Bella Oaks Vineyard is a prestigious sliver of 18 lush acres in the heart of the distinguished Rutherford growing district.
Positioned on the west side of the valley where the soil is wonderfully rich and well-drained, the vines revel in the sun's rays all day long resulting in plump berries that ripen a bit earlier in the season.
In the early 1970s, Barney and Belle Rhodes purchased the property that would later achieve eminence as Bella Oaks Vineyard. "We already had some winegrowing experience, but we were still gathering knowledge. A highly respected professor from UC Davis came out to analyze our soil, and he told us that it was just made to order for Cabernet." - Belle Rhodes
Barney and Belle had already established a greatly valued relationship with the Heitz family, so it was an easy extension to place their first harvest of 1976 in the masterful hands of Joe Heitz. He crafted a Cabernet universally recognized for its elegance and silky finish, and it remains one of the highly sought after wines at Heitz Cellars today.
The couple met and married when both were pursuing medical careers in the Navy. While living in the Bay Area, they began to make side trips to the Napa Valley and gradually shifted their focus to winegrowing and a zealous pursuit of culinary excellence.
Initially, Barney and Belle taught themselves about agriculture by reading books. They later expanded their knowledge by extending hospitality to enology professors from UC Davis, which also contributed to their reputation as hosts with an unparalleled table and cellar. Belle was an excellent chef who bequeathed her cookbook collection — one of the largest in the nation — to the Napa Valley College.
Barney and Belle have been firmly ensconced in the archives of Napa Valley winegrowing since the 1950s. In fact, there is a miniature vineyard nestled behind the St. Helena Public Library known as "Barney's Backyard". It honors Barney as a founder and first president of the Napa Valley Wine Library Association.
The two traveled the world together, opening up international markets and promoting the Napa Valley appellation. During their lives, Barney and Belle were pioneers and esteemed champions of the food and wine culture in the Napa Valley.