Hill Family Estate
When my wife Karen and I attended the Learn About Wine Rising Stars of California event several months ago, my favorite wine that day was the Hill Family Estate Syrah. So I knew when I was planning our Napa itinerary that the Hill Family tasting room in Yountville was a “must” visit.
When we arrived at the Hill Family tasting room, Tasting Room Ambassador Robin Williams ushered us into a side room where she had already set up some wines and several Riedel glasses to match up to the appropriate wines.
We tasted through several wines, and, while we were tasting, Robin told us about of the winery.
Doug Hill has managed vineyards in Napa Valley for over two decades. While Hill Family Estate owns 15 vineyards totaling 100 acres, Doug actually manages a total of 54 vineyards, which should tell you something about his expertise. [In fact, he is currently President of the Atlas Peak Growers Association.] And his expertise in the vineyard is matched by winemaker Alison Doran, whose family founded Simi Winery and was mentored by the great Andre Tchelistcheff (who I think of as the father of modern American winemaking).
Hill Family keeps about 20% of the wines they grow from their own vineyards, with 80% going to other quality wineries.
Production is fairly low, between 5,000 and 7,000 cases annually. In addition, they grow organic produce that finds its way onto the tables of the finest restaurants in the area, such as the French Laundry.
We tasted several wines that day with Robin…
2010 “Tiara” Sauvignon Blanc – 88% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Semillon
2009 Carly’s Cuvee Chardonnay
2009 Pinot Noir – Stewart Ranch
2008 “Beau Terre” Merlot – 80% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Syrah
2008 “Atlas Peak” Cabernet
2009 Syrah – Clarke Vineyard – 96% Syrah, 4% Viognier
2008 Origin – 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 2% Malbec, 2% Syrah, 2% Petit Verdot
My favorites of the above were the Atlas Peak Cabernet [complex and very long finish], that Syrah [again!] and the Origin, which is their proprietary blend.
Ordinarily, I don’t spend much time talking about pricing. Just not something I choose to write about. But, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at the prices at Hill.
All of the above wines, except the Atlas Peak Cab are under $50, most under $40. Great wines at reasonable prices! Not what I expected in Napa but what I was able to find during my carefully selected visits.
This brings me to the final wine we tasted that day – the 2007 “Double Barrel” Cabernet. At $150, I am not going to try to talk you into believing that this is an inexpensive wine. But, it sure was amazing. My note next to it was “Wow!” And if you buy three, they come in a wooden box that Ryan Hill (Vice President and Director of Sales for Hill Family Estate) shot up with a Double Barrel shotgun. Per Robin; “(Ryan) takes the boxes out to Stewart Ranch where we grow our Pinot Noir and shoots up the boxes with Ryan’s Grandfather’s antique 20-gauge double barrel side by side Shotgun”. Very limited release, only two barrels made, hence the double entendre of the name.
Michael Perlis provides outsourced controller services to businesses that do not need a full-time controller. He balances this with his interest in wine: reading and writing about it and, of course, drinking it. He is still trying to figure out how to combine these two pursuits.
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