Friday, November 2, 2012

Hill Wine Company – A New Kid on the Block in St. Helena, California

After visiting Paoletti Estates Winery last weekend I didn’t have any other specific wineries in mind to visit so I just headed south on the Silverado Trail. Along the way I noticed that the sign for Kent Rasmussen Winery in St. Helena had changed to “Hill Wine Company.” I had driven by Rasmussen numerous times but they were never open for tasting as it was the home of the owner as well as his wine making facilities. Apparently, Kent Rasmussen Winery has relocated to Carneros and sold the property to Jim Hill. Then about five months ago the converted home was opened as a show place host tastings of Jim Hill’s wines.

Jeff Hill specializes in sustainable, organic, and biodynamic farming. As the proprietor Jeff Hill Vineyard Group, he owns and manages many high-end vineyards in Napa and Sonoma counties. Jeff and his wife Rebecca formed Hill Wine Company in 2008. In addition to only uses Napa Valley fruit that is grown sustainably or organically they also use recycled glass, paper labels, boxes, and corks from organically certified forests. By doing this, they are not only providing their clients with the fine wines they also help preserve the environment. 

Jeff and Rebecca also have a special place in their heart for animals. Their wine label features a silhouette of their Black Lab that they donate a percentage of every bottle to the ASPCA to help their efforts to find homes and care for all animals. Hill Wine Company is also a proud member of 1% for the planet in which 1% of the total revenue will be donated to environmental causes.

While visiting I tasted the following wines:

The first sample of wine was the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc. This wine has pronounced aromas of white grapefruit, a hint of herbs, and a waft of jalapeno. On the palate it is very crisp and has a lingering finish. This is an excellent Sauvignon Blanc and for  $18 I picked one up to help replenish my depleted collection of  Sauvignon Blancs which I enjoyed over the summer.

My second pour was the 2010 Chardonnay. This wine is neither your austere stainless steel styled Chard nor is it an oaky butterball. If you like Chardonnays that are somewhere between these two extremes, then you will probably enjoy this value-priced wine. On the nose I picked up some mild tropical notes followed by apples and a hint of vanilla. On the palate it is well balanced, medium bodied with medium acidity. This wine is reasonably priced at $20 a bottle.  

The third wine was the 2010 Carneros Pinot Noir. This wine was not on the menu and it is not listed on the web site. In fact, it didn’t even have a label on the bottle and I have no idea what it cost. I am guessing it is a soon-to-be-released wine. The overall profile of the wine reflects the terroir of Carneros – it has subtle aromas of plums, dark cherries, cinnamon stick and an underlying fruitiness of strawberry jam. On the palate it is light-medium bodied, has medium (+) acidity and a medium length finish. Comparable wines from Carneros sell for $35-$45 so it will be interesting to see what they sell it for when it is released.

The fourth wine in the line-up was the 2010 Merlot. Even though the tasting room has only been open for five months the 2009 vintage is sold out. If it was anything like the ’10 then it isn’t surprising. This wine has pronounced aromas of cherries, red currants, a hint of clover and black pepper. On the palate this wine is seductive with a mouth full of fruit, supple tannins, bright acidity and a prolonged finish. I’ve tasted many like it in the $35-$45 range and yet this one sells for only $20! I bought for bottles and undoubtedly this one will sell fast. So, if you are a Merlot fan, don’t hesitate to order this wine!

The final wine was the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. Following the previous wine, in comparison this one seems somewhat muted on the nose. I did, however, manage to pick up hints of black currants, blackberries and a touch of pepper. On the palate it is well balanced in tannins and acidity with a medium length finish. It has no big “wow” factor but there are very few Napa Cabs of this quality for $25 on the market so this one is a fair price.

To visit or for more information:

Hill Wine Company
1001 Silverado Trail
St. Helena, CA 94574
Phone: 1-707-942-0689