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Parmelee-Hill Wines - Sonoma County


94 Points - Cellar Sellection - Gold Medal winner

It all started simply enough with a job offer from a friend and wound up a near perfect example of a successful boutique winery.

Back in 1978, Steve Hill was a recent graduate of Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo on California’s Central Coast. With a major in agricultural business, the new former student looked forward to a career in a friendly agricultural business. Where and what he would do were up in the air. When an old family friend named Ed Durrell bought some property in Sonoma County, Hill was asked if he would be interested in running the operation.

Durrell intended to convert the former 500-acre cattle ranch in Southwest Sonoma County into vineyard property, but there was a slight hitch. Hill, it seemed, knew practically nothing about planting and growing grapes. Durrell was confident Hill could learn on the job and a wonderful partnership ensued. For the next 31 years, Steve Hill managed the fortunes of Durrell Vineyards during its rise to greatness.

The vineyards flourished and their production was sold to existing wineries that soon began to vineyard-designate the grapes from the Durrell operation. In no time, the grapes were being considered among Sonoma’s finest, and were consistently rated among the top five in Sonoma County. In 1994, Steve Hill began acquiring some acreage in the vicinity of Durrell Vineyards with the plan in mind that he would also become a grower for other wineries. “All I wanted was to grow luxury grapes to sell to the better wineries,” he recalled. The thought of making our own wines wasn’t even a consideration.”

Today, the concentration of vineyards that Hill owns personally numbers about 70, with roughly half of that total under vine. Approximately 80% of the fruit is sold to the likes of Patz & Hall, Loring Winery, Ram’s Gate and a host of other small wineries under long term contracts.

So, just how did the Parmelee-Hill brand of wines finally develop? “My son Ned made the observation that a lot of wineries were using our name for their vineyard-designated wines with great success. We decided that we would make a small number of cases (65) from some of our fruit and the result was simply spectacular. The wines became an almost instant success and we decided to continue our production,” Hill added.

That was in 2003, and Parmelee-Hill Vineyards has continued to flourish. This year, just under 1,000 cases will be produced from the exceptional fruit that grows on the Sonoma county property.

“Whether we continue to grow will be up to the future generations,” declared Hill, now a youngish 66.

Was he surprised at the accolades Parmelee-Hill wines have gathered?

“No, we were not really surprised,” he continued. “With the property we had to work with, we sort of knew we could grow great grapes. We are extremely proud of our accomplishments, and the honors are just a part of that accomplishment.”

Hill also believes that the quality of his wines goes hand in hand with the fact that he only grows the highest quality grapes. “One feeds off the other,” he countered. “The fact that we raise superior fruit for others makes the same quality fruit available for our own wines. Without our winery customers, I doubt there would even be a Parmelee-Hill portfolio of wines.”

Hill’s wife of many years, the former Gwen Parmelee, lends her business talents to the operation along with her name. Gwen serves as the company’s bookkeeper, offers moral support and helps with wine tasting events.

If there is continued growth at Parmelee-Hill, such growth will be slow and steady. Steve Hill is deeply committed to quality and knows that growth can be a hindrance to a really top notch operation.

“We are satisfied with where we are,” he concluded. “My son Ned is in the vineyard management business and we are one of his clients. There are already four grandchildren to think about and who knows what will happen in the future. I intend to be around for some time and just let nature take its course.”

Wineries like Parmelee-Hill are the backbone of Northern California’s enduring wine industry. They offer insight into the owner’s personalities and present artisan wines that are hand produced to the finest standards. Without the tiny operations that are considered boutique, the industry would soon lapse into a number of large, high production facilities with little spirit and subsiding quality.

Thank Heaven for the likes of Parmelee-Hill Vineyards!


  1. Parmelee Hill
    2009 Syrah
    Parmelee Hill
    Block "B" Estate
    Napa Valley

    $33.00

    $37.00
    94 - Beverage Testing Inst
    id: 1304
    Special
    Platinum

Steve Hill and Ned Parmelee - Parmelee-Hill Wines

Dear Platinum Series Members,

It is with great pleasure that we present the 2009 Parmelee-Hill Estate Grown Block B Syrah from Sonoma Valley, California.

As our wines’ back label states: Steve Hill grew the world-renowned Durell Vineyard grapes for over 30 years. Since 1994, Steve and his son Ned have also been growing grapes on their family owned property. This handcrafted wine is a result of their total commitment to grape growing excellence.

I was, and still am, a grape grower who has also become a wine grower. Every step we take both in the vineyard and the winery is to insure the finest bottle of wine for your enjoyment.

These tasks include a balanced grapevine with just the right amount of fruit, water, light, and nutrition for maximum fruit flavor, then picked by hand at night for very early morning winery delivery when the grapes are cool. At the winery, they are hand cluster and berry sorted, keeping only the best, gently de-stemmed into small stainless steel tanks for a 2 day soak, then a slow 10 day primary fermentation with 4 hand punch downs per day, followed by pressing into French oak barrels for secondary fermentation for 16 months until bottling. Then 12 months of bottle age before sales release.

This is “Experienced Sonoma Valley Syrah.” Thank you for enjoying our wines.

Steve Hill

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