The original winery owners were looking for a quiet place in the country. They had seriously thought about living in Tuscany until they discovered a beautiful 48-acre jewel high above the floor of the Napa Valley overlooking picturesque Lake Hennessey. They wanted lots of trees vines. This place had them both and they fell in love with the property the moment they saw it.
Even though the land they acquired in 1988 was planted with 17 acres of mature Cabernet and Chardonnay vines, they had no intention of becoming vintners. Prior owners of the property sold the fruit to neighboring wineries. They were happy with the arrangement. “Our friends in the Valley encouraged us to make our own wine,” they recall. “They already knew about the high quality of the grapes coming from our vineyards.”
Without much hesitation and with a great deal of help of their friends and neighbors, they made an experimental barrel of Cabernet and Chardonnay. The first Harrison Vineyards wines became a reality in 1989. As it turns out, all they needed was a little encouragement from the nest.
They were flying on their own.
How did Harrison Vineyards come to be? The Harrisons had the grapes, but lacked the facilities to make wine, so the first few vintages were produced by custom crushing at another winery. The first commercial wines – a 1989 Chardonnay and a 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon were released in 1990 and 1991, respectively. Both wines met with immediate critical success, receiving high marks from virtually all of the wine press. “Our neighbors stepped in once again to help by plugging us into the wine distribution circuit,” says one partner explaining how the popularity of the wine had grown quickly.
The Harrison Estate comprises five separate small vineyards. Two original blocks of Cabernet had been planted in the early 1970s. At that time, the vines were 27 years old and had originally been planted as Gamay grapes which were T-budded to Cabernet and Chardonnay. In 1989 the three and a half acres that wrap around the house were replanted with Cabernet (the grape of choice on Pritchard Hill). Most of the rootstock is the phylloxera resistant St. George. They have been more fortunate than many of their Napa Valley contemporaries. In 1997 a .75-acre spot behind the main house was cleared and planted with Cabernet Sauvignon. Because of the steep hillside there is little room for any further planting. We have now replanted a third of our 35 year old vineyard and will continue to replant the balance as these vines start to produce.