Laely Heron's unconventional upbringing in Africa, Asia, Europe and the US may explain the wanderlust that has led to her passion for international wine and winemaking. She began at the Institute of Enology in Bordeaux, and worked in the United States, Australia and Scandinavia before starting Heron Wines 10 years ago. Today she makes wines in France, Spain and the United States.
Point to any spot on the globe and odds are Laely Heron has been there. At last count, she has resided in or visited six of the seven continents (Antarctica will have to wait) and all 50 states. In addition to English, Laely speaks fluent French and Danish and can order dinner, drinks and a cab in Swedish, Norwegian, Spanish and Italian.
By the age of 10, Laely had already lived in 12 states. Her father was a mining engineer and adventurer so when a business opportunity arose in Algeria, the family moved to Africa. After a couple of years in North Africa, Laely's family hit the road, traveling first throughout southern Africa in a Volkswagen bus and later backpacking their way through Madagascar, Mauritius, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Eventually, the family returned to the States so Laely and her sister could attend high school.
After two years at the University of Colorado, wanderlust called Laely back to Europe to spend her junior year in France. Her passion for wine led to a pivotal event in her life: enrolling at the Institute of Enology in Bordeaux. Many years later Laely would be inducted into the Jurade de St. Emilion in recognition of her accomplishments in the wine world and her long relationship with the region.
After university, Laely moved to San Francisco and became the first American employee of the Australian giant Lindeman’s. Two years later, Laely moved back to Europe - Denmark specifically - where she eventually started an import company, opened a restaurant, taught wine classes and began studies to become a Master of Wine.
Laely moved back to San Francisco and launched Heron Wines in 1995. At the time it was rare to see a woman owning a business in an industry traditionally dominated by men. Her first release, a Merlot from St. Chinian in southern France, debuted in the U.S. in 1995. Her portfolio soon expanded to include California Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah as well as a six- grape blend from the Terra Alta region of Spain’s Catalonia. Over the next decade, Heron would become a “cult wine” among master sommeliers and chefs, a favorite “by the glass” pour in the nation’s top restaurants and a consistent “Best Buy” in the wine press.
Heron’s philosophy and wines are direct reflections of Laely’s spirit – pioneering, adventurous, daring, smart, adaptable, thrill seeking, irreverent, non-traditional and international.