even improvements had to be gradual, because 
quality and consistency is very important in a winery, or with 
any product of that volume. Now in the fine wine business, your 
vintages can vary considerably and you can get away with it. But 
again, we were talking, basically port, sherry, muscatel, although 
they had table wines also. 

So every night, or almost every night certainly Saturday 
morning Ernest and Julio [Gallo] both would come up, with Charles 
Crawford, and taste what samples I had prepared and argue about them 
and eventually decide which one to follow in the winery. 

Teiser: It was a small outfit, wasn't it? 

Heitz: Well, it was growing. But we thought it was huge at that time, but 
looking back today, it was pretty small. 

Teiser: They had a newly-graduated lab man making the blends under the 
direction of the seasoned man, but even still 

Heitz: Well, there was more than just me in the lab. There were probably 
four or five people. Some were doing analyses; myself, I was 
doing trial blends, finishing treatments, et cetera. Others were 
very busy on the bottling line, seeing that each bottle, as it came 
from the glass factory, had the proper fill and that the machinery 
was filling it properly and that the alcohol and the color and 
everything was proper. The Gallos have always been extremely 
conscious of quality control. 

Teiser: I guess for a young man to begin a professional career, that was a 
good send-off, wasn't it? 

Heitz: Yes, I always thought it was great. They didn't have much money 
then, and they worked the tails off of their employees, but they 
worked their own tails off. As I say, it was every Saturday until 
noon, and they had the habit of coming up to do tastings. I had to 
be there when they were tasting to say what was going on, what was 
in the blends, and so forth. And they would usually come up about 
five minutes to five. More frequently you would wait and it would 
be five or ten minutes after five before they started. So we got 
a great long day and a goodly week. Now that they are more 


Heitz : 





prosperous, people still work hard, but they are much more gentle 
on their help, because they can afford to be. They were struggling, 
and I can understand, looking back. At the time it didn't make me 
too happy, but I can certainly understand now. 

Was it something of a contrast to Italian Swiss Colony? 

Oh, my part, sure. I was a laborer at Italian Swiss Colony. 

Yes, but was the whole tone of the place different? 

Well, you've heard of the six or seven blind men and the elephant. 
I was seeing different parts of the elephant. 

Had Charles Crawford hired you? 


A remarkable man. 

Yes, and he's holding up tremendously well, too. He's still going 

I should say he is ! 

Why did you leave Gallo, then? 

Oh, I was young and impetuous. Looking back, I don't know why. 
Supposedly had a better offer, I guess. I went from there to 
Wine Growers Guild. 

How long were you at Gallo? 

I don't know. Something like nine months. But I think it was 
mostly inexperience on my part not being able to foresee the 
future. Most of us don't foresee the future. This job at the 
Wine Growers Guild promised more. I think they had four or five 
branch wineries. And I would be working on quality control, helping 
each of them improve their wine before it came in to the main 
plant for final blending and bottling. You know, it gave me a 
chance to get out on the road, and to see more than one winery, more 
than one operation. I guess that's why I changed. 

Wasn't that a lot of responsibility for a young man? 

Well, I wasn't too much of a kid. You know, I was born in 1919, 


Teiser: But still you hadn't been in the wine business too long. 

Heitz: Well, I repeat, all the time I was at the university I worked as 
a student helper, and I worked nights. I didn't just work only 
at Italian Swiss Colony when I was a GI. I worked as a laborer in 
other wineries, more or less throwing cases and loading boxcars 
and this and that. But if you are awake, you absorb a little bit 
of what goes on around you. Who else was available? The wine 
industry was dead. 

Teiser: You were one of a small group at that time. 

Heitz: The class I graduated with had only four or five enology graduates. 
Ed Rossi* was one; he went back to his own family winery. Ken 
[Kenneth W. ] Kew went into the distribution business with, Esquin.** 
First he went with Martin Ray. He went to work there as a partner, 
and that didn't work out, and then he went to Esquin. 

One of the other fellows in my class, a Frenchman, had some 
misfortune, his girlfriend got pregnant and he had to get a job 
quick, so he went to work for Campbell Soup Company. And oh, 
there was another one his family had a winery, Delicato's. So, 
you know, these people who hired me didn't have a whole lot to 
choose from if they wanted a man with a degree. 

So at Wine Growers Guild I did more or less the same thing , 
but working with five wineries, trying to help all of them improving 
distilling, blending, general winemaking technology so that it was 
all a better product in the end. 

Teiser: Where were those wineries? 

Heitz: Well, you know the main blending plant is just east of Lodi. And 
there was Bear Creek Winery, just south of Lodi. The Del Rio 
Winery in Woodbridge. Lockford Winery in Lockford. All quite 
close. And then there was a winery down in Cucamonga I can't 
even remember the name of that Cucamonga Pioneer Vineyard Association, 

Ronnie Roberds was the manager, I remember that. I guess that 
was probably all. So I got to move around and work with them and 
learn the equipment. At this point in time, remember, I had worked 
for Dr. Guymon as an undergraduate student, in distilling and 
brandy. So I think I was useful in improving their fortifying 
brandy quite a bit, and bringing up the quality of their wines. 
L.K. Marshall was, I think, chairman of the board of the Wine 
Growers Guild at that time. According to their original contract, 

*Edmund A. Rossi, Jr. of Italian Swiss Colony. 
**John Esquin. 


Heitz: the various wineries would get paid according to the amount of 

alcohol, the amount of sugar, and the quality. Well, alcohol and 
sugar is easy to measure. So that had been enforced. They had 
never enforced quality. Some wineries thought they were getting 
cheated, because "My quality is better than your quality." So 
that was my job, to decide it. To do that I would do the rough 
tasting. I think I divided it into three categories: A, B, and 
C. Then there was a committee that would come in and judge 
finally. They would move an A sample down to B or a B up to A. 
That committee was Andr6 Tchelistchef f of Beaulieu Vineyard, Herman 
Wente of Wente Bros., and good old Jim Howe remember Jim Howe? 

Teiser : No. 

Heitz: He was an ex-newspaperman and an avid wine consumer, so they 
brought him in as the consumer expert. Jim also was a home 
winemaker. He would acquire grapes from different localities and 
make experimental batches of wine from them at his "Gopher Gulch 
Ranch and Wine Cellar." They were three great men to work with. 
Tchelistchef f and Herman Wente were in their prime. So it was a 
great learning experience for me, too. 

Teiser: Guild hired this group of people? 

Heitz: Yes. Outside, independent experts. If it were just me as an 
employee making the final decisions, they could gripe and say, 
"Well, he's too young to know anything. Throw him out." But my 
preparing things and pre-grading, and then the three outside, neutral 
experts they couldn't complain. Well, they could complain, but 
it wouldn't do them any good. They knew it wouldn't do them any 
good, so they did not. 

Teiser: I didn't realize that Herman Wente was a particularly good taster.* 
Heitz: I always thought so. 

Teiser: I believe I read that in the beginning of your career with the wine 
business, your acuity of perception was noted. Is that right? 

Heitz: It was better than it is now. My taste sensitivity was better than 
it is now. 

Teiser: I think I read that Dale Mills found that ability in you. Is that 

*Herman Wente was one of the best post-Repeal California wine 
judges. His ability with Livermore wines was fantastic. [Maynard A. 


Heitz: Well, yes this is why I was put into the jobs I was put into at 

Gallo and at the Wine Growers Guild. Later on, when I was working 
with Beaulieu, the State Fair, in an effort to improve their wine 
program, had a series of tastings where they would judge the judges, 
I think there were two of us that got the best score. I think it 
was Lou Stern, winemaker I believe at Charles Krug, and myself that 
came out significantly ahead of the other tasters at that time. 

Teiser: I think that Davis had set up some tests, hadn't it? 

Heitz: Yes, the university was setting up these tests for the State Fair. 
They were conducted by the State Fair, but the university had done 
the background work. 

Teiser: Had you taken similar tests when you were at Davis? 
Heitz: No. 





We were discussing your ability to taste. 
God- given, isn't it? 

This is just something 

Well, yes. Some people are color-blind. Some people are taste- 
blind. But most people have normal eyesight and most people have 
normal palates. It's just a matter of working on it, practice, 


Wine is the best thing in the world to practice on. We would do a 
lot of tasting in the lab at Gallo, and then save the samples for 
observation, for stability and this and that. They were tenths, 
little tiny bottles. And I would ask Mr. Crawford if I could take 
them home and drink them, not because I wanted free wine so much, 
but I'd like to see how this goes with spaghetti, or this or that. 
And he said, "Oh, sure, sure." So after we would get through with 
the samples I would take them home and drink them at home and taste 
them. For enjoyment and for learning experience. 

I have been told that memory is a part of tasting ability. 

And that's what is going now: As one gets older, of course, taste 
acuity and specific memory fades . This is partially compensated by 
a large backlog of experience. 


Teiser: Do you have an organized storage system in your mind? Do you have 
prototypes; do you think, "Well, I remember a Zinfandel that was 
wonderful and every Zinfandel should taste like this?" Or how 
does it work? 

Heitz: Oh, no. Don't get in the trap of trying to do like so many wine 
writers do. They try to bring everything down to a mathematical 
formula. And it can't be done.' At least, historically, it's never 
been done. And I would hate to see it accomplished. No, it's just 
like experience in anything else. You store a lot of miscellaneous 
facts, and on the right occasion the brain seems to pop them out in 
order. But I don't have a column in my head for Zinfandel and 
another column for sugar and another column for this and a bottle 
line down here, no. 

Teiser: Well, I just wondered if you had a list of recollections of ideal 
wines . 



I once tasted a Burgundy that I think all Burgundies should taste 

Heitz: Oh, a few stand out, of course. But, no, I don't think that's what 
"taste memory" means. 

Teiser: Your criteria for the wines that you want to make, that taste the 
way you want to make them taste, is a separate ? 

Heitz: Well, certainly separate, because well, again, I'm rather amused 
at some things I read that the wine writers write that they quote 
winemakers as having said. That they are going to sort of be 
architects for a wine, and they're going to have, you know, a big 
tower over here and a small arch over there and a steely backbone 
and a soft subtle voluptuous front. And then they're going to take 
grapes and they're going to force it into that preconceived mold. 
Well, they're either liars or damn fools. It doesn't work that way! 
You take the grapes that you have available and you do the best you 
can with them. If you like the grapes from a particular grower and 
it makes wine that not only you like but your customers like, you 
keep buying from that grower. If you get grapes from a grower that 
makes a different type of wine than you like, you don't get out a big 
whip and hustle it in and train it like a horse or something, and 
make it do what you want to do. You just change growers. And 
different people have different ideas. A grower whose grapes may 
not suit me may suit somebody else ideally, and vice versa. 


Teiser: I suppose at that early time, when you were working for Gallo and 
then Guild, that you had no idea that you would be able to choose 
among things . 

Heitz: I had no concept of owning a winery. It never entered my head. 

I had just always been a poor kid, and I was happy to have a steady 
income . 

Teiser: You then went from Guild to another winery? 

Heitz: Yes. I told you that one of the people I worked with was Andre 
Tchelistchef f . And he had an assistant, or relief man, and his 
name was Bard Suverkrop. 

Teiser: Before we get to this, let me ask you about Mission Bell. 

Heitz: Well, I'm trying to answer that. 

Teiser: Sorry. I thought you were going on to Beaulieu. 

Heitz: I will back up a little bit. One of the men I worked with at the 
Guild was Andr Tchelistchef f, of Beaulieu. His assistant was 
leaving, and I knew that, and I knew he would be looking for 
somebody else. Well, there is a certain amount of honor in the 
wine business. I may have done a dishonorable thing. I knew 
Tchelistchef f couldn't, in all honor, hire me away from the Guild, 
where he was working as a consultant. So I took a calculated risk 
and took another job at Mission Bell. As I say, this was a little 
sneaky, I hate to admit it, but you do what you can in life. We 
never fully unpacked at Mission Bell, and sure enough, the phone 
call did come through, and then it was just a matter of time till 
I went to work for Beaulieu. 

Teiser: I see. What did you do in that brief period at Mission Bell? 

Heitz: Well, sort of the same thing: quality control, making trial blends, 
trial treatments. Expanded a little bit, then I was also 
responsible for seeing that the right wine got to the bottle with 
the right label and that sort of thing. Laboratory work and 

Teiser: They had a huge distillery, didn't they? 
Heitz: Yes, they had quite a distillery there. 
Teiser: Was that built by Arakelian? 




K. Arakelian, yes 
[Louis] Petri. 

But just before I went there they had sold to 








Maybe you can clear a point. I remember Louis Petri, when I 
interviewed him, said that they had done several things because 
they were anxious to get Thompson Seedless in early and distill it 
in time for the year's vintage. Couldn't they make the high-proof 
and hold it over instead of doing it that way? 

Those people in that Central Valley then, and I think now, work on 
just pennies. A penny per gallon mark-up, or a half a cent in the 
market to sell a shipload of wine or a tanker full of wine a half 
a penny a gallon difference will mean whether you get the sale or 
don't get the sale. And holding it over, you have to buy tanks; 
in those days you had to buy a building to put the tanks in. Now 
we have outside tanks that wasn't thought of in those days. But 
you had to buy tanks and then of course you always pay interest on 
money, and you had to buy insurance for it. So the cost of holding 
it over would be indeed significant. 

Thank you. I always wondered about that. 

Yes. When you're holding something, aging it, it costs money. 

Does it help high-proof to hold it? 


You were not involved in the distilling then, at Mission Bell? 

Not directly, I don't believe. I'm sure I must have dabbled in it, 
but that was not my primary job. 

At Beaulieu Vineyard, 1951-1958 

Teiser: So then on to Beaulieu. 

Heitz: Yes. So then we moved to Beaulieu and the Napa valley! And I think 
by that time, I forget the exact dollars, but I think I had 
probably moved up to maybe $325 a month. 

Teiser: [chuckles] My word! 


Heitz: Yes. Winemakers were not very highly thought of. We were not 

considered bad, but nobody paid any attention to us . I remember 
distinctly one time when I was with Beaulieu we had a visiting 
winemaker from Canada, and we were discussing salaries. He was just 
shocked at what Tchelistchef f and I were making, and the standing 
in the community and everything. In Canada winemakers were much 
more highly thought of, and paid accordingly, too. 

Teiser: I remember in that period the younger members of wine families 

didn't want to come in to the business; there was nothing in it for 
them, they thought. 

Heitz: Yes, yes. No money. You could do better at Campbell Soup or at 
airplane factories, or anything. 

Teiser: But Beaulieu must have been a very glamorous place to be. 

Heitz: Oh, we were so thrilled. Quote, "We had arrived," unquote. 

Teiser: That was in 195 ? 

Heitz: 1951, I believe. 

Teiser: Was Mr. Georges DeLatour alive? 

Heitz: Mr. DeLatour was dead. Mrs. DeLatour gave me the final interview 

in San Francisco, and that was the one and only time I met her. Then 
she went to France and became ill and died before I ever saw her 
again. But Helene de Pins, then, was the major-domo. 

Teiser: You were working directly under Andre Tchelistchef f, then? 

Heitz: Yes. 

Teiser: What were your duties there? 

Heitz: Well, a little more diversified. Certainly also quality control. 
But more or less actually overseeing the winery operations, too. 
And getting out in the plant more. Because in the larger wineries, 
you're more specialized, but there I was out in the winery more. 
I would even visit the vineyards with Andre somewhat , But primarily 
doing the lab work, the analyses, doing the trial treatments and so 
forth, and tasting. And then following it through in the cellar. 
I would be out watching the people, see that they washed the barrels 
clean and see that the pumping was done right and the wine was 
really cool or whatever. During the fermenting season I would come in 


Heitz: early in the morning before everybody else and myself, personally 
check each tank for temperature and sugar to see how it was going 
so that when the crew arrived, "Hook up this pump there and that 
pump over there." So it was more a plant operation, as well as 
laboratory work. 

Teiser: How many people worked then in the lab? 

Heitz: Well, at least Tchelistchef f and myself. And then before I left, 
they were growing too. My duties in the cellar expanded, which 
we'll come to in a few minutes, I think. So we hired a young lady, 
Paula Rosenbrand, in the lab to do the simple analyses, run the 
alcohols and acids and that sort of thing. 

Teiser: Andre Tchelistchef f gave us a very interesting interview, and he 
discussed how he found Beaulieu when he came in the thirties and 
what was done to bring it up to a higher standard technologically. 
By the time you came, then, I suppose it was quite a well-equipped 

Heitz: Well- regarded winery, yes. The quality was good. 

Teiser: The equipment was fairly up-to-date by then? 

Heitz: Quite up-to-date, yes. 

Teiser: Were they using techniques that you hadn't encountered before? 

Heitz: Well, of course; it was a different business. Making Beaulieu 

wine is a lot different than making Mission Bell. We would purchase 
the sweet wines from the Central Valley and bring them up and bottle 

Teiser: You had had some experience, I suppose, at Davis with table wines, 
had you not? 

Heitz: A small amount. 

Teiser: Was it quite different then when you came to Beaulieu, to encounter 
them and to deal with them? 

Heitz: Any industry is different than any comparable schooling. 

Teiser: You were not about to be shocked by the difference between sweet 
wines and table wines. I chuckles] 


Heitz: Oh, no, no. I wasn't an ostrich all this time. 
Teiser: How did your career, then, go at Beaulieu? 

Heitz: Well, it went quite well. As I said, we liked it. But then the 
wine business was beginning to perk up. And at one point I was 
offered a job at Cresta Blanca in Livermore, to come down there and 
take over as plant manager. This is what I said I'd get back to. 
I don't remember what year that was. '54, maybe, in there I'm 
not sure. 

Teiser: '64? 

Heitz: '54. Don't forget, you're only taping old folks, you're not taping 
kids. So, anyway, I had probably gone up to $350 or $375 at 
Beaulieu and that was fine; I was happy. But there I had the 
opportunity to be totally in charge of running that Cresta Blanca 
winery. And that's in a beautiful location, too. $650 a month! 
Almost double salary. So that was kind of startling. So I went 
and asked for a meeting with the people at Beaulieu, and I told the 
people at Cresta Blanca, "Boy, I'd sure love to come, but I'm working 
for Beaulieu and that's my first obligation. So I must talk to 
them first." And they said they understood. 

Teiser: A national company owned it then. 

Heitz: Schenley, I think. So I talked to the people at Beaulieu and then 
they realized that the world was entering a different era, and they 
equalled the salary and made me plant manager at Beaulieu. And that 
means everybody in the whole damn plant had to get a raise. 
Tchelistcheff got a nice raise, Mr. [Joseph J.] Ponti got a raise, 
[Harry] Conrey, who was in charge of the bottling and shipping, 
got a nice raise. And so that was delightful. Then things held on 
for several more years. Everything was going well; I was happy with 
them, they were happy with me. But the wine business was really a 
dead business then. I was really an insurance policy for Tchelist 
cheff. And I was working maybe half, sixty percent of my capacity 
and just simply getting bored. 

Teiser: Were their sales actually dropping? 
Heitz: No, just steady. 

Teiser: Before you get away from Beaulieu I want to ask you about Mr. Ponti. 
What was he like? 


Heitz: Oh, he was a very gentle old man by the time I arrived on the 

scene. He had been winemaker during Prohibition, but then when 
Tchelistchef f came, Ponti was soon relegated to the vineyards and 
taking care of the property. You know, there's maintenance and 
upkeep on houses and gardens and everything. But I understand when 
he was younger he was a real workhorse. He is the one that made 
the money for Beaulieu by selling it out the back door and making 
good wine and this and that. But when I came, why he was already 
sort of a figurehead. Important in the vineyards, but not too 
important in the winery, except to find lost pipes and hidden valves, 
and you know how that goes. Somebody asked me today, this morning, 
where the septic tank is down in my sales room. I don't know where 
it is. I hope my son can find it. You know, those things happen. 
And they're important to know. But I had a good relationship with 
Ponti. I think I had a good relationship with everybody at 

Teiser: You mentioned Harry Conrey. Had he been with them for a long time? 
Heitz: Oh, a long time, yes. So he got a nice raise, too! 
Teiser: Wonderful you picked up the whole enterprise! 

Heitz: Stirred things up. But then, as I said, it was challenging for a 
while, but then when there's no challenge, and I was still fairly 
young at that time let's see, 1920 to 1958, I was 38 years old. 
So I had the opportunity to go to Fresno State College. 

Teiser: Coming back, before you get to Fresno 

Heitz: Oh, I could tell forty or fifty stories about my days in Beaulieu. 
They may come out later.* 

Teiser: Was this your first close association with vineyards, at Beaulieu? 

Heitz: Yes. 

Teiser: Had you studied much with Winkler? 

Heitz: I took the courses there, yes. 

*See page 26. 


Teiser: Did this carry over, do you recall? 

Heitz: Yes, sure, but the university still works with growers and with 

wineries. They have a good relationship, I guess is a good word, 
with the industry of whatever field they're in, 

Teiser: Do you feel that it was something of value to be learning at 

Heitz: Oh yes, sure. It's helping me now. 

Teiser: Andre Tchelistcheff is, I guess, a very good teacher, of viti 
culture, also, is he not? 

Heitz: Yes. 

Teiser: I should think for the first time coming into contact with the 
whole span, from the vineyard to the bottle, so to speak, must 
have been instructive to you. 

Heitz: Oh, yes. It was a great privilege. 

Teiser: So by then, you had got well educated to educate. 

Heitz: Well, I had always liked school. Always got good grades, which 
indicates that I liked school. A lot of people who don't get 
good grades, they simply don't apply themselves. So I had the 
opportunity to go there and set up the enology department, help set 
it up, that is. 

Teiser: Opportunities don't just drift in. How did it start? 

Heitz: Well, when I was at Davis, one of my friends and fellow students was 
Vince Petrucci^ We had gone to his wedding and all that sort of 
thing, and to the christening of his first babies and what have 
you. Then he had gone directly from school, from Davis, to set up 
the viticulture program at Fresno State. So when they got ready 
for enology, he thought of me and talked to me. Well, my basic 
reasoning at the time was remember, I was still young and 
vigorous, relatively speaking and I was just in a relative stalemate 
at Beaulieu. Nothing was happening. But I thought, if I can raise 
the quality of all wines in the Central Valley by one percent, I 
would have accomplished more in my lifetime than if I stay at 
Beaulieu and improve their quality by fifty percent, which was 
impossible. So being young and noble, I thought I should do that. 
I think this was in June. 

*Vincent Petrucci, who became first Professor of Viticulture at 
Fresno State College. 


Heitz: So again, I talked to the principals at Beaulieu. ' In the meantime 
I had gotten some raises and I was well set at the time. But I 
was wanting to go some place. I wanted to go to work the first of 
September. They said, "Well, you can't leave that soon. The 
harvest is only sixty days away," or something. They said, well, 
they understood; they weren't too happy, but they understood. So 
I stayed through the harvest, from the first of June through the 
end of December, knowing that I was going to leave. I gave them 
plenty of time to hire somebody else and to make the adjustments and 
so on and so forth. But we weren't in Fresno very long until we 
knew we had made a mistake. After you have lived in the Napa valley 
for over seven years, going back to Fresno that doesn't work, at 
least not for our family. 


Teiser: Even if your wife had grown up there? 

Heitz: Oh, she didn't grow up there. She was working there during the 
war effort. No, she's from South Dakota. But she had a sister 
living there. 

Establishing the Fresno State Enology Curriculum, 1958-1961 

Heitz: Anyway, working for the state is a lot different than working for 

industry. You know, if you needed a beaker for the laboratory, you 
had to wait till July to put in your request and by September you 
would know whether or not it was granted. Then by next July, you 
would get the money to buy it. Well, you wouldn't need the damn 
beaker by then. So that was one thing. But working for a state 
system or any governmental system didn't suit my personality. Plus 
the climate there is not as good as Napa valley. So we almost 
immediately just started looking for a job. 

Teiser: Well you were there for 
Heitz: three and a half years. 
Teiser: What did you do there? How did you set up the curriculum? 

Heitz: Well, there was some background before that. They had been working 
on it. But they still hadn't gotten it through Sacramento, because 
there was great opposition. The Fresno Bee, every week, would have 
letters and letters from individual citizens, criticizing the 
university or the state college for teaching these young people how 
to drink alcohol. That sort of thing. There was a lot of opposition. 


Heitz: So we had to fight the battle in Sacramento first of all to get the 
funds to do it. In the meantime, I taught some simple viticulture 
courses and simple introductory chemistry course, the lab part, 
just to keep going. Then, of course, designing the building 
and selecting the equipment, and then in the meantime to put a 
program together and start teaching winemaking. 

Teiser: How did you design the building? Where did you start? 

Heitz: Well, I had been working in quite a few wineries and I had 
graduated from Davis . 

Teiser: Did you design a winery based more on Davis or industry? 

Heitz: No, based more on what Fresno State's needs would be. Davis is 

more highly scientific. Fresno State is more practical, hands-on 
approach. You have to be making the wine and running it through 
filters and so on and so forth. 

Teiser: I remember at Davis, when they set that plant up, there was 

controversy over how big batches should be. Did you stick with 
the small-batch concept? 

Heitz: Oh, certainly. You can't make huge quantities, no. 
Teiser: So did you then build the building that is still there? 

Heitz: Oh, yes. Sure. I'm sure it has been modified since, because it's 
been a long time ago, 25 years ago. 

Teiser: Did you set up the curriculum based pretty much upon Davis, or 

Heitz: Modified Davis. Davis had been in existence a long time, but I 

repeat: their approach is different. Their approach at that time 
was certainly different. As far as the student was concerned, you 
would get a bottle of wine and you would analyze it down to every 
last iota of what was in there. At Fresno State, you started with 
the grapes and you made the wine. Now, they did that at Davis, too, 
but the emphasis was on the research and on the analyses, whereas 
at Fresno State, the emphasis is on doing it. So, sure, I started 
with the core of Davis, and then modified, eliminated and added 
and worked it into what we thought was appropriate for the Fresno 
State-type student. 


Teiser: Did you attract good students? 

Heitz: Well, they were good people. You are certainly familiar with the 
state school system. We have the community colleges, the state 
colleges, and the university. And each one takes a higher level 
of intelligence to get in and higher grade point average, higher 
SAT scores, blah, blah, blah. 

Teiser: so the university got the best, you said. 

Heitz: Well, the university likes to think that they get the better brains. 
Generally that's true, but it's not always true, because a lot of 
people can't afford to go to the university, and they can afford 
to go to a state college. Maybe it's a matter of living at home, 
where they're actually working, helping their parents on the farm. 
So there were some bright students. But on the average they were 
not red-hot. But that's all right; they've grown and matured and 
several of them are working in industry and doing very well indeed. 

Teiser: You gave the lectures and the labs and everything else there? 
Heitz: Oh, yes. With only a handful of students you can do it. 
Teiser: And you worked closely with Petrucci, I suppose? 

Heitz: Yes, we shared the office. And also I would have to help him 

somewhat with his viticulture laboratories, because the enology 
program was just starting and we didn't have a mass of students. 
And then also, the part that I enjoyed most I would do night school 
for people in the industry. To elevate their skills. The cellar 
workers would come in and maybe, theoretically, with my help, they 
could eventually be a cellar foreman. Even many of the winery 
owners and winery managers would attend, because a lot of them were 
in it without any technical background at all. Just to show them why 
you do this or that in a still, and why the fusel oil collects one 
place and the aldehyde some place else, and how to drain them out. 
I showed them some microscope slides of how a filter works. If 
you know how it works, then you know how to operate it better and 
why you do this or that. So that was, to me, the most rewarding 
part, because I was working with my peers; I think indeed helping 
them. The classes were very well attended. 

These were not held at Fresno State, by the way. But it was 
the industry people who were requesting and pushing for the enology 
program at Fresno State, and then putting on political pressure in 


Heitz: Sacramento to get the money passed. So as soon as they got an 
instructor there, then they asked can we do something at night. 
It was actually held at Fresno City College. They weren't 
Fresno State classes per se, they were, I don't know what you 
call them, extension classes I guess. Words are not too important. 

Teiser: It was a challenge, wasn't it? 
Heitz: Yes. It kept me on my toes. 
Teiser: So you started looking for a job. 

Heitz: Yes, the climate we just loved Napa valley and Northern California, 
so we just looked for jobs anywhere Sonoma or Napa. But the 
industry this was '59, '60 the industry was still asleep. There 
were no 

I finally had a good opportunity to go to work for Christian 
Brothers in their beautiful Greystone plant. Oh, that made me feel 
good, because they had a three-headed giant there. They had one 
man running champagne, another man running the sales room, another 
man running the still wine cellar. And they had no head. I had 
the opportunity to be the manager there. And that was a thrilling 
prospect. We were just about ready to sign the final papers and 
Brother John said, "You realize, in a big company like ours, to 
get promotions you may have to move to other plants." Well that 
meant they had a winery in Reedley and they had a winery in Fresno. 
And I said, "No thanks. I don't want that." 



Return to the Napa Valley 

Heitz: Finally one day I was talking to Hanns Kornell, and he said, 

"There is a little winery south of St. Helena that Mr. Brendel just 
has as a retirement hobby, and he is getting pretty old. Why don't 
you go talk to him?" 

Teiser: Tell about Leon Brendel, would you? 

Heitz: Well, he was, to use the term, a kind of goofy old character. He 
was, in his mind, the great scientist and a great inventor. He 
would invent, oh, all sorts of hose-cleaning equipment for example, 
and he was also a great perfumist. The ladies would come in to buy 
wine and he would dab perfume on them that he had made. He was just 
an odd little fellow. And he had this as a retirement hobby, and 
he had only Grignolino. 

Teiser: What had he been before he retired? 

Heitz: Oh, he had been a chemist for larger wineries, and had been 

Teiser: Within the wine business? 
Heitz: Yes. 
Teiser: I see. 

Heitz: I think in Italy; but he always emphasized he was Swiss, he wasn't 
Italian.* It seems to me like he worked somewhere in South 
America also. I don't know the details of his background. 

*An article about Mrs. Brendel at the time of her death in 1961 
stated that Leon Brendel had been born in France. He died in 1963, 

aged 79. 





How in the -world did he happen to concentrate on Grignolino? 

He just thought it was the greatest grape in the world. That was his 
brand name: "Only One," Grignolino. 

I suppose it had the advantage of being unique, or almost unique. 
There wasn't much of it in California, was there? 

There was some grown in earlier years down around the Cucamonga 
area. That was mostly before Prohibition. 

Had you encountered it ever? 

No. We sure didn't buy the place because of the Grignolino, no. 
We bought it because of the location, and a toe in the door. 
Because it was small, and we thought because of the location, we 
could get roadside traffic. 

You mentioned the stories at Beaulieu we're backtracking now 
to when I was with Beaulieu one thing I did was talk them into 
opening their winery for tourists, for customers. Before that they 
had a little tiny door saying, "Visitors, Thursdays, 1-3 p.m., by 
appointment only," something like that. So they said, "Okay, 
you want to do it; you do it." I said, "Okay, I'll do it." So 
the first day we put a sign up, you know, one of these sandwich 
board signs out at front. "Open to Visitors." And I remember 
very well nobody came. It was the day of the Memorial Day 
automobile races. I was listening on the car radio, and that was 
the day Billy Vukovich (I think) was killed. He was a Fresno lad and 
was killed in the 500-mile race. 

I don't know whether I got one or two visitors that day or not, 
but there wer en 't many . But, you know, they opened up, and you see 
what Beaulieu is like now. I mean their visitors ' center. While 
I was still there we took the visitors in the little room up front. 
But after I left, the crowds grew and they built one separate building 
in the back, and it wasn't any time at all they outgrew that. And 
they now use that for offices, and they built a huge, big building 
for visitors with multi-screen movies and everything. I think I'm 
partially responsible for these horrible crowds in the valley. But 
the valley is prospering. If there are no customers, there is no 
need for wineries. No need to hire anybody. In any business, if 
you don't have any customers, if you don't have wine drinkers, you 
don't need wineries, you don't need vineyards. You don't need to 
employ people. You don't need to be prosperous. You can sit and be 
in the doldrums, forever, raising prunes. 

Entrance to Heitz Cellar tasting room off Highway 29 near St. Helena. 


Teiser: Did the visitors' facility that you opened then help Beaulieu sales? 

Heitz: Certainly. It also helped the sales throughout the valley. 

Teiser: Did you give tastings? 

Heitz: Oh yes. 

Teiser: I suppose at that point people who went in bought seriously though. 
Not just a bottle. 

Heitz: What do you mean, "at that point"? You think they don't today? 

Teiser: Oh, do they go off with cases? Don't they taste and like it and 
go off to Liquor Barn and buy a case? 

Heitz: Well, some buy at the Liquor Barn, but the Liquor Barn is quite a 
new phenomenon. No, if tasting rooms weren't profitable, we'd 
close them up. 

Teiser: Yes. I just wondered if winery sales now are by the case very 

Heitz: Cases, bottles. And also the spin-off effect; if they like your 

wine and they're up here on a hot day and they don't want to take a 
case in a hot steamy car, they'll tend to buy it at home. They do 
that also. It's good public relations as well as immediate sales. 

Teiser: I remember coming through this valley when there were only three or 
four places you could stop. 

Heitz: Beringer Fred Abruzzini he wasn't so much for roadside people as 
famous Hollywood stars. Every week in the St. Helena Star he would 
have his picture in with Carole Lombard or some great star. Well, 
that helped Beringer, I'm sure. He catered to the fancy folks, not 
just the man in the street. But he was the first real promoter of 
Napa valley wines in that manner. 

Teiser: So when you bought the Brendel winery, I suppose your eye was on the 
roadside business, too? 

Heitz: Yes. East side of the road, cars would be going up valley with 

their trunks empty and their pocketbooks full, hopefully. If you're 
on the other side, you're going south, your pocketbook is empty and 
your car is full. 

Teiser: Is it a good vineyard there? 


Heitz: Oh, yes, it's good land, but the whole thing is only eight acres, 
so we weren't going to make our fortune on grapes. 

Teiser: Maybe we should stop now and start next time with the beginning 
then of your own enterprise. 

Heitz: Okay. Then Alice can be here and talk too. 
Teiser: I gather she was much in on it. 
Heitz: Oh, yes; certainly. 

[Interview 2: August 15, 1985 ]## 

Teiser: This is Alice Heitz, Mrs. Joseph Heitz. I asked if there was 
anything winey in your background. 

A. Heitz: I think we more or less learned together. 

Teiser: When you married Joe, you had no experience in the wine business? 

A. Heitz: No, I did not. 

Teiser: You also came from the midwest? 

A. Heitz: Yes, South Dakota. 

Teiser: And how long have you been in California? 

A. Heitz: Since '43. 

Teiser: And you married in what year? 

A. Heitz: '45. 

Teiser: Did you know what you were getting into? [chuckles] 

A. Heitz: No. [chuckles] I didn't know there would be so much work! But 
it has been enjoyable. 

Teiser: It's a great accomplishment. 

I think we got to the purchase of the Brendel property last time, 


J. Heitz: We had covered that, hadn't we? 

Teiser: Well, I think just the decision to buy it. How did you decide 
to venture into this? 

J. Heitz: Well, I was just looking for a job. The industry was so sluggish 
in those days, there were no jobs available. And we were eager 
to leave Fresno and come back to the Napa valley. This was a tiny 
place and the only place we could get our toe in the door, so to 
speak. Mr. Brendel wanted $5,000 down, and we didn't have any 
money and the banks thought we were crazy, trying to go into the 
wine business. They wouldn't think of loaning us $5,000. So we 
had to borrow $5,000 from a personal friend, Mr. Al Furman, on 
the east coast. We are going further in debt every year, but we 
have a lot more to show for our debts now. At one time in my 
life, it was my dream to die debt-free. My accountant tells me 
I'm crazy as a loon. Every progressive, prosperous business has 
a good debt limit. The greater the debt ceiling that you have 
from your creditors, the better off you are. 

Teiser: Well, I suppose that it's the normal way of doing business. 
J. Heitz: You use other folks' money and pay for that use, of course. 

Teiser: But you were able to raise it on your own initially. That's a 
help, isn't it? 

J. Heitz: Well, just from a personal friend, yes. 
Teiser : You had to keep making payments , did you? 

J. Heitz: Oh, yes, we had to keep making payments, of course. $5,000 was 
the down payment. The whole thing cost us $45,000. 

Teiser: How big a property was it? 

J. Heitz: Exactly 8.32 acres. And it had two little houses, a small winery, 
four or five thousand gallons of inventory. 

Teiser: Goodness! What could you get for $45,000 today? 

J. Heitz: But today, salaries everything has gone up accordingly. Not only 
land . 

Teiser: What time of year did you take it on, physically, to begin with? 


J. Heitz: We made the deal I think in April. Finalized it in April, and 

actually took possession the first of June, when the school year 
was out. That's 1961. 

Teiser: I see. What did you do first? 

J. Heitz: Came down with hepatitis. For this so-called one-man operation, 
we had to take out a special life insurance policy. And I think 
that policy was only $50., 000, but the insurance company sent me to 
a pretty dingy doctor's office, and while I have no proof, I've 
always suspected that's where I got hepatitis, from the needle 
where he took the blood sample. Because I came down a couple of 
weeks after I had the exam. 

Then also that first year was really hell, because he had 
never had frost there before. And that year, after we had made 
the agreement, before we moved in, they had a pretty serious 
frost that really zapped the vines. And if you know anything 
about grape vines, they have an eye that has three buds in it. 
The first is the strongest and the most productive. Well, if that 
fails, then the second bud comes out of the same eye. And that's 
weaker, and of course, a few weeks later, because it's wasted the 
time. So this second bud came out, and Alice and I went to 
San Francisco in early June, and we had one of the hottest days 
on record in Napa valley, and this second shoot, which was not 
hardened in yet as the first one would have been, was severely 
burnt by the sun. So off of that eight acres well, it wasn't 
eight acres of vineyard, it was probably six and a half, seven 
acres we made a total of 312 gallons of wine that first year. 

Teiser: All Grignolino? 

J. Heitz: Grignolino, yes. Then what else happened? When was the automobile 

A. Heitz: That fall. 

J. Heitz: That fall or summer, I think. No, it was the following winter, 
because I had picked the grapes, those 312 gallons worth, before 
I got hurt. It was still within our first year or ownership, I 
had a station wagon and I was hauling 30 cases of wine in the back, 
and our little four-year-old son Rollie was riding with me. Some 
lady came across the highway and hit us head on. That 30 cases 
of wine just crushed us up against the dash and the windshield. 
So I was in the hospital and Rollie was in the hospital, more 
banged-up than I, and I thought, "Well, I've had it. I gave it 
my best shot; I'll give up." But fortunately we had a lot of 
good friends and they said, "Shut up; don't talk like that." 


J. Heitz: 


J. Heitz: 

J. Heitz: 
J. Heitz: 
J. Heitz 

They came in and pruned the vineyards for me and helped Alice. 
As a matter of fact, even the government inspector came in and 
actually did our government forms for us, which is absolutely 
against regulations. But he was a man I had known when I was a 
student at Davis. He actually did the forms for us for a couple 
of months while I was in the hospital. 

I think that's about all the bad things that happened, but 
they all happened in the first year. And it really looked bleak, 
bleak, bleak. But then things started getting better. And as I 
say we had so many people who helped us . 

What were those first cases of wine that you smashed up with? 
Were they labelled with your own labels then? 

Well, we were buying wines. Obviously on 312 gallons you're not 
going to make a living. Remember, I had been in the industry 
for quite a while. I had worked for various wineries, including 
eight years at Beaulieu. So we were buying wine at other wineries 
and having them bottled for us. Then as we grew, we would buy 
wines in bulk and bottle them ourselves. 

Did you have a label right from the beginning? 

Oh, certainly. 

Same as the one you have now? 

Certainly . 

It's a nice label. Who designed it? 

Well, after we bought the property and before we moved, we had 
some discussions in our own family: what do we call the winery? 
Is it going to be Joe Heitz Winery? Joe and Alice? Heitz and 
Sons? What do we call it? We finally thought, well, Heitz Cellars, 
And that includes any of the family that wants to stay. If one 
leaves, two leave, or whatever, the name can go on without pinning 
anybody down. Then, along after that, what should the label be? 
So within our family we had a little contest, and our oldest son, 
David, who was then ten years old, came up with a ten-year-old 
type drawing of a man in the cellar, with barrels behind him, 
testing the wine for quality. Then we gave his rough drawing to 
Mallette Dean, if you remember him. 


Teiser: It looks like Mallette Dean, yes.* 

J. Heitz: And he came up with three or four ideas. Then we chose one and 
polished that up. And then Jim Beard did our first printing of 
it. And we're still with the same printer. Of course, Jim went 
into partnership with Herdel Herdel and Beard. And then Herdel 
bought Jim out, and we're still with Herdel. 

Teiser: Still basically the same label? 
J. Heitz: Yes. 
Teiser: No changes? 

J. Heitz: Well, originally we could only afford one color. Everything was 
red. But then, after four or five years, for white wines we had 
the green label and for red wines we stayed with the red label. 

Making Wine in the Brendel Winery 


J. Heitz: 

What were your facilities initially? 
you have? 

What kind of a winery did 

Well, we would take the head out of a storage barrel, actually 
nine of them, and stand them on end. We had a little portable 
crusher that would straddle the barrel, and we would dump the 
grapes into that crusher and crush. 

As I say, we had nine barrels and they went on a three-day 
cycle. After we were rolling, we would go out in the vineyard and 
pick grapes in the morning when it was cool and then bring them 
inside the winery, and then we would press three barrels. So we 
would have three empty barrels. And after we pressed three, then 
we would crush the grapes that we had picked in the morning, that 
afternoon. Of course we were working in a winery where it is 
relatively cool. 

For our bottling we would sit on a case on the floor and have 
empty bottles in front of us and a single siphon hose, filling one 
bottle at a time, pinching it with our fingers. And of course, a 

*See also interview with Mallette Dean, Artist and Printer, an 
oral history interview conducted in 1969, Regional Oral History 
Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley, 


J. Heitz: hand corker and a hand labeller. Very, very primitive. We were 
probably stupid as all hell to do it that way, but what the hell 
else can you do if you don't have any money? If you don't have 
equipment you make it up in labor. We still do that somewhat, 
because you have to have a certain volume to justify fancy 
equipment . 

Teiser: Did all of you work there? Did you work with him, Alice? 

A. Heitz: Yes, I did. 

Teiser: In the vineyard and the winery? 

A. Heitz: Mostly in the winery, with the book work. 

Teiser: Did you have to hire some vineyard help? 

J. Heitz: Oh, yes, we had to hire somebody to cultivate it. You can't 
afford equipment to cultivate eight acres. 

Teiser: How about harvesting? 

J. Heitz: Well, in the early days, with our kids and the neighbor lady, 
we would pick the grapes, for the first two or three years. 

Teiser: You were real pioneers! You could have been out making wine a 
hundred years ago . 

J. Heitz: Just about. 

Teiser: So then did you gradually buy equipment? 

J. Heitz: Well, we started there in 1961. Then in 1964 we bought the 

Taplin Road property. At that time we had to get some outside 
funding. Then we gradually equipped the old building here. Instead 
of this old crusher that just straddled a barrel, we bought a 
mechanical electric crusher, I think very much used. We bought 
it from Tripoli, Mr. Banista Tripoli here in town. I think we 
paid $250 for it. We used that for several years 1965 was 
actually the first year we used it; through 1971. By 1972 we 
were able to build our new addition. At that time we bought a used 
crusher that Valley Foundry had the Welch grape juice people in 
New York had bought it as an experimental crusher, and it was about 
the right size, five tons an hour. So we used that for a few years 
until about three or four years ago we bought a new crusher that 
was properly sized for our operations, ten tons an hour. 


J. Heitz: But we've obviously had to borrow from Peter to pay Paul, and 

buy used equipment and make it do until we could afford something 
better. And we're still in business. Had we gone crazy and 
bought all fancy new equipment, somebody else would own us now. 
There is more to running a winery than being a winemaker. 

Teiser: One thing that must be important is to be a mechanic. How do you 
keep the used equipment going? 

J. Heitz: Well, I don't claim to be a mechanic, but I was raised on a farm. 
I know what a pliers and baling wire are. And I was an airplane 
mechanic during the war. So you learn you do what you have to do. 

Teiser: A lot of people, I imagine, wouldn't be able to deal with old 
equipment . 

J. Heitz: It needs more care and attention than new equipment. 

Teiser: Before you added this to the Brendel property, had you improved 
that? Had you put in some new equipment there? 

J. Heitz: No, there was really no space to do it. 

Teiser: So you just kept on your primitive way there? 

J. Heitz: Yes. 

Teiser: Will you tell about the decision to buy this property? 

J. Heitz: Well, here again, we were not looking to buy. But we were growing. 
Obviously that little tiny place down there couldn't support a 
family. And we were just looking for another winery to rent. We 
were looking here and there and the other place. 

Expanding, 1965 

J. Heitz: I'll back up a little bit now. When we worked for Beaulieu, we 
would ride around in the evening. Just go for a little ride to 
cool off and see the country. One evening we rode to Taplin Road 
and we saw this beautiful stone winery. But we saw we were in 
somebody's yard, so we turned around and left. Well, some years 
later it had to be seven, eight years later at least when we 


J. Heitz: were looking for any place to rent for storage, we remembered 

this spot. So we took the kids to school one Monday morning about 
8:30 and drove up here between 8:30 and 9:00. And it was a nice 
looking place. The man came out to see us and we introduced 
ourselves. And he said, "Oh, yes, I know you. I've been watching 
you grow down on the highway." He took us all around. We told 
him we were looking for a place to rent, that we needed storage 
space. There were no vines here. So he took us all around the 
property, showing us all the pastures and the hillsides, and into 
what he called the "stone barn" he just had it as a storage barn 
for the tractor and disc and a little workshop. And I said, "You 
obviously love the place." You could just feel it oozing out of 
him all over. "But you're not really utilizing this old stone 
winery. Could we rent it or lease it or something?" And he put 
his hands on my shoulder and said, "Joe, you may not believe this, 
but something happened in our family over the weekend that need 
not concern you. But yesterday, Sunday, we decided to sell the 
place, and if you had come a half hour later, we would have been 
in town talking to a realtor. We want $150,000; we want $45,000 
down. And we'll carry the balance at 5% interest." Well, I 
said, "Fred, you can get 5% interest at the bank." He said, "I 
know. A lot of people helped me when I was young. We don't have 
any children. I'd like to help somebody else." We didn't have 
$45,000 down any more than we had had the $5,000. This is why I 
said we had to get outside financing. I said, "Can we give you 
something down, $5,000 down or something, until we come up with 
the money?" "No, no," he said. "You don't need to do that. I 
won't sell it to anybody else. If you tell me you can't hack it 
then I'll look for somebody else. We're in no rush to sell." 

Well, thirty, forty-five days went by and their attitude 
kind of changed. Mrs. Holt particularly. "When are you going to 
get the money in?" So I said, "Well, I'll have it, absolutely, 
by," what was it, April 1 or May 1 or some such date "or else 
I'll give up." Well, about two days or twenty-four hours before 
that we got a package together and came and made the down payment 
and signed the papers. After the papers were signed, they said, 
"Well now we can tell you the joke. We did not go looking for 
anybody else, but while we were waiting for you to raise the 
money, somebody else drove in the yard. They wanted to turn this 
into a horse farm, and they offered us more money, more total 
money, a bigger down payment, and a higher rate of interest." But 
they stuck to their word with us; they weren't going to sell 
unless . So it was just a miracle, just a miracle. 


J. Heitz; 

A. Heitz: 
J. Heitz: 

A. Heitz; 
J. Heitz: 

J. Heitz: 
J. Heitz: 

J. Heitz: 

What was his name? 

Fred Holt. And his wife's name was Alice, Of course, we became 
friends with them, and then when they moved out, why, we would 
visit them. We knew them up until they both passed away. They 
were really honorable people. 

Alice, do you have any recollections that Joe hasn't mentioned? 
I don't believe so. I think he's covered it pretty well. 

Well, a couple of other personal things, along that same line. 
After we had bought the ranch, he said, "Well, you know, that 
didn't include the equipment." They had a tractor and a disc 
and an electric fence and all the tools you'd need, and nuts and 
bolts and this and that. And he said, "Do you think $1,000 will be 
too much?" Well, even used, it was worth at least $3,000. So 
then in the household things, he said, "We don't want to take all 
this with us." We got a deep freeze and a stove and a refrigerator 
and the rugs on the floor. Were the beds included? 

Yes. Which we didn't need. 

Some of the beds and the dining room set. Again, "Do you think 
$1,000 would be too much?" That sort of thing. They had all the 
money they could spend in the rest of their lifetime, and they were 
just willing to help us out. 

Well it's just the way people should behave in this life. 

Yes. You don't find them too often. 

Did your kids agree that this was a good place to come? 

Oh, yes. Yes. Of course, we were living down there, and with 
three children in basically a two-bedroom house, although we kind 
of made it with a third bedroom, it was getting as they were 
getting older it was getting a little crowded, you know, and 
grumpy. Up here they all had their own individual bedrooms, and 
they just blossomed. You've seen the property it's a great place 
to raise a family. 

No , I haven ' t . 

Well look out the window! 
times . 

[chuckles] You've been here a couple of 


Teiser: Describe it. How many acres is it? 

J. Heitz: Well, there are 160 acres. It's mostly rocks and trees with this 
little valley that you see out the window. Out of 160 acres, oh, 
if you really pushed it, there might be 55 or 60 that are tillable. 
But it has the nice old country house and then the guest house, 
and the beautiful stone winery building, built in 1898. We 
describe it as just a little pocket-sized world of our own. It's 
at the end of the highway and it's just your own little tiny 
piece of the world. 

Teiser: It certainly is. Then you planted grapes? 

J. Heitz: Yes. We started planting grapes right away and planted a few 
each year. We couldn't afford to plant the whole thing. 


Teiser: How did that work out? What did you plant first? 

J. Heitz: Well, the Grignolino vineyard that we had purchased was pretty 

old. Frankly, it had mixed clones and different things. We had 
just a slight reputation for that. We could buy other grapes 
from growers; nobody else grew Grignolino. So the first thing 
we did was to go through that old vineyard and pick out the best 
vines, mark them, and get proper bud wood from the best vines. 
Then we planted Grignolino here. Then right away started buying 
grapes, Cabernet [Sauvignon] and Chardonnay, from other folks. 

I should go back to fill in the growth history. In 1962, or 
perhaps it was early 1963, poor Mr. [Harold] Zellerbach who started 
Hanzell Winery, passed away. Well, the poor man wasn't cold in 
his grave yet and the family decided to close the winery . So they 
put the wines up for bid. Not an open auction, but anybody could 
bid on them. So we with a few friends with money that was when we 
were still at the little place we bought all of his remaining 
wine in bulk: the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir. And we made a deal with 
the people who came up with the money and we bought the barrels, 
too we would finish the wine, bottle it, and sell it under our 
label and then go 50/50. We would keep half the money and they 
would get half the money. Well, as it turned out, it was an 
excellent investment and an excellent opportunity for us to get 
established in the quality wine market. 

Teiser: What kind of barrels? 

J. Heitz: It was the French Limousin oak. 

Teiser: Had you had French oak before? 


J. Heitz: No. And I repeat, it was before we bought this place, so we 
didn't have any space. Fred McCrea up at Stony Hill was good 
enough to rent us a little space so we could put the barrels 
there, finish aging it and bottle it in his cellar. I say Fred 
McCrea; I guess I should say Fred and Eleanor. They were 
another important step in our growth. 

Teiser: All the rivalry there is in the wine business is in the stores! 
It's not among the winemakers . 

J. Heitz: Oh, no, not among the winemakers. Gee whiz Fred McCrea was a 
great advertising man, as you know. So he would help us write 
our sales letters. But he was not a winemaker, so I would help 
him with his technical problems. Sutter Home, across the street, 
they were into vinegar at that time. Again, they were not 
chemists. So I would help them with their vinegar analyses and 
stuff. And if we ran out of glue we would run over and borrow' 
some glue from them. Or maybe the foil capsules or something. 
In those days, very few people, except the big wineries, had 
their names on the capsules. We couldn't afford it. We just 
had red capsules and green capsules and white capsules. So we 
could borrow and trade back and forth. 

Even with yeast about the smallest container of yeast you 
could buy is twenty-five pounds. Well, we didn't need that much, 
and Stony Hill, the McCreas, didn't need that much, so we would 
buy one twenty-five pound minimum order and share it. No, the 
whole valley is excellent in cooperation. I love to quote Robert 
Mondavi. He says, "We are in competition with each other. We 
are not in competition against each other." I quote him every 
chance I get on that. I think it's a great idea. 

He acts that way, too. One time, one specific I remember 
several years ago there was an insidious little bacteria that hit 
the valley. Actually it was sort of a yeast that caused spoilage 
in the bottle. So he had meetings at his winery and invited 
everybody from the valley and university people and everything to 
talk about and help solve this problem that he had and some of 
the rest of us did. He not only wanted to solve his problem, he 
wanted to stop the other wineries from getting involved. So that's 
the way the valley works. Obviously we're all people, and you 
don't like, you don't love everybody quite to the same extent. 

Teiser: When you came up here to this winery did you have to get all new 
equipment, or did you transfer some of your equipment? 


J. Heitz: No, we had no equipment worth transferring. 


J. Heitz: 

So then when you moved up here, you had not only the expense of 
the property, but the expenses of equipment, too. 

Yes, and here again, we had to scrounge around. I wanted used 
cooperage. You can buy new cooperage if you've got money. But 
you don't want all new cooperage because your new wood is harsh. 
I like my barrels seasoned a little bit. And that was hard to 
find, because people who had cooperage were using it by and large, 
But anyway, we found used cooperage and hauled it in and put it 
up, and then gradually we would buy a few new tanks every year. 
Well, of course, after you've used those tanks for a while, then 
they are seasoned. So that's how we did that. 

Prices and Standards 

Teiser: By the time you came here, then, had the wine business in general 

J. Heitz: Somewhat. But we came here in 1965, and it wasn't red hot then. 
We had attracted some attention. Some of those wines we bought 
from Hanzell we sold Chardonnay at $6 a bottle, and some at an 
unheard-of price of $9 a bottle! Well, the neighbors all thought 
we were going to end up in Napa State Hospital. As a matter of 
fact, Alice had a friend, an Irish friend, who was vice-president 
of the Italian club in St. Helena. So he would go to meetings, and 
on the way back he would stop and have a glass of wine with us and 
tell us what went on. And everybody thought, they're really nuts 
trying to sell wine at that price, because wine was two or three 
dollars a bottle then. Well, people would buy one bottle of that 
$9 wine remember, European wines were selling at that price so 
they would buy one bottle, take it home and taste it, and they 

would come back next week and buy a case. 

Teiser: Where were these people from? Were they from the city? 

J. Heitz: Yes, the city, San Francisco, Berkeley, around. Real wine people 
who knew wine and knew values . And it was every damn bit as good 
as European wines. My opinion is, if a product is identical, I 
would pay more for an American product than a European product. 
But most of the world thinks, anything that's imported, they're 
willing to pay more for. Well, I helped change that around. 
California wines are great and they should demand the price they 

39 a 


July, 1985 

1973 Martha's Vineyard 

1976 Martha's Vineyard 

1977 Martha's Vineyard 

1978 Martha's Vineyard 

1978 Martha's Vineyard Magnums 

1979 Martha's Vineyard 

1979 Martha's Vineyard Magnums 

1980 Martha's Vineyard 

1980 Martha's Vineyard Magnums 

1976 Bella Oaks 

1977 Bella Oaks 

1977 Bella Oaks Magnums 

1978 Bella Oaks 

1978 Bella Oaks Magnums 
1980 Bella Oaks 
1980 Bella Oaks Magnums 
1980 Napa Valley 

1981 Zmfandel 

1982 PinotNoir 
Pinot Noir 

1981 Crignolino 

July only 
After August 1st 

1984 Crignolino Rose June only 
After August 1st 

1982 Chardonnay "Heitz Vineyards" 

1981 Chardonnay "Heitz Vineyards" 





64800 _ 


54000 _ 


405.00 _ 


378.00 _ 


38880 _ 


378.00 _ 


388.80 _ 


378.00 _ 


38880 _ 


54000 _ 


432.00 _ 


442.80 _ 


21600 _ 


226.80 _ 


270.00 _ 


28080 _ 


126.90 _ 


6750 _ 


81 00 _ 


67.50 _ 


72.90 _ 


48.60 _ 


42.66 _ 


40.50 _ 


45.90 _ 


13500 _ 

30.00 . 




"Cellar Treasure" Port 
Brut Champagne 
Extra Dry Champagne 


Case Price alter 10% Discount Add 6% Sales Tax 



Amount of Order 


2 Cases 

3 Cases 

4 Cases or more 


Frrinol North 

$11 00 Total 
9.00 Total 
7 00 Total 
2.00 Per Case 

South ol Frame 
.. $1500 

10.00 Total 
8.00 Total 
3.00 Per Case 

Minimum order for shipping $85 00 

NOTE There will bet charge ot $1 SO tor packmj ANY CASE with le than 12 bottles 


Phone (to facilitate delivery! . 

(over 21 Years of age) 


Teiser: With those wines, was that the beginning of your ' daring price 

J. Heitz: I don't think it was daring at all. I think it was very practical. 

Teiser: But I mean, that was the first time you had raised prices above 
market levels, say? 

J. Heitz: Yes. 

Teiser: I see. And that was the Hanzell wine? 

J. Heitz: Because the wines were worth it. Some of the other wines that were 
selling weren't worth it. And you don't just raise prices and 
snap your fingers and say, just because it's expensive it's a 
fine wine. You make fine wines first and then you raise the 

Teiser: I see in your price list, that you 

J. Heitz: We have some very modestly-priced wines. 

Teiser: Yes, that you have varying prices now. Did you do anything to the 
Hanzell wines? 

J. Heitz: Well, not so much. We did the final treatments, and the 
filterings, the bottling, of course. 

Teiser: But they were essentially the wines Zellerbach had made. 
J. Heitz: Yes. 

Teiser: And I assume they fitted in with your philosophy of what wine 
should be? 

J. Heitz: Yes, certainly. 

Teiser: Did they influence you in your winemaking? 

J. Heitz: Well, the barrels, certainly. They were the Limousin oak barrels. 
We liked the wine and our customers seemed to like it. And I'm 
a believer in if something ain't broke, don't fix it. So we stuck 
with Limousin oak ever since, while other people have experimented. 
They have used Yugoslav and, oh, you know, the various other oaks. 


Teiser : 

J. Heitz: 

J. Heitz: Nevers and this and that. We've just stuck with Limousin because 
we like it. Historically it was used for the Burgundian wines, 
but we use it for Cabernet and everything. So to that extent we 
were influenced. But I think as far as winemaking techniques, 
they were mostly what I had learned in school and working at other 
wineries, specifically Beaulieu. 

Can you name it, the tradition that you make wine in, that 
Beaulieu did? 

No just old standard winemaking. I once made a statement that 
winemakers should be born with fingers on one hand and a scrub 
brush on the end of the other arm. Somebody printed that, so I 
have been careful not to say it any more. But sanitation, sani 
tation, sanitation. And common sense. 

Teiser: Also, however, some idea of what you're shooting at. 

J. Heitz: Well, remember, I think you should prepare yourself for anything. 
If you're going to be a nurse or a carpenter or a hairdresser, 
you should prepare yourself. And both of my degrees, both my 
B.S. and M.S., are in wine and viticulture and distillation. 
They're in enological pursuits. And then I've worked for many 
wineries. When I was a GI I worked for wineries, when I was a 
student at Davis I worked in the department. I also was working 
in Elk Grove to help put me through school. So I have worked 
part-time. And after I was out of school , * worked in several 
wineries, which I'm sure we covered last time you were here. 
And then I've taught winemaking. So sure, I've got a background. 

Teiser: Not everybody let me put it this way not everybody who has that 
much experience in the wine industry developed the standards that 
you have developed. 

J. Heitz: Well you have to like the product. In the early days I worked for 
wineries where the winemaker was really an engineer or a bacterio 
logist or a chemist, something like that. All of which are 
necessary to be a winemaker. But they were really not interested 
in wine. They would have been just as happy working in the soup 
factory. They were working for their salary. Alice and I happen 
to like wine. We're going to have to drink it ourselves, we want 
it to be good. 

Teiser: Is Alice a good taster? 

J. Heitz: She's got a couple of tales she likes to tell. 


Teiser: What about ? 

A. Heitz: Well, I enjoy tasting. Guymon used to think I was one of the 

better ones, which I was real pleased with. I think that's about 

Teiser: Do you ever say, "I don't like this wine as well as "? 

A. Heitz: Oh, sure. It was an experience to taste so many new wines when 
I first started. I guess I had never had that experience. 

Teiser: Well, you were tasting with experienced people. 
A. Heitz: Dr. Guymon had an excellent palate. 

Teiser: So that must have given you an education of a kind that proved 

A. Heitz: Oh, sure. 

Teiser: As you've moved along, who has tasted? You have, but who else? 

J. Heitz: Oh, family, the whole cellar crew. We just you saw the table 
set up. It's set up for lunch today. But the tables are there 
because we had a tasting yesterday of nine of our own Chardonnays, 
three of which I think are bottled and six are different lots in 
different barrels of different manufacturers. The whole cellar 
crew tastes. Now tomorrow we're going to have a tasting again, 
because we're getting ready to release our 1983 vintage 
Chardonnay. So we'll buy other folks' Chardonnay and again 
have a blind tasting of everybody's. 

No one person makes wine. You read these damn wine journals. 
The winemaker, the winemaker that's a lot of hogwash. He may be 
the leader, but you've got to have a crew. And it takes time to 
build up a good crew that know what they're doing and like what 
they're doing and stick with you. So we involve them as much in 
all aspects as we can. 

We're having one man leaving today, so we're going to have 
a little luncheon together, so he'll leave in peace. But it's a 
total crew, and in our case a total family. There are five of us 
that are family. In a tasting, we don't all say, this is the best 
and this is the worst. No, there are ups and downs. I say I run 
a very democratic organization. I listen to everybody and then I 
decide what to do. But I do listen; that's the point. 


Teiser: Suppose this is a hypothetical question suppose in your 
Chardonnays in your blind tasting that ' s coming up , your 
Chardonnays don't stand up well against some of the others. 
What are you going to do? 

J. Heitz: Well, I can give you a factual answer, not a hypothetical answer. 
The reason we have these tastings is to establish a price. We 
price it accordingly. If it's great, we put a great price on it. 
We know before we bottle it, it's not a dog. But if it's not as 
good as the competition, we sell it for less money than the 
competition. I'm a great believer, you can cut a man's hair 
many times, but you only scalp him once. We try to price our 
wines honestly. 

Teiser: I'm told that your wines are consistent. 


J. Heitz: Per dollar; per dollar they're consistent. 

Teiser: The people who work for you and have worked for you have you had 
trainees? Have you had people pass through your employ who have 
gone on to ? 

J. Heitz: Oh, yes, quite a few. I emphasized a moment ago, we have a stable 
crew. In the early days, money was scarce. So there would be 
young folks just out of Davis or Fresno State who couldn't get a 
job anywhere else, because they didn't have any experience. They 
would work at what we considered a low salary, but then they would 
gain experience. Then they could go out and get a better job in 
a couple of years. That worked very well indeed for several years. 
We've had a lot of people come. For example, Bob [Robert] Travers, 
who now owns Mayacamas Vineyards. Oh, a lot of them. A lot of 
people work summertimes here, too. Davis students work here 
during the summer. So they would get training and I would get 
reasonable help. And we both knew what we were doing. We weren't 
ying-yanging each other. 

Teiser: You were using your time, more time I'm sure than you would have 
had to use with experienced people. 

J. Heitz: Oh, certainly. 

Teiser: Again substituting your labor for capital. 

J. Heitz: That was mostly before our own children became adults, too. 

Teiser: Did they always know they were going to be involved in the 
family business? 

Left: Joseph and Alice Heitz, 

Below: The Heitz Family, 1986, 
Left to r-i-ght: David, Joseph, 
Kathleen, Alice, Rollie. 


J. Heitz: 

J. Heitz: 
A. Heitz: 

J. Heitz: 
J. Heitz: 

Oh, no. We never tried to push it, but they knew it was here 
if they wanted it. David, from the time he was ten years old 
I think even younger. When I worked for Beaulieu one of the 
first sentences he learned to speak was "Beaulieu wine is fine." 
We lived close to the Beaulieu winery, and when he was just five 
or six years old I would take him over at night; when I was going 
over to check the crew during fermenting, he would go over at 
night. He was always very, very much interested. He is the one 
who has the degree in enology, so I don't think there was ever 
any question about him. Kathleen majored in biology and taught 
high school biology for a year. But then she decided to throw 
in with us. Rollie majored in business and finance, and he kind 
of piddled around for a year or two after school. He wanted to 
start his own business, a spice business. But you have to have a 
lot of individual initiative to start a business, and it didn't 
pan out. During that period of time we let him work part-time, 
just on an hourly basis like any other casual employee. Then he 
decided to go in with us and of course we put him on a legitimate 
salary. So they're all three with us now, but they didn't have 
that plan when they were in school. 

What are their birth dates? Let me just get those on the record. 
[to Alice] Boy, that's your department. 

David is 5/3/50; Kathleen is 2/9/54; and Rollie is 3/28/58. 
Four years apart. They are all through with college. 

You didn't have them in school all at once. 
Spaced out a little bit. 
David went to Davis, did he? 

He's really a home boy, so he went to junior college for two 
years, then he went to Davis for two quarters, and he got C's 
and B's, but he was just working his tail off to do that. So 
he took the third quarter off to help us when we were building 
the new winery. And then for his last year, year and a half, 
he went to Fresno State where the academic standards are a little 
lower. As far as the enology program, it's more practical and 
less scientific. There instead of C's and B's he got A's and 
B's, but developed a social life too and made friends, which he 
just did not have time to do at Davis. 

A. Heitz: 

He got out of the dormitory, too. 
the dormitory. 

At Davis he couldn't study in 


J. Heitz: Yes, he got out of the dormitory 
A. Heitz: which he should have done at Davis. 

J. Heitz: and he and Pat Heck had a little apartment together. Pat 
Heck was of the Korbell champagne family. 

Teiser: That's interesting. Even though he had a brother and sister, he 
wasn't used to community living I would gather. 

J. Heitz: Well, not that noisy and raucous. And dirty. He was there 

during the early seventies. That is when the kids thought they 
should run the campuses and have mixed bedrooms and all of this 
and that. 

Teiser: I guess it's in a swing-back now. 

J. Heitz: Yes, now the students are wanting separate dorms again. 

Teiser: Describe, then, the progress of this property, how you developed 
it. You mentioned that you built another winery and so forth. 

J. Heitz: Well, that we can do pretty quickly. From the vineyard we now 
have about eighteen acres of Grignolino and approximately 
fifteen acres of Zinfandel, the Zinfandel just coming into 
bearing this year, the Grignolino in full production. 

Teiser: I hope you're going to make real Zinfandel, not White Zinfandel. 
J. Heitz: Yes. And not high-alcohol Zinfandel, either. 

The Taplin Road Property 

J. Heitz: As far as the winery, we bought it in 1964 and poured cement 

floors and replumbed and rewired and had our first small crush 
here in 1965. We just filled the winery slowly. By 1971 we had 
outgrown it. In 1972 we built this building. You can't build 
a building ten percent a year, as you need it, so we had to build 
the whole thing. 

Teiser: It's a stone building, is it not? 

The old stone cellar (top) and the Joseph E. Heitz home at Taplin Road Ranch. 


J. Heitz: Well, it's basalite. 

Teiser: And this is the office and lab building? 

J. Heitz: No, the lab is over in the old winery. 

Teiser: So it's just the office building? 

J. Heitz: Just the part you're in. Haven't you seen outside? Get up and 
open the door quickly. That's the winery. 

Teiser: Is this the aging cellar? 

J. Heitz: Yes. Aging cellar,* processing, everything. 

Teiser: Oh, I see. I had no idea what was in the back of this building. 

J. Heitz: So we built this in 1972, but obviously we couldn't fill it 

with tanks and barrels as we have now. So we used part of it as 
a bottling line and warehouse for case goods. Then in 1979, 
out behind, we built a small warehouse, bottling room and ware 
house to store empty glass and a certain amount of case goods. 
So that's the progress here. 

Teiser: What's being built out there now? 

J. Heitz: Oh, that's just a room onto our house, a little solarium. 

Teiser: You mentioned Zinfandel. I see that you began making Zinfandel 
in 1980 or 1981. 

J. Heitz: '81 is the first vintage. 

Teiser: And how did you happen to decide to? This was a period when 
Zinfandel was not rising in popularity. 

J. Heitz: Well, I've never followed the leader in other things too much, 
so why do it in Zinfandel? I've always liked Zinfandel, so we 
decided to plant some. In the meantime what's the famous movie 
director? [Francis F.] Coppola bought the old Niebaum estate. 

*Some wine is aged in the original stone cellar on the property as 


J. Heitz: He bought that vineyard and had Zinfandel on it, and he was going 
to build a winery in a couple of years. My own Zinfandel was 
going to come into bearing in a couple of years, so we bought 
Zinfandel grapes from him for three years, and now, last year 
we knocked that off because we don't need them anymore, because 
our vineyard came into production. But he had a little financial 
problem, which you may have read about, in his movie career, so 
he hasn't built his winery yet. 

Teiser: But he released some wine, didn't he? 

J. Heitz: Yes, well he has had a little tiny winery. But he was going to 
build a bigger winery and really get into the business, release 
some wines. Well, this is just another example of cooperation 
in the valley. I was helping him by buying grapes and he was 
helping me by supplying grapes until mine came into production. 
You know, it's a valley where you work together. 

Teiser: So here you now have only the Zinfandel and Grignolino of your 

J. Heitz: Here on this place, yes. But the old place on the highway that 
we started with Grignolino we pulled that after we got this 
vineyard in production and we planted Chardonnay there. We are 
real accumulators. We bought the original 8.32 acres and then 
other adjoining property came for sale. We bought a one-acre 
place that had been the Standard Oil distribution center. We 
now rent that to John Montelli, who has it for his corporate yard. 
He does all sorts of road work and building and stuff. Then we 
bought another 3 1/2 acre piece of a vineyard from a neighbor, 
and then later, another 4 1/2 acre piece. So we have four pieces 
of property there, and the whole thing only totals 16 acres. 

Teiser: Are they contiguous? 

J. Heitz: Oh, yes; a nice little sixteen-acre block. 

Teiser: What's on that? 

J. Heitz: That's the Chardonnay. 

Teiser: All Chardonnay? 

J. Heitz: All Chardonnay. And the whole thing I say the whole thing is 
sixteen acres. There are about twelve acres of vineyards. 
Twelve acres of Chardonnay. Then about four or five years ago 


J. Heitz: we bought seventeen acres on Zinfandel Lane, and that's all 
Chardonnay. Then last year, 1984, we bought 77 acres on 
Silverado Trail. There are a couple of houses and a winery 
building and the avenues and so forth, but by vine count there 
are about 65 acres there. And that's Cabernet and Zinfandel 
and a little bit of Chenin blanc. 

Teiser: Previously planted, 'all? 

J. Heitz: Yes. 

Teiser: Who had planted it? 

J. Heitz: Dick [Richard] Shown. 

Teiser: So now you have moved on 

J. Heitz: So now we're selling grapes. When we first started out, we 

were lucky to start a winery, because it takes time to age wine. 
Now we've grown, so we have some vineyard of our own. But we're 
still buying grapes from a couple of fine vineyardists. The 
Martha's Vineyard, which I'm sure you've heard of, and the 
Bella Oaks vineyard. 

Teiser: Yes. I rather thought you had a commitment to select vineyards 
that weren't necessarily your own. And I thought you rather 
preferred buying grapes to growing them. I see that's not the 

J. Heitz: Well, I do, very much. All my knowledge, if I have any, is in 
winemaking. I know a little bit about vineyards. But it takes 
a lot of specialized equipment and specialized knowledge to 
operate a vineyard. I grew up on a farm in Illinois, and I just 
don't like the feel of that sweat running down your back on a hot 
July afternoon. As we build up more business and as the children 
become more involved, they have to have something to get their 
claws into. But, at this point in time, we just hire a vineyard 
manager and we talk to him about, obviously, when to harvest and 
what to plant. But the daily work and owning all the equipment 
he does all of that . 

Teiser: I see. Have any of your children shown an interest in 

J. Heitz: Oh, yes, they're in the discussion on it, but they're not out 
there doing the work. 


Teiser: No one of them has decided they want to handle the vineyards? 
J. Heitz: No. 

Cabernet Sauvignon 

Teiser: Let's go to your Cabernet Sauvignon, which we haven't really 
discussed. This is your biggest commitment, is it not? 

J. Heitz: Oh, probably. 

Teiser: When did you start making Cabernet on your own? 

J. Heitz: When did we start selling it? There's a good lesson there. 
In the very early sixties, the wine wasn't moving. Other 
wineries had surplus Cabernet. We just had a little yellow 
truck I could get three barrels in, three fifty-gallon barrels. 
I would buy some Cabernet from well, I could get some from 
Inglenook and some from Louis Martini, but this particular 
story concerns Christian Brothers. They were really doing me a 
favor to sell three lousy barrels at a time, but that's all I 
could afford. We would never buy anything we couldn't pay for. 
But I first started selling it, and it was four or five years 
old. I don't know exactly. We first put it on the market at 
$1.63, I think, and it sold all right. I got three more barrels, 
the same wine, and I raised it to $1.79, and it sold quite a 
bit faster. I got three more barrels, and I don't know what I 
did $2.25 or $2.20, something like that. It went out the door 
like that! So you learn as you go along if you've got a good 
product, people want to pay for it. Then gradually the wine 
business picked up, and people were able to sell more and more 
of their own wine and those good deals were not available to 
me so much. 

[to Alice] Are you going to do something? 
A. Heitz: Yes, I think you're through with me. 

Teiser: No, not necessarily. I would like you to add anything that you 


J. Heitz: Why don't you get her to do it now, because we're having a 
luncheon for that fellow who is leaving. 

Teiser: Well, is there anything that you I know that you have been 

active that you have both handled your own public relations, 
have you not? 

J. Heitz: Oh, yes. 

A. Heitz: That's right. 

J. Heitz: With the help of Fred McCrea, as I mentioned early. He had 

helped us write our first sales letters, and we would help him 
with winemaking. So we picked up a few little tricks from 

Teiser: Have 'you, Alice, had a particular part in that, in the public 

A. Heitz: Yes, I do a lot of the entertaining. 

J. Heitz: That much more so than writing letters or brochures. 

A. Heitz: Last week we had 29 people for lunch. 

J. Heitz: And dinners. Let me interrupt, then she can elaborate. When 

we have the distributors come, or wine writers or whoever come, 
we'll have them for lunch or dinner instead of going out to a 
restaurant or somewhere. Well, New York has a lot better 
restaurants than St. Helena. It certainly did a few years ago. 
So we had the idea of sharing our home with them, which gave 
us then an excellent showcase in which to present our wines 
with her cookery. And her ability and willingness to do it 
at the last minute, when somebody drops in 

Teiser: Willingness to change your plans at the last moment I think 
implies a good disposition. 

A. Heitz: You have to have a good disposition in this business, I think. 

Teiser: Have you developed special menus, paid a lot of attention to 
the kinds of food that complement your wines? 


A. Heitz: Yes, especially for the Cabernets, because we do serve a lot of 

Teiser: In general, what kind of foods do you serve with Cabernets? 

A. Heitz: I do a little French-type cooking. Light sauces now, because 
you can't have heavy sauces. 

Teiser: What sort of thing do you show your Chardonnays with? 

A. Heitz: Oh, salmon; or I do a dish with sole that I like, with mushrooms. 
That turns out very well. 

Teiser: I realized the other night how important it is somebody served 
a very good Sauvignon Blanc with a very highly seasoned chicken 

A. Heitz: Did it work? 

Teiser: No, it killed the Sauvignon Blanc. 

J. Heitz: Sauvignon Blanc is one wine that we don't make and don't plan to 
make. We don't care for it very much. There are a million 
wines; you can't make them all. 

Teiser: Your public relations do you do that yourselves, or do you hire 
somebody to help you? 

A. Heitz: Oh, we do it ourselves, and Kathleen, our daughter, does a lot 

Teiser: I see. That's her function, is it? 

A. Heitz: Yes. 

Teiser: And what about advertising? 

J. Heitz: Very little. 

Teiser: Who designs your brochures? You have nice printed matter. 

J. Heitz: We do that ourselves at the local printer. 

Teiser: So you don't go through agencies? 


A. Heitz: 
J. Heitz: 

J. Heitz: 


J. Heitz: 


J. Heitz: 


A. Heitz: 

J. Heitz; 


We're not that big. 

Again, being independent. 

We're not trying to sell all the wine in the world. We want to 
make a good living, don't misunderstand. But we're not trying 
to drive anybody else out of business or steal their shelf 
space or anything like that. We think we can remain small 
enough and make a good living and just sell wine in addition to 
what other people do without hurting them at all. 

There are not many wineries in your price class really, are 

Oh, you go down the shelf and look at dollars. 
to sell for the top dollar. 

Everybody wants 

Yes, more and more now. 
kind of led the way . 

But I think, as I understand it, you 

Well, we made our reputation first, and then sold at a high 

What is happening now practically all the new wineries, 
when they come out with their first release (whether the wine 
be good, bad, or indifferent, I'm not saying) but their very 
first release they want the same price that I've been getting, 
that I've worked up to over 24 years. And if they can do it, 
good for them. I don't object to people making a living. 

[to Alice] 
you go . 

Is there anything else that you think of? I'll let 

No, I don't think so. [to Joe] Do you? 

[to Joe] Anything you think Alice should discuss before she 
goes off to her duties? 

We'd better not get her talking too much; she might say some 
things I don't want to hear! [laughter] No, I don't know. 
It's just been team work, a family. I told you at the very 
beginning, we said, "Heitz Cellars" rather than "Joe Heitz 
Winery." And Heitz Cellars involves all of us. 



[Alice Heitz leaves] 

Back to your Cabernet . 
people's Cabernet? 

You started then by finishing other 

J. Heitz: Yes, we would buy Cabernet and finish it and bottle it. 

Then the first year that we were here on Taplin Road, 
1965, Tom and Martha May had just bought their land and their 
vineyard. They had bought it from Belle and Barney Rhodes, who 
are friends of ours. They had left a couple of bottles of Heitz 
champagne in the fridge for Tom and Martha, and they liked it. 
So they came and bought some more and talked to us. They said, 
"We've got some grapes for sale this year. It's the first crop; 
we don't know what to do with them." Tom had been a schoolteacher 
down at Ojai. I said, "We'll crush them," and we did. So then 
we found that they made pretty good wine. They blended in 
with our other Cabernet that first year. The second harvest 
from them, 1966, we kept separate. By a stroke of what turned 
out to be genius, but pure luck, we put the vineyard name, 
"Martha's Vineyard" on the label. I think you're aware of the 
story of Martha's Vineyard since then. 

Teiser: Tell it. 

J. Heitz: Well it turned out to be a very good wine, with the little 
distinction there of Martha's Vineyard, which absolutely has 
nothing to do with the east coast. It's just that Tom named 
it for his bride at the time, Martha. The wine writers liked it, 
the connoisseurs liked it, the restaurants liked it. Some of 
the older ones are going for pretty excellent prices now. Just 
recently Joey Delisio, who is the cellar master at the River Cafe 
in Brooklyn, put together a wine list of several of the great 
Cabernets of California. Just listen to some of these prices. 
This is restaurant prices, of course, but they're all available 
today. The 1966 and these are all Martha's Vineyard $410 a 
bottle. 1968, $465 a bottle. 1969, $395 a bottle. 1970, 
$310 a bottle. And so on. 1974, only $225 a bottle. So that's 
the story of Martha's Vineyard in a nutshell. I wish _! could get 
that kind of money for it. 

Teiser: Well, that's about two and a half times what you can get for it, 
isn't it? 

J. Heitz: Ten times. 


J. Heitz: 

Teiser : 

J. Heitz: 

J. Heitz: 

J. Heitz: 

J. Heitz: 

J. Heitz; 
J. Heitz: 
J. Heitz 

When they get old and scarce, then they can charge And there 
are people in this world who have a lot of money and they like 
to show off to their friends. 

That particular restaurant has it bought and cellared those? 

Very few of them. I helped supply them with some of the older 
ones, because it's really a showcase thing. 

How big is Martha's Vineyard? 

It's a small vineyard, and this, of course, is one of the reasons 
why the price is up. It's a world of supply and demand. If I 
had a million cases of Martha's Vineyard, why, the price would 
drop dramatically. But it produces around 35,000 to 50,000 
bottles per year. It varies from year to year. I happen to 
have a '78 here in my hand. In 1978 we produced 55,200 bottles 
and 2,400 magnums. So that's about the production of it. But 
it's an agricultural product. The 1980 vintage was way down, 
like, you know, maybe sixty percent of that. When you're working 
with farm crops, you go up and down. 

Does the quality differ from year to year, too? 

Somewhat, yes. In Napa Valley our vintages are never, oh, wildly 
variable as they are in France, for example. The peaks and deep 
valleys of Bordeaux are much more moderated here in California. 
They become gentle slopes up and down. 

Can you characterize your Cabernet Sauvignons? 
Sure. They taste like Cabernet should. 

Do they taste like anything else in the world? Do they have a 
European counterpart? 

No ; they ' re Napa Valley wines . 

In what part of the Valley is Martha's Vineyard? 

It's just south of Oakville, at the base of the western hills. 

And Bella Oaks? Where is that? 

That's just south of Rutherford. Again up against the base of 
the western hills. 


Teiser : 
J. Heitz 

J. Heitz 

J. Heitz: 
J. Heitz; 

What's the story of that? How big is it and so forth? 

We get about 65 tons a year off of it. I don't know the acreage, 
But it's roughly about the same size as Martha's Vineyard. The 
first Martha's Vineyard kept separate was 1966. The first 
vintage that we got off of Bella Oaks was '76. It's a younger 
vineyard and has ten years less reputation, so basically it 
sells at a more modest price. Except (you're looking at the 
price list*) you'll notice 1977 we felt the wines, while they 
were not the same from each vineyard, certainly the quality was 
equal. So we charged the same amount for them. 

A little more for Bella Oaks . 

Well, at this point, yes. Initially the same. But Bella Oaks 
from '77 has developed into a wonderful wine. Basically though, 
year after year, Bella Oaks is a little lighter, a little more 
elegant style, while the Martha's is more pronounced. I don't 
know; I use the term, it has a little more "punch," a little 
more power. 

I just got a phone call this morning, by the way, from some 
Swiss people who are doing a great wine promotion in some fancy 
restaurant over there. They have a weekly dinner from November 
through Easter, with about a hundred people each time. And they 
have selected our '78 Bella Oaks. They've tasted ten or twelve 
Cabernets from Napa valley, and they selected that one as the 
one that they feel is best and the one they want to serve. So 
the Bella Oaks is gaining in reputation, too. But I repeat, 
Martha's has a ten- year head start. 

Do you have a hand in the cultivation practices and so forth? 


You tell them when to harvest? 

Sure. We work with them, but we certainly don't want to get 
involved in telling them how to prune or how to do this or that . 
If you look at the reputation of the grapes and the wine we make 
from there, they seem to be doing all right without my sticking 
my nose in it. 

*0f July 1985. 


Teiser: I see there's a "Napa. valley" Cabernet on this list. 

J. Heitz: That's a hundred percent Cabernet, a hundred percent Napa valley, 
and it gets basically the same treatment in the winery. We 
don't neglect any of our wines. It's just a blend of different 
vineyards, none of which is distinctive enough to carry the 
vineyard designation. 

Teiser: You have some Cabernets of your own? 

J. Heitz: Yes, we do now. But none on the market. We just bought that 

vineyard last year. We will be making some from our own vineyard. 

Other Heitz Wines 

J. Heitz: 

J. Heitz: 

I'm still looking at this July 1985 price list. 
Pinot Noirs. 

You have two 

Two. One is a vintage and one is a non-vintage, which simply 
means it's a blend of different years. 

Do you like Pinot Noir particularly? 

I personally don't care as much for it as I do Cabernet, but if 
you look on the price list there, you see it sells for a lot 
less money. I think Pinot Noir has taken a bum rap from wine 
writers the last few years. They expect it to taste like a $40 
wine when it's selling for $8 or $9. It has a distinct place. 
But gradually, as Heitz is growing, I think we'll probably drop 
the Pinot Noir. We've not had a Zinfandel before. We'll 
probably replace it with Zinfandel and maybe a little more 

Teiser: Pinot Noir, of course, is caught in this cross-current of styles, 

J. Heitz: Yes. They even make a white Pinot Noir to help get rid of some 
of the grapes. And a lot of champagne makers use Pinot Noir. 
They pick it before it gets much color. It kind of jollies up 
their champagne cuvee. 

Teiser: You made a sparkling wine. Have you made a champagne? 


J. Heitz: Well, we don't make it. We have it made for us and we market 
it. You might call it a sideline with us, to stir up a few 
dollars. But we're not going to retire on our champagne income. 

Teiser: I think Leon Adams in one edition or another of his Wines of 

America mentioned a sparkling wine that you made by the "Miller 
Way" process. 

J. Heitz: Oh, yes, that was a carbonated wine. That was kind of fun, but 
too labor intensive. Had we stayed with it I'm sure all the 
children would have left home at a very early age! It's very 
labor-intensive . 

We play around, we try different things. We try not to 
get carried away with experimentation. I think if I haven't 
learned how to make wine now, it's too late. 

Teiser: Are your kids interested in experimenting? 
J. Heitz: Oh, yes, somewhat. 

Teiser: I should have asked you in connection with your Cabernet 
Sauvignons, are they one hundred percent? 

J. Heitz: Yes. Definitely. Again, a lot of the newcomers are taken by 
the great Bordeaux and so they try to imitate Bordeaux methods 
here in California. Well, my theory is, if you imitate somebody, 
by definition you're in second place. I don't like to be in 
second place. I'm going to try to make the best damn California 
or Napa valley Cabernet possible. To me that means a hundred 
percent Cabernet. Our conditions here are totally different 
than they are in Bordeaux. We can get Cabernet ripe here almost 
every year. Over there, some years they can't get Cabernet ripe. 
They never get it as ripe as we do here. So they need these 
other varieties that develop more sugar, or sugar sooner, to 
make a sound wine. The conditions are different. I'm making 
Cabernet Sauvignon, I'm not making California Bordeaux. 

Teiser: Just as distinctive as the Zinf andel . 

J. Heitz: Right. 

Teiser: Your Grignolino, you make a rose? 


J. Heitz: Oh, certainly. 

Teiser: Have you always? 

J. Heitz: Yes, from day one. 

Teiser: Did this contribute to the rose" revolution? 

J. Heitz: No, no. It's a good, dry, flavorful rose. The ones that 

contributed to the rose revolution were the Almaden to begin 
with, which was, I think, Grenache, very slightly sweet. The 
so-called rose revolution was the sort of insipid neutral type 
wines that didn't offend anybody but didn't get anybody too 
excited, either. But it opened up wine drinking to a lot of 
people who wouldn't drink wine otherwise. And then from that 
they went on to other things. 

Teiser: They're sweet enough to appeal to people who drink sweet drinks, 
I gues s . 

J. Heitz: Sure. Coca-cola, and so on and so forth. 
Teiser: And you make two generics, chablis and burgundy. 

J. Heitz: Yes. And the chablis has always done very well indeed, and we'll 
stick with that name. The burgundy is also good, but just at 
this point in time we're going to be changing our blend signifi 
cantly. We've had a little surplus Pinot Noir in the past, and 
then we've blended other soft wine. So it's been, if you will 
well I haven't felt too badly calling it burgundy. But now our 
new blend is going to be mostly Cabernet, and Zinfandel, because 
we bought a new vineyard and we have these grapes , and whatever 
else. But it will be bottled in Bordeaux or claret shape 
bottles. It will be more of a Cabernet flavor rather than a 
Pinot Noir flavor. Although, don't misunderstand, neither one 
are varietals, they're mixtures. 

We have a little red-headed grandson, Ryan Heitz. So our 
new label, instead of burgundy will be different. We don't want 
to call it claret, that doesn't sell anything, and "red table 
wine" folks expect in gallon jugs, so it's going to be Ryan ' s 
Red. This will then involve the third generation, it will give 
us something to talk about, and we'll have a distinctive label 
that is ours. Ryan's Red, and underneath in small letters, 
Napa Valley Table Wine. {Gets up] I saw a bottle here yesterday. 


J. Heitz: There! So this is not on the market yet, but we're always 
trying to upgrade, and we feel this is going to be a better 
wine and certainly a different type wine than our burgundy. 

Teiser: Well, I like your burgundy. 

J. Heitz: Oh, I do, too! In the U.S.A., California chablis are readily 
accepted; California burgundies, they're accepted, but they're 
kind of slow. 

Teiser: Proprietary names are a good idea. 

J. Heitz: But, boy, they're tough to come by! We've been trying to think 
of one for twenty-one years, and it took Ryan to come along to 
do it. This has only been bottled for two or three weeks, so 
it will not be released for two or three months. Our present 
supply should be sold out within five or six months. 

Teiser: I've occasionally run into irate retailers who say you're out of 
this and that and you won't sell it, or you're holding it, 
which goes with your small supply, I guess. 

J. Heitz: Yes. I get that all the time: "We can't buy them; we can't get 
Heitz wine." Well, all they want to do is buy Martha's Vineyard, 
which is on quota. Every year we allocate it according to how 
many dollars you had spent with us in total the year before. 
If somebody spends $10,000 and somebody else buys $20,000, he 
gets twice as much Martha's Vineyard next year as the one who 
spent ten. And that's the way we do it. 

Teiser: How about restaurants? 

J. Heitz: That's the only one that's on quota, Martha's Vineyard. 

Teiser: What percentage goes to restaurants? 

J. Heitz: I have no idea. 

Teiser: Restaurants don't buy direct from you? 

J. Heitz: Oh, no. We sell all over the nation. We have a distributor 
in each of the states; well, actually, in 44 states. I don't 
know where it goes. Then a year ago we put in a distributor 
in Southern California. Again, I don't know how he sells it. 
That's the reason to have distributors, to take the load off your 
back. In Northern California we still do everything direct, 
which we used to do for all of California, restaurants or retail 
shops . 


Teaser: As part of your publicity, it's my impression that you go out 
and about a lot. 

J. Heitz: Well, I'm doing that lately. We never did earlier. Two 

reasons: Alice and I don't get out your hanky, we're not going 
to cry about this but we worked hard in the early days. Seven 
days a week and no vacations. So we feel it's time for a little 
vacation. And second, as long as I'm here, I'm not really a 
soft pussycat, so I keep telling the kids what to do when I'm 
here. I've got to get out of here for longer and longer periods 
at a time. They know how to run the winery, but they've got to 
do it. So after twenty-one years wait a minute, twenty-four, 
next year is our twenty-fifth anniversary after twenty-four 
years in the business, I've risen to the position of travelling 
salesman. But when Alice and I go on these trips, of course, if 
we go on a sales trip, we mix in vacation. If we go on vacation, 
we sell a little wine, too. So that's why we're more visible 
lately. But, no, in the past, in the early years, it was a 
hundred percent product that sold. And of course, as we 
mentioned earlier, when people visited here, instead of taking 
them to the Grapevine Inn, we would have dinner at home and share 
our home with them. That's been our publicity. 

Teiser: I took you away from the wine list. There is a port. I guess 
that is your only sweet wine, isn't it? 

J. Heitz: Yes. We had a sherry earlier. You heard the story, how we 
started out with nothing. Well, these are wines we could 
purchase, bottle, and put up for sale immediately. The port 
carries a pretty good price. It's a '73 vintage. But the sherry 
was very modestly priced. These little wines, as we call them, 
give nickels and dimes to put a little grease in the wheel so 
we can afford to hold back and properly age fine wines. Now 
we are getting more and more fine wines properly aged, when 
the sherry ran out, we're not looking for any more sherry. Just 
recently we discontinued Barbera, which was a wine that we 
purchased. So those were just items to strictly help the budget. 

I mentioned earlier, some of these people irritate me 
somewhat, although it's none of my business. The very first 
wine that they come out with .is expensive. And frequently, 
especially in Cabernets, it's very young. Well, time is an 
expensive ingredient, and it's a damned important ingredient in 
fine wines. Rather than sell our wines before they're ready, we 
sell lesser wines to get a little money to live on while the good 
wines are sitting in the barrel or in the bottle aging. To age 


J. Heitz: wine is expensive. You not only have your interest, which 
has been moderated a little lately, but it's been at least 
twelve percent a year. You've got to carry insurance, you've 
got to build a building to store it in, and so on and so forth. 

Teiser: Your Angelica, has that run out, too? 

J. Heitz: Oh, yes. That was for a different reason. It didn't sell! 

This is a wine we purchased in the Central Valley. We buy it 
in barrels and bottle it, and we thought it was delightful. We 
still do. As a matter of fact, when we stopped selling it, 
Alice made me keep a whole pallet, which is, I think, forty-eight 
cases, for her she says, for her cooking wine. Well, I think 
it's wine to be consumed while cooking! [laughter] So we have 
enough left to serve us our whole life. 

Teiser: It's delicious. 

J. Heitz: Yes, we thought it was delicious. But we had a choice of doing 
one of two things: either drop it, or go into a most expensive 
advertising campaign, such as Harvey's Bristol Cream, and then 
we would have to sell big volumes of it. But we're in the table 
wine business. Other people were making it for us, and it got 
to be such a small potato, I didn't want to bother them any more. 

Teiser: It's hard to find. I guess East Side 

J. Heitz: East Side has an Angelica. But it's different. Sebastiani 
has an Angelica that is still different. 

Teiser: How do you like your mailbox being in Gallo's ad, incidentally? * 

J. Heitz: I think it's great! 

Teiser: It's the one that stands out. 

J. Heitz: I wrote them a letter and thanked them, and then I thanked them 
in person when I saw them. That gets the name Heitz in front of 
millions of people that wouldn't see the name Heitz otherwise. 
All they say in their ad is very true; if you read it, it's 
very true. They buy more grapes in the Napa and Sonoma valleys 
than anybody else. 

*This two-page advertisement appeared in a number of national 
magazines in 1985. 


J. Heitz: I ran into Julio at a meeting not long ago (this was after I 

had written them the thank-you letter) and I thanked him again. 
I said, "I really think that's a good ad. You know, obviously 
it helped Gallo, but I think it's a nice thing; you've helped 
the whole industry." And Julio said, "You bet your ass it 
helped Gallo, or Ernie would never have paid for it!" They're 
not selfish people. They want their share of the business, but 
they want the whole business to be big so that their share is 
bigger, too. And that's my basic feeling. If I can help the 
industry, if I live in a healthy industry, I'll get my share 
automatically. If the wine industry is unhealthy or depressed, 
I'd starve to death, if it was my little peanut operation. I 
certainly believe in helping the industry in general. 

Auctions and Competitions 

Teiser: I noticed in this last auction catalogue from the Texas Art 

Gallery in Dallas, a number of your wines. What do you think 
auctions do? Do they help? 

J. Heitz: I think they're sort of a joke, but a lot of people have fun, 

so I don't care. It's all a tax gimmick. Most of these auctions 
are benefits, so if somebody pays $1,000 for a bottle of wine, 
he's in the fifty percent tax bracket, so it only cost him 
$500 really. And then he'll save it a couple of years and he'll 
donate it to another auction and he'll list the price as $1,000 
because that's what he paid for it. And then he gets that 
write-off, so he gets a $500 savings so he's had a lot of 
publicity and it hasn't cost him a nickel out of his pocket. 
It has cost you and I, the taxpayers, a few pennies each. But, 
as I say, I have my fun my way. If somebody likes to have 
fun that way, fine. But what I don't like is these gross bottles 
It takes two men to carry a bottle. I think that's asinine. 
And the huge bottles bring the high prices. I'm interested^ in 
wine, not gimmickry. Those huge bottles I agree with Andre 
Simon. He says, "Anybody who buys anything bigger than a magnum 
deserves to have it corked." 

Teiser: What do they do with those big bottles? Do they ever use them? 

J. Heitz: 

They keep selling them to each other. Oh, I guess once in a 
while, they open it at a party. They just display them in their 
living room or in their office. It's fun, and almost all the 
auctions are charitable, so I have no objection to them. 


Teiser: What about all these proliferating wine competitions? 

J. Heitz: Well, everything can be overdone. The best thing in the world 
can be overdone. I used to enter the L.A. Fair, and one year 
I won the Grand Championship or whatever with our Chardonnay. 
The next year I entered a Chardonnay that I thought was as good 
or better, and it didn't get anything. So I asked what happened 
and the man told me, well, it was gassy, so we didn't even 
present it to the judges. This was Nathan Chroman. So I went 
through case after case of my wine, top case, bottom case, 
and there wasn't a gassy one anywhere. So that fried my 
fanny a little bit, so I didn't enter any more. That's quite 
a few years ago. 

So then a lot of the newcomers have been winning medals 
lately, because they enter fairs. I hadn't, Beaulieu has 
not. A lot of the old-timers don't enter any more. Some of the 
winners said, "The old-established wineries are afraid to enter 
because ours is so much better now." So last year I entered 
some at the San Francisco wine judging and we did very nearly a 
clean sweep of the Cabe.rnets. I've got some cards in there I'll 
show you. So I proved my point. I don't have to enter again 
for a while. 

Teiser: Is it bothersome to enter competitions? 

J. Heitz: Well, yes, and it's costly. You've got to pay an entry fee, 

you've got to donate expensive wine that people are waiting in 
line for some quota, you could sell anyway. So it's costly. 
There's very little bother; you just have to pack and ship it. 
I don't feel that the awards really mean that much. I base this 
on my years' experience at Beaulieu. One year at Beaulieu we 
entered sixteen wines. Eight of them won gold medals and four 
won silver medals. Wonderful, beautiful. And of course we blew 
about it promotions, and we put a little sheet in every case 
of wine that went out. Sales remained right where they were. 
The next year we said, "Well, let's not enter and see what 
happens." We didn't enter. They haven't entered since. There 
wasn't one letter of inquiry, "How come you didn't win any gold 
medals this year?" Not one letter. So you sell wine through 
distributors, through restaurants, through retail stores. You 
don't sell it by gold medals. They make you feel good, but 
that's all. And there are so many. Quite reasonably, quite 
logically, the same wines will be entered in, let's say, three 
different fairs. There will be three different results. And 
that's human nature. We're not machines. So I don't enter. 
As I say, I entered in the San Francisco last year, and came out 
all right. 


Teiser: Someone told me a story about a wine entered in a competition 
that was just at an awkward age, so they didn't give it any 
medal. People who knew, knew it was about to be a good wine after 
a while, but they couldn't give it anything. 

J. Heitz: Well, judges can't judge futures. They have to judge what's in 
the glass in front of them. 

Teiser: You yourself were a judge at the California State Fair. 
J. Heitz: For quite a few years, yes. Also the L.A. Fair. 
Teiser: What is it like to be on the other side? 

J. Heitz: Oh, it's interesting. Kind of going back to what I said about 
three different events, three different results. You have a 
committee of five. It's very difficult to get a uniform decision. 
You're working with a committee; you make compromises. 

Teiser: Do you ever serve on juries or committees with people who you 
think have no right to belong there? 

J. Heitz: Absolutely, absolutely. A lot of them, certainly at well, I 
shouldn't say specifically where but a lot of them, the man 
in charge of selecting the judges and running the thing, he's 
got a lot of political payoffs to do. He'll get certain wine 
and food editors or radio personalities or something like that 
to serve on the committee so that he gets a little newspaper 
space. A lot of those people just because they're a famous 
name in the movies or something, doesn't mean that they have a 
good palate. So, yes indeed. And some of them, understanding 
you're voting four to one against them say, "Oh, that's all right, 
I'll change my vote." But others can be very adamant: "Oh, no, 
that is the greatest wine." So then you get a compromise, 
instead of getting a gold medal it will end up with bronze or 
something in between. You know, committees tend to bring things 
to a common denominator. But that's as fair as having any one 
person do it, because my taste and your taste are different. If 
I say a gold medal, you might say, "Well, I don't care for that 
one. I think this one is better." That's human nature. And 
these things are well, let me elaborate a little more. 

I think county fairs are a great idea, and state fairs, 
where from the very beginning, you raise the biggest possible 
pumpkin you can. Or if a housewife is baking an angel food cake, 


J. Heitz: or knitting a sweater, it's the very, very best. That then is 
a goal to shoot for. But in wine they want your average 
production. See, it's different. They want regular production. 
When you take a cow to the fair, you don't just go out and lasso 
the first cow that gets in your rope; you take a specially 
groomed cow. This then shows what can be done, not what is 
being done. So wines are judged on a totally different basis 
than other things in these fairs . 

Teiser: Because they want to judge only wines that are generally 
available, isn't that it? 

J. Heitz: Yes. But your prize cow, your prize pie, your prize sheep, 
they're not generally available. Do you see the difference 

Teiser: Yes. Has anyone ever had a competition of the best wine? 
J. Heitz: No, I don't think so. 
Teiser: That would be interesting. 

J. Heitz: We're all accused of it,* but who's going to make a special lot. 
Wine doesn't lend itself to that. 

Teiser: It boggles my mind a little bit to think 

J. Heitz: Yes, I would enter some of that, what is it? $450, $465 wine, 
1968 vintage? 

Teiser: Imagine! 

The San Jose Mercury News has a system of judging with a 
professional panel and a consumer panel and giving both ratings. 
Does that seem to you to be reasonable? 

J. Heitz: I don't care. It's their show, let them do what they want. 

*0f entering specially made wines not generally available. 


Vineyards and Wines 

[Interview 3: August 20, 1985, with Mr. Joseph Heitz] 

Teiser: Have you done some experimental planting of vines that are 
customarily not planted here? Other than Grignolino? 

Heitz: Well, Grignolino is the one that's now widely grown. But, no. 
Teiser: You haven't tried anything else unusual? 

Heitz: No. I repeat. I think I've said this a half a dozen times: I 
like to consider myself a winemaker and not a vineyardist. 

Teiser: But in spite of yourself you're a vineyardist. 

Heitz: No, not really. We hire that work done. 

Teiser: Yes, but you have to direct it. Don't you make the decisions? 

Heitz: Just what to plant. I'm not out there on a daily basis. 

Teiser: But you do decide what to plant. 

Heitz: Oh, sure, and when to pick. 

Teiser: But your decisions are made from inside the winery, in effect. 

Heitz: Well, I don't know what that means. 

Teiser: Well, what you want to come into the winery 

Heitz: Oh, sure, grapes we need and where they should be planted, and so on. 
But as far as hiring the vineyard help and being out there doing 
the budding, the grafting, or overseeing it, no. That's for 
someone else. As we're growing we're getting into the vineyard 
business, but then again, we have three children working for us. 
We have to gradually develop more work. You know, there's more 
to running the vineyard than being out there doing the supervising 
of the crews. It's the dollars and cents, and the taxes, and blah, 
blah, blah. 

Teiser: Where do you get your stock? 


Heitz: Oh, just from standard nurseries. No magic. 

Teiser: People have said in recent years that the advances in the wineries 
of the past couple of decades have been made, but that the new 
advances now, in this period, are in the vineyard. 

Heitz: A lot of people say a lot of things, Ruth. And it's awfully easy 
nobody wants to say, "Well, things are going along quite normally." 
People who write and people who talk have to have something to say. 
So they always have to have some magic catch phrase. I have said 
that myself, that shortly, well, from the repeal of Prohibition up 
til, I don't know when, some time in the middle sixties and I 
repeat, I don't know. I don't think these periods start and stop. 
I think it's a continuing thing. But there were great advances 
in winemaking and winery equipment during those days. I don't 
think that means that we've stopped making better wines. But in 
the very early days, after the repeal of Prohibition, people kind 
of just planted the grape vines that they were growing before. 
Since then, not new varieties, but better strains or better clones 
of the old varieties have been developed. Better vineyard 
techniques have been put into play. Vine spacing, different types 
of cultivation, different types of chemical sprays for weed 
control, and so on and on. 

But of course, you understand, if we do something in the winery 
one year and we don't like it, we do something different another 
year. If we plant a vineyard, it takes three to five years to see 
what you're going to get, and you certainly don't get a return on 
your investment in three to five years. You have to have a 
vineyard in several years before you get a return on it. So you 
don't go flim-flamming, jumping around, changing techniques and 
changing varieties, and so on and so forth, in the vineyard as 
rapidly as you can do in a winery. That's one reason why perhaps 
the full fruition of the changes in the vineyard have come along 
more slowly and are attracting more attention now than the 
techniques of winemaking. 

Teiser: Of course, I suppose popular demand requires certain types of grapes, 

Heitz: Popular demand is a strange phrase, because that can change 

overnight, and does. A few years ago, a lot of good Cabernet 
vineyards were being pulled or grafted over to Chardonnay. Now 
there's a big glut of Chardonnay, and the public is drinking more 
Cabernet. So the same vineyards are going back to Cabernet now. 
So that's public demand or public desires or whatever you want to 
say. If you could just be a fortune teller, it would be great. 


Teiser: I guess, however, that most winemakers of quality wines have a 

consensus on what the best varieties are, Chardonnay and Cabernet, 
is that right? 

Heitz: Well, the ones that we get the most money for. So we like to 

concentrate on those. As long as there's a market. Any market 
can be oversaturated. 

Teiser: But those, I think, have been agreed upon generally as the wines 
of greatest quality in California? 

Heitz: They're referred to as the king and queen, yes. 



The American Society of Enologists 

Teiser: I wanted to go on, then, to your activities in the wine . industry 
as a whole. Were you one of the early members of the American 
Society of Enologists? 

Heitz: Yes, I was one of the founding members. 

Teiser: I've been collecting recollections of people on the founding of 
it. What do you remember as the beginning of it? 

Heitz: You're stretching my head! That's a long time ago. 

Teiser: I know it is. 

Heitz: Well, Charlie Holden was the founding father. You know all of this. 

Teiser: Go ahead. 

Heitz: He came to California from the beer industry, where they had a 

similar beer institute. I don't know what it was called. Got 

a few winery people together and said, "Let's do something." Like 
Topsy, it just "growed." 

Teiser: Who were the few wine people initially, do you recall? 

Heitz: Well, this is all on the record somewhere. Leo Berti, Ted Kite, 
Dale Mills, I guess, and probably Charles Crawford. Certainly 
the people at the university, Dr. Winkler, Dr. Amerine. 
Dr. Castor. I can't remember all of those names. A lot of the 
poor devils are dead now. But as I say, if you want the historical 
background, it's all available at the American Society of Enologists 


Teiser: Somebody has been working on the history.* Louis P. Martini 
described the first meeting that they remember in Stockton.** 

Heitz: Wolf Hotel in Stockton. 

Teiser: Originally did it take in viticulturists? 

Heitz: Not at the very beginning, no. It's just the last year or two 
that it's changed its name to American Society for Enology and 
Viticulture. It used to be, American Society of Enology. 

Teiser: What have been your activities? 

Heitz: Well, I don't know whether I was the first secretary or not, but 
certainly one of the first. I remember one detail, specifically. 
We talked and talked, the board of directors, for hours, whether 
or not we could afford a used $35 mimeograph machine that you turn 
by hand. We finally bought it, and Alice and I in the evenings 
would whip out the annual programs and things like that on our used 
$35 mimeograph machine. Now the organization has thousands and 
thousands of dollars at its disposal. Giving money away for 
scholarships and research and things like that. It's truly an 
amazing growth for a society. 

Teiser: I suppose a good deal of its income comes from exhibits at its 


Heitz: Yes, exhibits, and of course, memberships. They've got a lot of 
members now. As I say, I was the secretary for a few years, then 
went on up through the chairs and eventually was second vice 
president or whatever. Then chairman, 1965-1966. That too was a 
long time ago . That was twenty years ago . 

Teiser: What did you think your main contributions were, besides running 
the mimeograph machine? 

*Leon Berg of Lockford, California. 

**Louis P. Martini, "A Family Winery and the California Wine 
Industry," an oral history interview conducted in 1967-1973, 
The Martinis: Wine Making in the Napa Valley, Regional Oral 
History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California 
at Berkeley, 1973, p. 94. 


Heitz: Well, doing the bloody work is always important. I get a little 

hazy; I don't know whether I was ever treasurer or not, or whether 
this was secretary's duties. But I must have been treasurer, 
because all the checks would come in. Yes, I was. I had to send 
out all the bills and collect all the checks and deposit them. 
You speak of contributions, and a lot of people think that you have 
to have an earthshaking discovery or invention or something like 
that to contribute. I don't think the world operates like that. 
It's just the people who do the grubby work day after day who 
make the achievements, not somebody who comes in and makes a 
spectacular speech. 

Teiser: Did you contribute any technical papers? 

Heitz: Probably, in the early days. I contributed some technical papers 
at the moment I'm not positive whether it was before or after the 
formation. We had wine meetings before that, technical wine 
meetings. In the early days I did some work on the benefits of 
clean fortifying brandy and improving the quality of fortified 
dessert wines . 

Teiser: So there had been forums for discussion prior to that? 

Heitz: Oh, yes. They were held at the university, usually very small 
groups, about a dozen of the leaders in the industry. And that 
would be about all. It was a very small group that would get 

together once a year. 


Teiser: And this was apart from the Wine Institute's Technical Advisory 

Heitz: Oh, yes. 

The Napa Valley Vintners 

Teiser: The Napa Valley Vintners you weren't here at the time that began, 
were you? 

Heitz: Not at the time it began, but I don't know whether what I did 
was good, bad, or indifferent, but once we bought the winery 

I used to be able to attend once in a while when I worked 
for Beaulieu, and the Napa Valley Vintners was a nice little group 
of eight or ten folks who would meet once a month, have lunch and 


Heitz: talk. So when I started our own winery down on the highway, 

I asked if I could join. And they said, "Well, we think so. I'll 
let you know." Hell, they didn't have any the by-laws didn't make 
any provisions for new members or anything. So, "What the hell 
are we going to do?" Finally I did get in. Then that opened the 
door and now, I guess there's I don't know, fifty, sixty, eighty 
members. It's quite a large group now. 

So anyway, I was one of the first, I was the first outsider 
outside of the original group. It was just a good old boys' 
eating and drinking society, and they would talk common problems 
while they ate and drank each others' wine. Then, of course, as 
years passed, I went through the chairs there, too. 

Teiser: You have been president there? 
Heitz:: -Yes, 1970-71. 


Teiser: How has that group functioned relative to the industry of the 
valley as a whole? 

Heitz: Well, I think it has been a focal point, offered guidance to a lot 
of newcomers, and kept the old folks friendly instead of being 
competitive and stepping on each others' toes. It's a great moving 
force to keep us working together. 

Teiser: I suppose when it was started those people never had any idea that 
there was going to be a whole crop of new wineries, did they? 

Heitz: No. No, the wine business was rather unimportant, relatively 

speaking to "what it is today in Napa County. Napa County had a lot 
of beef v cattle as the leading agricultural pursuit. Had a lot of 
prunes, a lot of walnuts in the early days, some cherries so on 
and so forth. Now Napa County is predominately wine, which of course 
means wine grapes . 

Teiser : '' Were there factions early on? Did the older members have one point 
of view, and then as the younger members came in did they have 

Heitz: No, I don't think so. Not in the way you phrased it. Certainly 
that's the idea of having a group and having meetings, is to mold 
your different ideas into one that you can all live with. It would 
be ridiculous to think that even two people thought alike all the 
time, let al/ine ten or twenty or eighty. 


Teiser: But there was no sharp division of old boys and new boys? 
Heitz : No. 

State Fairs 

Teiser: Then I think we mentioned that you had been a judge at California 
State Fairs for several years was it? 

Heitz: Yes, that was during my time at Beaulieu Vineyard, I was judge at 
Sacramento for some time. 

Teiser: For Cabernets particularly? 

Heitz: No. As I recall, I was always on the white wine committee, 

chairman of the white wine committee. I did all kinds of wine, 
not just Cabernet. 

Teiser: I think you said you had done a lot of other judging too. 

Heitz: Well, at the Los Angeles County Fair, and I've been up to Seattle 
a couple of years, judging wines of the Pacific Northwest. 

Teiser : What do you think of them? 

Heitz: They're very good Northwest wines. They're quite different than 
ours, and there's a place for all 


Teiser: Now that they have reinstituted the competition at the State 
Fairs, have they consulted you about it? 

Heitz: No. I'm past tense. There are a lot of new bright young folks, 

and it's a whole different wine world than it was thirty years ago, 

Teiser: Yes. When they asked me to get up some material on it, they 
apparently didn't know there was a yesterday. 

Heitz: We all have to repeat history many times before we discover that 
it existed. 

The Wine Institute 

Teiser: I think then we come to the Wine Institute 
when you were first in the industry? 

Were you active in that 


Heitz: No, I don't think so, not until after we bought our own winery. 
And like any other thing, and repeating what I said earlier, 
somebody's got to do the bloody work before you sit up there and 
wield the gavel. So I served on quite a few committees, the usual 
thing. I went up through the chain of officers: secretary, 
treasurer, which frankly are more or less titles only the staff 
does all the real work of the Wine Institute. But it gives you a 
chance to sit in on the inner council and learn what's going on 
before you go up through the various vice presidents, I should say 
vice chairman and then chairman. There is a big distinction, 
because the president is, at the present time, John De Luca, 
and the president runs it on a daily basis and he gets paid. The 
chairman is elected from the industry and conducts meetings and 
directs principles and policy, and of course doesn't get paid. 
He shouldn't. He's working for his own self as well as for the 
good of his industry. 

Teiser: What were the main policy matters that came before the group when 
you were on the board? 

Heitz: Dozens. I can't remember all of those details. That goes back 

quite a few years. But it's a growing, changing industry, and to 
remember any one or two specifics, I think you're pushing me a 

Teiser: Well, you weren't in there fighting for or against one sort of 
thing or another, I gather. 

Heitz: Yes, against ingredient labelling, various state tax hikes, 

etcetera. Also we were having some initial talks with growers' 
groups that have now led to a better working relationship through 
Winegrowers of California. There is always a new supply of 
problems . 

Teiser: When you began, it was after Harry Caddow's time, wasn't it? 

Heitz: Oh, yes. Quite a while. 

Teiser: So the present organization that you've mentioned was in place. 

Heitz: Pretty much. I'm an old-timer now, but not that old. 

Teiser: What do you think the place of the Wine Institute is in the 
industry? Suppose there hadn't been a Wine Institute? 


Heitz: Well, I can't imagine the industry without an Institute. I 

can't imagine any industry without an institute or an association 
or something to take care of your own needs as a group, rather 
than fighting individually instead of spending one dollar to get 
something done, either politically or promotion-wise, to spend 
one hundred dollars because of the hundred members. The Institute 
works as its name implies. It's an institute representing the wine 

Teiser: Do you think it represents the actual needs and desires of the 
wine industry? 

Heitz: Well, how could it be otherwise, Ruth? It's composed of members. 
It's no outside force dictating. It's the members that formulate 
the policies and the actions. 

Teiser: All the members, or the board members? 

Heitz: All the members. Like any organization, the board makes the major 
decisions, but it's the members that elect the board members. 
You know, doing any individually, you can act instantaneously. 
But when you have a committee, it takes a little longer, because 
there are different approaches. But if you have the entire 
membership debating every little issue, nothing would ever get 
done. The membership elects its own directors, then by and large 
the directors make the decisions. If they make the wrong decision, 
there will damn well be new directors next year. 

Teiser: It always looks to me as if the directors are more appointed than 
elected. They are named and then their election is agreed to by 
the membership. 

Heitz: Who do you think appoints them? 

Teiser: The last board. No? 

Heitz: I don't know where you get these ideas. 

Teiser: I don't know. I'm asking you to clear them up. 

Heitz: Well, do you think our U.S. Senators are appointed by the previous 
senators? Or are they elected by votes? Certainly there are 
connections. A young man from Minnesota not long ago was Hubert 
Humphrey's protege and he's been pretty influential in politics 
since then and is now running for president. You develop contacts, 
of course . 


Teiser: Let me put it another way, and you'll say no to this. 

Heitz: [chuckles] You're just trying to stir up an argument, and you 
came to the right place. 

Teiser : Has anyone who has been nominated for the board of the Wine 
Institute ever been defeated? 

Heitz: I don't know. But this is done by districts, Ruth. The whole 
membership didn't vote whether I should be District Seven's 
representative to the board of directors or not. We do that within 
District Seven. And I don't know how many districts there are, 
ten or eleven. 

Teiser: Do the district members then actually 

Heitz : The district members talk it over among themselves and make 

suggestions, recommendations. They don't make appointments. And 
then at the annual meeting, the members of that district vote 
whether they want to agree with who has been suggested, recommended. 
And by and large, they go along with it. Sometimes beforehand, not 
usually at the annual meeting, I repeat and I emphasize, the 
directors are recommended and put on a slate. But there is a lot 
of bickering in the home territories, I'm sure, as to who should 
be and there are various suggestions. They are weeded out, and 
it's the usual thing, like in a family. You don't carry your 
family differences out and broadcast them downtown in St. Helena. 
You settle your differences at home and go forth as a united family. 
Or you damn well should. And that's the same way. If there are 
differences within Napa County, say, as to who should be representing 
them, we meet and we argue and we make our decisions as a group 
of reasonably intelligent people should. Then at the annual meeting, 
do the final voting. 

Teiser: Good. Thank you for explaining that. 

I'll go on stirring up arguments now; you can refute this, too. 
I heard somebody say recently, "The Wine Institute is not open to 
new ideas . " 

Heitz: That's hogwash. I've got a better word if you want to hear it. 
Teiser: We have to protect the ears of our transcriber. 

Heitz: Why do you keep speaking of the Wine Institute as being a separate 
entity from the wine industry? How can the Wine Institute be 
closed to new ideas unless the wine industry is closed to new ideas? 
To say that the wine industry is closed to new ideas is one of the 
most foolish statements I've ever heard. 


Teiser: It represents a large percentage, but not the entire industry, 
does it not? 

Heitz: Not the entire industry, but by far the majority of wineries. 
By far. And if the others don't like it, they can join, bear 
their fair share of the cost and have a voice in it. 

Teiser: There have been some notable holdouts, haven't there, for reasons 
of their own? 

Heitz: Yes. That's their problem. 

Teiser: Thank you very much. People take the Wine Institute for granted, 
and I like to hear discussions about it. 

Heitz: I've always felt it's a very fair organization. I've heard 
various things in the past. "Why do you join? Gallo runs 
everything." That's simply not true. Gallo listens, Gallo talks, 
Gallo has some very firm ideas. I am one of the tiniest peanuts 
in the business; certainly I was when I was chairman. I was 
allowed to go up all the way to be chairman, with the full consent 
and approval of Gallo. They could have outvoted me. We vote by 
the amount of dues we pay, and of course, if Gallo wanted to be 
all hips and elbows, they could. But they don't. Everybody has 
a chance to speak there, Ruth. It's a very democratic organization. 
That doesn't mean everything I say is going to be accepted. 
Everything I say in my house isn't accepted. It's a democratic 
organization, and intelligent people reason things out and argue 
behind doors and settle their differences. 

Some people can't stand it. They say, "Well, I'm right; 
I don't give a damn what you think. If you don't do it my way, 
I'm going to take my baseball and go home." Well, the hell with 
them. Let them go home. And in the meantime, while they're home 
sitting out, not paying any dues, they're collecting all the 
benefits that Wine Institute does all the political work we do, all 
the promotional work we do, and the multitude of other little 
details that are done all the time for the industry the non-members 
are benefitting just as much as the members. 

Teiser: I should mention something from my point of view about the Wine 

Institute. I use its library that Leon Adams had gotten started. 
It's a marvelous resource that I use all the time for these 
interviews. I don't know how many members are even aware of it. 


Heitz: Well, we're aware of it. I'm afraid sometimes we're a little 
lazy and don't make full use of many of the services that are 
offered. I know I don't think I've ever really used their library. 
I never had the particular need, I guess. I know it's there. 

Trade Missions and Travels 

Teiser: Let me go to your trade missions, in 1979 and 1980. You went to 
the Orient, was it both times? 

Heitz: I don't know the years. The first trade mission I went on was 
with March Fong Eu, and we went to Well, practically anywhere 
you go in the Orient, you land in Tokyo first. So we. spent a 
couple of days in Tokyo just talking to our U.S. agricultural 
people there. No big public tastings or anything. Then we went to 
Hong Kong and Singapore, and Taipei. I think Taipei first. And 
in all of those places we put on tastings of wines and brandies. 
Then the individuals that went could talk to the individuals on 
that end that they would want to work with on purchasing California 
products or whatever. That was very well arranged and very well 

Later, Alice and I had the privilege of going to China. Once 
we landed in Beijing we were guests of the government for twelve 
days until we ended the trip in Hong Kong. This was arranged 
through our California director of agriculture, who was Richard 
Rominger at the time. That was a very, interesting trip, quite 
different from the other. You could almost say, more of a social, 
making- friends trip, and we'll do business next time around. But 
also that trip stopped in Tokyo for a day or two. A lot of people 
on the trip who had contacts in Japan made use of that day or two 
to cement them. I'm thinking specifically of the citrus people 
and the almond people. So they were able to do business there. 

And then, of course, looking around China, making friends, 
and return visits from Chinese who are coming and going all the 
time here. We had an agricultural trade mission from China here, 
just a couple of weeks before we went there. Among other places 
they had been, they came to the Napa valley, and we had lunch in 
our winery for them. The leader of that Chinese group was I 
don't know his title he's the head honcho out of Sinkiang Province, 


Heitz: way out west. While our original tour was just up and down the 

coast, the usual tourist spots, he insisted that he and his group 
had such a good time here that he changed the tour, and we went 
way out to Urumchi, which is the capital of Sinkiang Province. 
That was, I believe, in 1979. Only one commercial airliner a 
week flies in there. So we went in on a commercial airliner, but 
to get us out, they flew in a special empty plane to fly us back 
to Canton. We had to stop a couple of times it's a pretty long 
distance on isolated bases to refuel. So that made the trip much 
more interesting. 

While the trip was mostly visiting state farms and communes, 
agricultural communes, and visiting agricultural places, we also 
had some time to do some sightseeing. The usual, Great Wall, and 
so on and so forth. So that was a very great trip. 


Then later, Alice and Kathleen went on another trip with 
March Fong. I think they went to Manila, and what's the capital 
of Korea? Anyway, they went to Korea, and I think Hong Kong 
again. But that was Alice and Kathleen. We're not massive 
enough, we don't have enough wine to saturate the world, we like 
to help wherever we can, letting the world know that California 
has some good wine. And other products, too. 

Teiser: Perhaps this isn't a very good question, but did you find any 
difference in the acceptance of California wines between those 
two trips? 

Heitz: Well, I didn't go on the second trip, so I can't tell. And the 
trips were different. But the acceptance on the first trip was 
very good. Going through the details of marketing is another, 
tougher story. But the product was thoroughly appreciated and 
enjoyed, we opened the doors in Taiwan. They came over here looking 
to buy California wine, and I'm sure they did. I don't know what 
the follow-up has been. We changed some regulations in Hong Kong 
so that California brandy would qualify to come in. So, yes, the 
trip was worthwhile. But any one trip isn't going to accomplish 
miracles. You've got to keep pounding and pounding. 

Teiser: The Wine Institute is doing that now, isn't it? 

Heitz: Oh yes. They're expanding those activities. And now it's not 
only Wine Institute, it's I hope I can remember the name 
California, no Winegrowers of California. The growers and the 
vintners are working cooperatively. Again, one of their main 
objectives is opening foreign markets. But it's not their only 


Teiser: Does the Orient seem to you a great prospect? 

Heitz: Oh yes. First of all, we're all on the Pacific Rim, and we're 

already shipping a lot of fruits and vegetables there. There are 
a lot of bodies over there. Historically, they have not been 
wine drinkers. Certainly in China people can't afford such 
luxuries today. But the spread of travel, the fine international 
hotels all around the world which are the center point of bringing 
in, if you will, western styles of eating and of drinking wine. It 
will spread out from there. 

The French and the Germans, particularly the French, are 
already pretty entrenched in the Orient. They've been at it a 
thousand years longer than we have. So we still have to compete 
with European wines . 

Teiser: Do you expect to go again to the Orient? 

Heitz: Oh, I'd like to go as a tourist. Both Alice and I much prefer 
travelling in the Orient to travelling in Europe. 

Teiser: Have you gone frequently to Europe, however? 
Heitz: No, not frequently. Three times, I believe. 

Teiser: Did you feel that your wine knowledge was expanded notably by 
your trips there? 

Heitz: No. We were not there to study wine. We were on vacation. However, 
whenever and wherever you go, if you're still awake, you're bound 
to pick up a little knowledge about something, 

Teiser: But you haven't done big trips to European wineries to see what 
goes on? 

Heitz: No. 

Teiser: You were on the State Board of Food and Agriculture a few years ago, 
too. What was your function there? 

Heitz: Well, just sitting on the board and listening to all the problems 
that go on in agriculture. Medfly, the cattle diseases, surplus 
milk, everything. And if you had anything to say, say it. Just 
another board, same as Wine Institute, you know. 


Teiser: Are grapes a primary concern of that board? 

Heitz: Everything in agriculture is a concern of that board, including 
what kind of grapes are imported from Chile that are substandard 
and shipped around and interfere with our American market. Sure, 
every agricultural product is a concern of that board. 

Teiser: Were you the one winery representative at that time? 

Heitz: At that time, yes. I don't like to think I was there representing 
the wine industry or the grape industry. I was there representing 
California agriculture. Perhaps I knew a little bit more about 
the grapes than some other people, but other people on the board 
that grow peaches, nectarines, other fruits, also have big 
vineyards. We also had people on the board what do you call them? 
public members, and every once in a while they would say, "I 
represent the consumer." I just don't like that. We all have to 
think of the consumer. My God, if I'm selling wine and I'm trying 
to poison the public, that isn't going to help my business. We 
all have to think of the consumer, first and primary. Those people 
who think that every farmer is out trying to ying-yang the public 
are simply mad. They're not thinking soundly. 

Teiser: You're reflecting a little of the attitude about the Wine Advisory 
Board, aren't you, too? The end of the Wine Advisory Board. Were 
you a member of the Wine Advisory Board? 

Heitz: Yes. 

Teiser: What did you think of its demise? 

Heitz: At that time it had to be. It's been sort of revived in a different 
format now,* and this is essential at this period of time. But when 
the Wine Advisory Board was disbanded, we were all putting in our 
funds for promotion of our product primarily, and promotion of 
product implies a lot of activities. It was turning into a board 
that was going to be run by public members, and our monies collected 
by us could be spent anywhere in the state for anything. Well, 
that's asinine. 

*In the Winegrowers of California. 


Teiser: It was to go into a general fund? 

Heitz: Anybody could get their fingers on it if they had a good excuse. 
I may be exaggerating, and you may be exaggerating beyond that 
when you refer to the general fund, but we would not have control 
of where and how the money was spent, let's say that. The people 
who were putting the money in would lose control of how to spend it, 

Teiser: The public members would be so large a group that they could out 
vote the wine members? 

Heitz: As I recall. Again, this was a long time ago. 
Teiser: 1975. Ten years ago. 

Heitz: Ten years; it seems even longer. It was a great idea for a good 
many years, but times change and you've got to change with them. 

Teiser: You've been active also I'm looking down my list here in a wine 
and food society, have you not? 

Heitz: Oh, you know yes. 
Teiser: What do you do? 

Heitz: Eat and drink! We're not active any more. I helped form, and I 
was one of the original members of the Fresno branch of the Wine 
and Food Society. Oh, I belonged to the Berkeley Wine and Food 
Society. Nothing spectacular at all there. Just getting together 
and tasting wines and hopefully learning something about them and 
maybe in a small way, helping teach others a little about them 
while you're learning yourself. 

Teiser: They're mostly consumer societies, are they not? 

Heitz: Yes. And then, of course, in addition to that, we belonged to 

several little wine tasting groups in Fresno and here. It's just 
a pastime. 

Teiser: Are there other activities in these kind of public spheres that 
you are involved in? 

Heitz: Well, I don't think so. The Wine and Food Society can't be 

described as a public sphere; that's strictly private and personal. 
When my children were in school, I served on the school board in 
St. Helena. I was chairman my final year. That's just, again, 
a local public service. I think everybody should give it a try. 


Teiser: Have you had anything to do with Napa County zoning? 
Heitz: No. I stay away from things I know are going to be fights. 

Teiser: Well, I guess we've covered pretty much your activities, unless 
I've skipped some great big ones. 

Heitz: Nothing great big has ever happened. Poke along day to day. 

The Future 

Teiser: I put down in my outline, finally, "Present anticipations for 

Heitz Cellar and California wine industry as a whole" do you want 
to give a speech? 

Heitz: Sure. I think I want to get rich. I think the whole wine industry 
should get rich. 

Teiser: Those are hopes, not anticipations. Do you think it's going to 

Heitz: The wine industry is in a little low spot right now, but you 

mentioned going to a reference library. If you ever read a little 
bit about history, everything is cyclic, especially the wine 
industry. We've been in lots worse messes in the past than we're 
in now. Certainly I'm optimistic. If I weren't optimistic I'd 
sell and retire and go hide. Now we have all three of our children 
involved, and I think if I was pessimistic I wouldn't have allowed 
that, because there are a lot of wonderful things to do in this 
world and I wouldn't like my children to go into something like 
the wine industry if I believed it was not going to prosper. 


Teiser: I should ask you if you anticipate that this current temperance/ 
prohibition/I-don 1 t-know-what-it-is movement which seems to have 
come up in the last year or so will in the long run have an effect 
upon the wine industry. 

Heitz: It's having an effect right now, of course. But I don't think it's 
going to hurt the wine industry as much as the hard liquor industry, 
Especially if you want to call it a temperance movement; most so- 


Heitz: called temperance movements really want to prohibit alcohol. I 

think we have enough people still living in the United States that 
remember the other Prohibition and aren't going to knuckle under. 
Several things, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving that's an 
excellent idea. Drunk driving is horrible. But don't blame the 
wine producers. Blame the people who are drunk and kill somebody, 
and then blame the judges and the juries that turn them loose with 
six months' probation, and they go out and do it again. I just 
read in Reader's Digest this past week of all of the people who 
were killed or who killed somebody else during a period of one 
year in the United States because of drunk driving, and most of 
them, if they got any sentence at all, it was six months with a 
year's probation. Well that's terrible! With such a small penalty 
they're going to do it again and again. If you just read the 
newspaper accounts you know that many of the people who kill 
somebody because of their drunk driving, it's the second or 
third or fourth offense that they've been caught drunk driving. 
Put them away, put them away the first time for six months. 
That's without killing anybody, just for an arrest. 

I also tend to believe now this I know is prejudiced most 
wine is drunk around restaurants or homes with a meal. And sure, 
we get to feeling more mellow. But it's not like going to a 
tavern, coming in hot and dry and thirsty after a hard day's work, 
and belting back four or five beers or cocktails. I repeat, I'm 
probably prejudiced, but I think more drunk driving arrests and 
more drunk driving deaths are associated with beer and drinking 
hard spirits than with drinking wine in social conditions. That 
doesn't mean wine is totally innocent. People get drunk on wine 
and get in trouble, too. But percentage-wise I think we're rather 

Teiser: Do you have any trouble on the highways here? 

Heitz: Surprisingly little. When you say "here" you mean Napa County? 

Teiser: Napa County, yes. 

Heitz: The highways are jammed. It's amazing there aren't more fenderl- 
benders, at least. Some say, well, they go from winery to winery, 
drink at every place, and get drunk. You don't get drunk in 
a tasting room. You get a little tiny sip. A little tiny sip. 
Moving from one tasting room to another, you work it off. So 
people who come up and visit the tasting rooms don't really get 
drunk in the tasting rooms. Now if they may have a big picnic 
and overdrink or something, sure, it's possible. But the number 
of accidents in Napa County from drunk driving is exceedingly small. 


Teiser: It seems to me that's a case in point. 

In spite of everything, the industry will live? 
Heitz: Sure. 

Teiser: I'm sure you will help it live, you and your children, 
Heitz: We're sure going to try. 

[End of Interview] 

Transcriber: Elizabeth Eshleman 
Final Typist: Anne Schofield 


TAPE GUIDE -- Joseph E. Heitz 

Interview 1: July 8, 1985 

tape 1, side A 1 

tape 1, side B 

tape 2, side A 23 

Interview 2: August 15, 1985 
tape 2, side B 

tape 3, side A 39 

tape 3, side B 50 

tape 4, side A 62 

Interview 3: August 20, 1985 66 

resume tape 4, side A 66 

tape 4, side B 
tape 5, side A 

INDEX Joseph E. Heitz 


Abruzzini, Fred, 27 
Adams, Leon D., 57, 77 
Ahern, Michael [Mike], 7 
Almade'n Vineyards, 58 
American Society of Enologists, 

Amerine, Maynard A., 6, 11, 

Arakelian, K. , 14, 15 

Dean, Mallette, 31-32 

De Latour, Georges, 
Delicato Vineyards, 
Delisio, Joey, 53 
De Luca, John, 74 
Del Rio winery, 10 
de Pins, Helene, 16 
distillation, 6-24 
distributors, 59 


Bear Creek Winery, 10 

Beard, James [Jim], 32 

Beaulieu Vineyard, 11, 12, 14-20, 

26-27, 31, 34, 41, 44, 63, 71, 


Bella Oaks Vineyard, 48, 54-55 
Berg, Leon, 70 
Beringer Vineyards, 27 
Berti, Leo, 69 
Bordeaux region, 54 
bottling, 32-33 
Brendel, Leon, 25-26, 27, 29, 32, 


Caddow, Harry, 74 

State Board of Food and 
Agriculture, 80-81 

State Fair, 12, 64, 73 
Canadian winemakers, 16 
Castor, John G.B., 6, 69 
Christian Brothers .winery, 24, 49 
Chroman, Nathan, 63 
concentrate, 4 
Conrey, Harry, 18, 19 
cooperage, 37, 39, 40-41 
Coppola, Francis Ford, 46-47 
Crawford, Charles, 8, 9, 12, 69 
Cresta Blanca winery, 18 
Cucamonga Pioneer Vineyard 

Association, 10 

East Side Winery, 
Elk Grove, 5, 41. 
Esquin, John, 10 


See also Dale Mills 

farm wines , 1 
Freemark Abbey, 7 
Fresno Bee, 21 
Fresno State College, 
Furman, Al, 29 

19-23, 44-45 

Gallo, E. & J., winery, 7-9, 11, 14 

Gallo, Ernest and Julio, 8, 62, 77 

Gibson Wine Company, 4-5 

Gopher Gulch Ranch and Wine Cellar, 11 

Greystone cellar, 24 

Guild Wineries and Distilleries. See 

Wine Growers Guild 
Guymon , James , 6 , 10 , 42 

Hanzell winery, 37, 39, 40 
Heck, Pat, 45 

Heitz, Alice (Mrs. Joseph E. Heitz), 
28, 33, 39, 41, 49-53, 60, 78-79 
Heitz Cellars, passim 
Heitz, David (son of Joseph and Alice 

Heitz), 31, 44 
Heitz, Kathleen (daughter of Joseph 

and Alice Heitz), 44, 51, 79 
Heitz label, 31 


Heitz, Rollie (son of Joseph and 

Alice Heitz), 44 
Heitz, Ryan (grandson of Joseph and 

Alice Heitz), 58 
Herdel and Beard, 32 
Holden, Charles, 69 
Holt, Fred and Alice, 35-36 
Howe, Jim, 11 

Inglenook winery, 49 
Illinois, University of, 2 
Italian Swiss Colony, La Paloma 
Winery, 4, 5, 9, 10 

John, Brother, 24 

Kew, Kenneth W. , 10 

Kite, W. E. (Ted), 69 

Korbell Champagne Cellars, 45 

Kornell, Hanns, 25 

Krug, Charles, winery, 12 

Lockford winery, 10 
Los Angeles County Fair, 


Marshall, L.K., 10 

Martha's Vineyard, 48, 53-55, 59 

Martini, Louis M. , winery, 49, 70 

May, Tom and Martha, 53 

Mayacamas Vineyards, 43 

McCrea, Fred, 50 

McCrea, Fred and Eleanor, 38 

Miller Way process, 57 

Mills, Dale, 4, 5, 11, 69 

Mission Bell winery, 14.-15, 17 

Mondavi, Robert, 38 

Montelli, John, 47 

Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 84 

Napa Valley Vintners, 71-73 
Niebaum estate, 2 
Northrop Aircraft, 2 

Petri, Louis, 15 
Petrucci, Vincent, 20, 23 
Ponti, Joseph J., 18-19 
Prohibition, 2, 19, 67, 84 

quality control, 8, 9, 16 

Ray, Martin, 10 

Rhodes, Belle and Barney, 53 

River Cafe, 53 

Roberds, Ronnie, 10 

Rominger, Richard, 78 

Rosenbrand, Paula, 17 

Rossi, Edmund A., 10 

San Jose Mercury News , 65 
Sebastiani Vineyards, 61 
Schenley Distillers, 18 
Shown, Richard, 48 
St. Helena Star, 27 
Stern, Lou, 12 
Sutter Home Winery, 38 
Suverkrop, Bard, 14 

Taplin Road property, 33-34, 45-49, 


Tchelistcheff , Andre, 11, 14, 16-20 
temperance movement, 83-84 
trade missions, 78 
Travers, Robert, 43 
Tripoli, Banista, 33 

University of California at Davis, 
4-7, 12, 17, 22, 44-45 

Valley Foundry, 33 

Wente, Herman, 11 
Wine Advisory Board, 81-82 
Wine and Food Society, 82 
wine auctions, 62 


wine competitions, 63-65 

Wine Growers Guild, 7, 9, 10, 12, 

Winegrowers of California, 74, 79, 


Wine Institute, 71, 73-78, 79 
wine prices, 39-40, 43 
wine writers, 13 
Wines of America, 57. See also 

Leon D. Adams 
Winkler, Albert J., 6, 19, 69 

Ryan's Red. See Heitz, Ryan, 58-59 

Sauvignon Blanc, 51 

sherry, 5, 8, 60 

Zinfandel, 13, 45, 46-48, 57, 58 

Zellerbach, Harold, 37, 40 

Grapes Mentioned in the Interview: 

Cabernet Sauvignon, 37, 48 

Chardonnay, 37, 47, 48 

ctienin blanc, 48 

Concord, 1 

Grenache, 58 

Grignolino, 25-26, 30, 37, 45, 47, 


Thompson Seedless, 15 
Zinfandel, 45, 46-48 

Wines Mentioned in the Interview: 

Angelica, 61 

Barbera, 60 

Bordeaux, 57 

berry wines, 6 

burgundy, 58-59 

Cabernet Sauvignon, 41, 49-58, 60 

68, 73 

chablis, 58, 59 

Chardonnay, 37, 39, 42, 51, 67, 68 
claret, 59 
Grenache rose, 58 
Grignolino, 25, 30, 57 
muscatel, 5, 8 
Pinot Noir, 37, 56, 58 
port, 5, 8, 60 

Ruth Teiser 

Born in Portland, Oregon; came to the Bay 

Area in 1932 and has lived here ever since. 
Stanford University, B.A. , M.A. in English; 

further graduate work in Western history. 
Newspaper and magazine writer in San Francisco 

since 1943, writing on local history and 

business and social life of the Bay Area. 
Book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle, 

Co-author of Winemaking in California, a 

history, 1982. 
An interviewer-editor in the Regional Oral 

History Office since 1965. 

1 356 47'