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In 1961, Joe and Alice purchased their first vineyard, 8 acres just south of St. Helena.  Working out of the small winery attached to the parcel, they put in round-the-clock sweat equity to build their business.   

Heitz Wine Cellars rapidly established a reputation as home base for one of the Napa Valley's most innovative and brilliant winemakers, and the unassuming winery soon became a prestigious destination for wine connoisseurs.  In 1964, the Heitz family acquired a 160-acre vineyard property in Spring Valley, a small fold in the eastern hills of St. Helena.  Joe sharpened his focus on Cabernet, and the following year, he and Alice made a serendipitous connection with Tome and Martha May who owned a young vineyard in Oakville.  After a handshake deal firm enough to last decades and a single harvest of the May's remarkable Cabernet grapes, Joe and Tom agreed to reserve the fruit from the next harvest for a singular production.   

In 1966, Joe crafted the first Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon --- a wine so remarkable that the two families decided to add a vineyard designation to the Heitz Cellars' label, initiating that concept in the Napa Valley.