Heimark Vineyard. This special place is hidden in a part of the valley that even the locals don’t know about. There are 14 acres of vineyards on the extremely rocky slopes at about 1,100 feet – at the top of the narrow, windy and steep Dutch Henry Canyon road, which is sometimes closed.

The property was purchased in 1997 by Craig and Libby Haymark as a retirement community (though they’re still not retired here two decades later) – their primary residence is in Palo Alto. Their three children, Jake, Eric and Julia, are also involved. Craig works in the banking and finance sector (previously for Swiss Bank). The origin is Norwegian, and Heimark refers to two Old Norse words: heið (heath) and mork (forest). Some of their relatives came to North America in the 1600s, especially those involved in whaling. What is now the Whaling Museum in Sag Harbor on Long Island was originally the home of one of their ancestors.

The land in this part of the valley was subdivided many years ago, including the 100-acre Heimark estate. Its territory includes rugged and rocky slopes, but also a more gentle slope. These flatter slopes were surprisingly not overgrown with trees like the surrounding steep slopes – the soils (and they are very rocky) are the result of an ancient landslide. The first vines were planted here in 1997 – under the supervision of Mary Hall Maher and Mike Wolfe. Mike and his team still oversee the management of the vineyards.

It was difficult to plant this vineyard because it was difficult to get the material on site (the road is now in much better condition). When the vineyard was built, part of the road was diverted to another part of their property. The vineyard is divided into 11 different blocks – about 13 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and a small portion of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Mike describes this vineyard as the least thirsty he works with in the Napa Valley – despite the slope and rocky soil, there is plenty of water, so they usually only need to irrigate once or twice during the growing season.

And for more than 15 years, the fruit was sold and the Heimarks made no wine. Tony Soter was one of the first customers, and over the years the grapes have been purchased by Arkenstone, Dakota Shy and Lale. In 2018, Arkenstone designated Haymark’s first vineyard. It was Mike Wolfe who explained to the Haymarks how to make their own wine from this vineyard, pointing out all the other top producers who have made excellent wines from this vineyard. And he introduced them to winemaker Françoise Peschon. 2016 was the first vintage to be bottled under the Heimark Vineyard name.

With a largely remote and wilderness setting, this area is frequented by a variety of wildlife, including black bears, wild turkeys, and deer on and off the range. Some rows up to the edge of the vineyard should be netted (to prevent birds from entering). In 2020, the Glass Fire burned down the forest and vegetation almost entirely around the vineyard – but remarkably, the vineyard itself did not burn down, although the flames came close to the edge.

Winery manager Mike was born and raised in New York City. Winemaking was not part of his formative years – he graduated from Alfred University with a degree in history. In 1972, he first moved to California, to Mendocino County, where he helped process pears, plums and grapes as a farmhand. He then oversaw the winery at Juliana Ranch in Pope Valley (one of Napa’s largest wineries) and in 1994 took over management of 500 acres for Beckstoffer Vineyards. In 1997, he went into business for himself and founded Michael Wolf Vineyard Services. One of his first clients was the former Vine Hill Ranch.

Today Mike controls approximately 500 acres in the Napa Valley and manages or operates the vineyards of BOND, Harlan Estate, Lewis Cellars, Meteor Vineyards, Scarecrow and Vineyard 29. He has also worked with some of the valley’s finest winemakers, including Celia Welch, Philip Melka, Bob Levy and Andy Erickson.

In 2015, Mike received the Grower of the Year award from the Napa Winegrowers Association.

Winemaker
The talented winemaker Françoise Peschon studied enology at the University of California, Davis, and then completed an internship at Château Haute Brion in Bordeaux, France. She has built a successful career of 30 years in Napa Valley helping to produce wine for other celebrities including Accendo Cellars, Cornell, Vine Hill Ranch and her own label with friend Lisa Drinkward, Drinkward Peschon.

She was already familiar with Haymark Vineyard during her time at Araujo Estate Wines (now Eisele Vineyard). And in 2019, she was named Winemaker of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Wine Selection
At the heart of Heimark production, each year is a unique expression of the site and the Cabernet Sauvignon. All the wines published so far have been made from 100% of one grape variety and each vintage has matured for about 20 months in French oak barrels. Of the first vintage, less than 250 cases were produced; subsequent vintages approached 500 cases.

The wines we’ve tasted in the past made by Françoise have always accepted the contributions of their respective locations, while embracing the ripeness of California – a plea for restraint and tangible balance.

Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 Heimark Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is medium to dark ruby in color; the aromas are refined, with cherry, boysenberry and subtle cedar notes. There is also a hint of dirt at the beginning before the fetus is revealed. The oak plays a supporting role in the bouquet. Provides shine in the mouth. The integration of all components, the balance of the wine and the tannin profile are remarkable features. The tannins are chalky, fine-grained and soft. If we were to make a visual comparison to the texture of this wine, it would resemble a hint of cobwebs. The tannins are well integrated – rolling lightly across the palate and lingering with a hint of dried tobacco leaf. A wine that deserves to be discovered.

The label is elegant and matches the elegance of the wine. Local artist (Marin County resident) Ido Yoshimoto works primarily in wood and created a wood grain texture for his label. The gold color represents the California Gold Rush – the 5 dots on the back label symbolize the 5 members of the Haymark family, and the small image of whale bones represents their whaling past.

Sag Harbor Whaling Museum
Tour and photography through spring 2022.

The wines are distributed very selectively, including in Switzerland and Great Britain. Their son Eric lives in London and decided it would be a good idea to offer their wine in certain parts of the UK market. And local wines can sometimes be found at ACME Fine Wines in St. Louis. Helena and at K.Laz in Yountville. For more information, to join the mailing list or to buy wine (3 bottles per wooden case), go to: www.heimarkvineyard.com.

 

frequently asked questions

How much does a small vineyard cost?

If you have the space and quality of land, you can even create a (very small) winery in your own backyard, saving completely on land costs. In this case, installing your vineyard can cost between $35,000 and $45,000 per acre.

Is a vineyard a good investment?

Investing in vineyards can be a dream come true for many, and over time can even yield a nice profit. … You will also discover a much simpler and less risky approach to investing in the rapidly growing fine wine market.

What is the profitability of the vineyard?

According to Hatch, most vineyards produce an average of three to five tons of quality fruit per acre. … The cost is about $7,000 per acre and the yield of the grapes is $8,000 per acre, so we make a profit every year, but it doesn’t cover the cost of the first plant (which).

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