The new president of Heitz Cellars, the renowned Napa Valley estate bought by billionaire businessman Gaylon Lawrence Jr, has outlined some of his early priorities at the estate.
The sale of Heitz Cellars, announced last week, marks Gaylon Lawrence Jr’s first foray into wine, although his family has 75 years of experience in the agriculture industry.
Kathleen Heitz Myers, former CEO and President of Heitz, said the family unanimously decided it was time to move on.
‘We sold to the Lawrences because we believe in family businesses and you could see the passion and vision that they had for Heitz Cellars moving forward,’ she said.
Founded in 1961, Heitz is perhaps most well-known for its Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; Heitz began buying the vineyard’s grapes in 1965 and agreed to put the name on bottle labels from 1966. Ownership of Martha’s Vineyard itself was not part of the Lawrence deal, according to reports.
Robert Boyd, the wine industry veteran who has been appointed by Lawrence to usher in the new era of Heitz, said that the fact this was a family-to-family transaction means there won’t be any immediate or major changes to the Heitz brand.
‘It’s an iconic brand,’ said Boyd, now Heitz president. ‘I think everyone knows and values the wine style and production that’s taken place since day one. There’s nothing that needs to be fixed, nothing that needs drastic attention.’
He added, ‘Half of the people I meet say, “Hey good luck. Don’t mess up”.’
Boyd mentioned that they are looking into producing some new single vineyard Cabernets, but that he mainly he sees room for improvement in two key areas on the sales and marketing side of things, which will be his main focus in the short term.
‘The company doesn’t really have a big direct-to-consumer presence and I think our industry is moving more towards that, so we will look at that more closely,’ he said.
Part of that, he continued, may include expanding upon and elevating the winery’s current tasting and tours offerings, which are available without appointment.
Heitz is one of the last remaining wineries in Napa Valley to still offer complimentary tastings, and it was unclear whether or not that will eventually change.
Editing by Chris Mercer