Wines & Vines

Joseph E. Heitz Dies At 81 – Brief Article

Joseph E. Heitz Dies At 81 – Brief Article – Obituary

Joseph E. Heitz, a pioneer winemaker in the Napa Valley, died Dec. 16.

Joe Heitz came to the premium wine industry in a somewhat roundabout way. Stationed in the Army Air Force near Fresno during World War II, he worked at an Italian Swiss Colony plant near Fresno. He later earned his masters degree at U.C., Davis and was the first professor of enology at Fresno State University.

He worked at Beaulieu Vineyard, among others, until 1961 when he purchased Leon Brendel’s “Only One” Grignolino vineyard south of St. Helena.

Known for his keen palate, Heitz was a master at blending. He is perhaps best known for his method of releasing his wines, particularly his range of Cabernets Sauvignon. He borrowed the French chateaux method of releasing only a portion–a “tranche” or slice–of a given Cabernet at once.

He probably was best-known for his Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, a singular wine reminiscent of mint/eucalyptus.

He was a past president of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture, the Napa Valley Vintners Association and as a past chairman of Wine institute.

Joseph Heitz is survived by his widow, two sons and a daughter. A memorial service was held Jan. 12 in St. Helena.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be made to either the St. Helena Public Library, Boys & Girls Club of St. Helena or the University of California Bodega Marine Laboratory.

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