A brief history
Bill Harrison’s maternal ancestors have been making fine wine in Italy since the early 16th Century. His grandfather, Antonio Perelli-Minetti immigrated to California in 1902, and was one of the first winemakers in the State to hold a degree in viticulture and enology. He is widely considered one of the more prominent figures in California’s winemaking heritage. Antonio’s daughter, Conchita was born in Torreon, Mexico, where he established a 700-acre vineyard operation before the revolution forced him back to California. Conchita married Bill’s father just after the Depression, and her son now carries on the family’s tradition of crafting fine wine in the Napa Valley.
William Moore Harrison grew up at his grandfather’s winery in the San Joaquin Valley. After graduating with a Bachelors degree in marketing from Santa Clara University, he earned an MBA at UC Berkeley, then served for two years as an Armor Officer in the First Infantry Division. After the Army, Bill began working for his uncle Mario at the California Wine Association (CWA), a national marketing concern co-owned by his grandfather. When Antonio passed away in 1976, the family dissolved their interest in his eponymous winery and the CWA. A few years (and 40 lenders) later, he started a lucrative mobile bottling company, which gave him the resources to build his own winery. “Winemaking is part artistry, part science,” Bill says, and “as luck would have it, I found a unique vineyard location in the Napa Valley which produces very good fruit, and makes very good wines.” In 1993, he produced the first vintage under his own label, William Harrison Vineyards & Winery, and for nearly three decades has crafted classic wines that would make his forefathers proud.
Our estate vineyard is nestled against the eastern foothills of the Vaca Mountain range, in the northeast corner of the Rutherford AVA. According to the UC Davis Soil Resource Lab, its primary composition is the Cortina series of very gravelly, sandy loam consistent with our proximity to the Napa River. Due to its considerable depth, this soil is excessively well drained, which forces the vines to extend their roots in search of water. From 18 to 48 inches below the surface is a layer of “tufa”, white rock that was originally compressed ash cast out of the Vaca’s extinct volcanoes. Replanted in 1991 and 1997, Bill’s modest seven-acre vineyard grows all five of the Bordeaux red varieties. The yield is small, producing roughly 1800 cases of boutique wines annually, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and a Meritage-style blend called Rutherford Reserve.