AWG Correspondent

Elizabeth Smith

William Harrison Photos

William Harrison Review

Regions: Napa Valley AVA, Rutherford AVA, California

Reviewed: September 11, 2016 by Elizabeth Smith
Published: February 8, 2017

During my second visit to the Napa Valley in August 2009, I visited William Harrison Winery. My memories of that visit are of the bear in the tasting room, the friendliness of the staff, and their Rutherford Red blend. I am happy to share that very little has changed in seven years.

With a name like William (Bill) Moore Harrison, you would not immediately know that Harrison is of Italian descent. His grandfather, Antonio Perelli-Minetti, left Italy in 1902 and became a renowned winemaker in California’s emerging wine business in the early twentieth century. Bill’s mother was Antonio’s daughter, Conchita Perelli-Minetti. Bill followed in the family footsteps, purchasing the land that is today’s William Harrison Winery.

The winery building, reminiscent of a mountain lodge, was constructed in 1985. It houses everything – tasting area, offices, and wine production – the latter of which you can see through a glass window in the tasting room. The vineyard acreage is small, only nine acres, but here you will find some of the Rutherford AVA’s best soils for winegrowing. In 1993, Bill Harrison made the first vintage of wines under the William Harrison brand.

On our way to William Harrison, I had briefed my friend about what I remembered from my original experience. I said to him, “This winery is very casual and very friendly, like nothing has changed from when it originally opened.” When we parked our cars and entered, it was like stepping back in time, not only six years ago, but to the Napa Valley’s renaissance in the latter years of the twentieth century. Even the bear was still there, so of course, we played like typical tourists and took our photos with it.

Our tasting host was Megan, herself a wine industry veteran of 23+ years, who recently landed at William Harrison after working at one of the Napa Valley’s large, ‘corporate’ wineries. We immediately sensed how happy she was to be working for a small, family winery, and that happiness permeated every aspect of our experience.

For a fee of $25, waived with purchase, we had the opportunity to taste six wines: the 2015 Estate Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon ($28; 100 cases), the 2014 Chardonnay, Sangiacomo Family Vineyards, Carneros ($38; 360 cases), the 2013 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast ($38; 150 cases), the 2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($55, 566 cases), 2012 Estate Cabernet Franc ($65, 429 cases), and the 2012 Estate Rutherford Red ($85, 334 cases). As it was in 2009, the Rutherford Red is still my favorite. Aged in only 40% new French oak, this proprietary blend of 93% cabernet sauvignon, 2% merlot , and 5% petit verdot hits that sweet spot of Rutherford dust tannins, floral aromatics, and a delicious palate of dark berry fruits and cocoa. Another showstopper is the Estate Cabernet Franc, crafted of 100% cabernet franc. It is quite earthy, with succulent flavors of black cherry and peppery spice.

As fantastic as the wines may be, a tasting experience is only as good as the host and the ambiance he or she creates. On this day, it was Megan’s time to shine. Her down-to-earth, lively, and joyous personality, made better only by her knowledge and experience, captured the essence of what I believe William Harrison Winery to be: an inviting, unintimidating, unpretentious, and fun place to truly enjoy first-rate wines. It’s a comfy home away from home far away from the glitz and glamour of today’s modern Napa Valley.

Address & Contact Information: 1443 Silverado Trail S. St. Helena, California 94574. Telephone: 707-963-8310, email:, website: Tasting Hours: Wed-Sun 11:00-5:00.

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