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Napa Valley’s historic Burgess Cellars sold to Heitz owner

A new chapter has started at one of Napa Valley’s pioneering wineries, after it was purchased by the Lawrence family and Carlton McCoy Jr, owner and CEO of Heitz Cellar respectively.

Burgess cellars, lying on vineyard land dating back to the 19th century and founded by Tom Burgess as part of Napa Valley’s ‘class of 1972’, has been sold to businessman Gaylon Lawrence Jr and his family, as well as Heitz Cellar CEO Carlton McCoy Jr.

Financial details were not disclosed, although it is the latest of several acquisitions since the Lawrence family bought Heitz in 2018.

Burgess lies on Howell Mountain and has a long-standing reputation for producing top Cabernet Sauvignon wines from its 11-hectare vineyard (27 acres), which includes 30-year-old vines.

‘The very first bottle of aged Napa Valley wine that I experienced was a 1984 Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from this estate,’ said McCoy Jr, who is also a master sommelier (MS).

‘With the purchase of this estate, we are inheriting 140 years of viticultural history and reviving the classic, elegant and balanced wines that attracted us to Napa Valley.’

The new owners have appointed Meghan Zobeck as winemaker at Burgess, and said they were impressed with Zobeck’s range of winemaking experience – from working in Bordeaux with Michel Rolland to the cellars of Screaming Eagle and, most recently, as winemaker and partner at natural wine project Inconnu.

McCoy said of Zobeck, ‘She has a deep understanding of how to produce the highest pedigree of wines as naturally as possible.

‘It is this enthusiasm for limited intervention natural winemaking and regenerative farming that interested me the most, as these are the philosophies that all of our estates will adopt. We look forward to Meghan leading the rebirth of these traditional techniques in the Napa Valley.’

Zobeck added, ‘I hope to honour this place and its history through the lens of my different experiences as we work to create something new.’

Before US Airforce pilot Tom Burgess founded his namesake winery in 1972, the property was under the Souverain banner, the winery founded by Lee Stewart in 1943.

Some of Napa Valley’s leading winemakers spent time at Souverain, including Mike Grgich – of Grgich Hills Estate – and Warren Winiarski, who went on to triumph in the Judgement of Paris with Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.

For the past 20 years, Burgess has been run by the second generation, brothers Steven and Jim Burgess, with winemaker Kelly Woods at the estate since 2013.

The brothers said they looked forward to the winery’s continued success.

Since buying Heitz in 2018, itself a landmark deal, the Lawrence family has also purchased Haynes Vineyard, the small-batch Pinot Noir and Chardonnay specialist in Coombsville, plus the Wildwood vineyard in Rutherford.

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