Hill Family Estate
Napa Valley AVA
A household name and a force to be reckoned with
The word ‘family’ in a winery name can have different connotations. Some utilize the name for marketing purposes and some to denote tradition regarding the winery.
At Hill Family Estate, the term ‘family’ means that all aspects of the word are meticulously formed and integrated into the daily routine of the business.
“We are actually a fourth-generation of the Hill Family,” pointed out Ryan Hill, one of the owners and the director of sales for the winery. “My great-grandfather grew apricots around San Jose and my grandfather grew prunes and apples. My dad, Doug, has grown exceptional grapes for almost four decades and my sister Carly and I are the fourth generation in the agribusiness.”
Doug Hill started everything, wine wise, back in 1977 when he acquired his first vineyards. Since then, eleven different vineyard locations have been added to the Hill Family Estate portfolio, mostly in Napa Valley and its environs. For nearly four decades, the fruit was sold to the likes of Far Niente Winery, Silver Oak Cellars, Duckhorn Vineyards, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Caymus Vineyards, Cakebread Cellars and a host of other winery luminaries. His grapes were considered among the finest grown in the prestigious Napa Valley. Hill Family Estate’s vineyards now surpass more than 100 acres and enjoy numerous significant sub-appellations within Napa Valley.
Sometime after the turn of the century, Ryan and Carly Hill approached their father with an adventuresome idea. “Carly and I realized we were not farmers like our parents,” Ryan Hill explained. “Dad never wanted to be a vintner, but we kids both enjoyed the aspect of having our own winery with our family name on it. Our family had sold our marvelous fruit to the greatest Napa wineries and we knew we could do well if given the opportunity.”
Parents Doug and Darci Hill endorsed their children’s aspirations and in 2001, the first fruit that would become Hill Family Estate was processed. A total of around 980 cases were produced and released in 2004.
The new winery was immediately acclaimed and vaulted into national prominence. Awards and industry plaudits accumulated in little time. The winery was well on its way to realization.
Today’s Hill Family Estate produces some 10,000 cases annually.
What’s left to do? Any goals for the winery?
“We are just beginning,” Ryan Hill stated proudly. “We have a number of goals ahead of us. First and foremost, we need to prepare our venture for the next Hill generation. My children are son, Landon, and daughter, Charlotte. We intend for this to last for future generations, just as our forbearers did for us.”
“We intend to acquire more vineyard rights and I definitely feel that we need to make our wines more worldly.”
Worldly? “Yes, worldly. We would like to see Hill Family Estate become a household name and a force to be reckoned with in the wine industry. This is like the first inning of a long baseball game. We have been very prudent with our earnings and whenever something interesting (vineyard-wise) comes around, we intend to act. You can never have too much great fruit and great fruit comes from great vineyards. We also hope for added exposure in our nation’s top restaurants and additional high quality restaurants abroad.”
Hill also feels that his family has played it straight in the wine business. “We haven’t burned any bridges and we are extremely hard-working people. We hope that our customers fall in love with our family and respect our family’s dedication to our wines.”
Hill Family Estate has opened a tasting facility in downtown Yountville, directly down from the famous French Laundry Restaurant of Chef Thomas Keller. Ryan Hill was formerly a sommelier at Keller’s Bouchon Restaurant, a classical French bistro also located in Yountville.
“I saw the other side of the wine business and like what I saw,” Hill added. “It gave me and my sister the courage to approach our parents about starting Hill Family Estate. I had been working in the vineyards since I was seven, but I found that meeting people and working with people suited me better. I am thankful my parents saw fit to trust us with the winery operation.”
Hill Family Estate is already solidly ensconced among Napa Valley’s elite wineries, and seems destined for even greater honors and acclaims. If drive and determination are deciding factors, Ryan Hill and Hill Family Estate don’t seem to have too far to go.
Map of the area
Alison Doran - Winemaker
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
It brings me great pleasure to share my family’s 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon with all of you!
My family has been making wine since 2001, but our lineage as California farmer’s dates back to the early 1900’s when my Great Grandparents farmed apricots in the San Jose/Cupertino area, now known as Silicon Valley. My Father, who grows all of the grapes that we use to produce our wines, grew up on a small farmstead along the Russian River in Healdsburg. They farmed apples and prunes, raised livestock and had a garden where 80% of what they consumed as a family came from the land they tended. They even shared a cow with the neighbor, where the neighbor milked the cow in the morning, and my Dad’s family milked the cow in the evening. Usually my Grandfather milked the cow and my Dad and his two brothers would hunt and fish along the river while my Grandmother did chores around the house.
My Dad loved his upbringing, and had an extremely close bond with Mother Nature. He moved to the Napa Valley in 1977 and began managing and developing vineyard sites. By the late 1980’s he was managing roughly 1,000 acres of grapevines in the Napa Valley, and selling fruit to over 40 different wineries. Without Dad’s vast knowledge of viticulture and passion, the Hill Family Estate would not exist.
Dad’s love for farming rubbed off on my sister and I at a young age, as we helped him with tasks in the vineyard during our childhood. We too, had an education derived from nature and wanted to be part of a family business. We started making wine in 2001, and currently craft 15 different wines that equate to 8,000 cases.
The 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon that you’re receiving is a special wine from a challenging vintage. Dad had to work his tail off to make sure the grapes received enough sunlight during harvest to increase the sugars in what was an extremely cool growing season. Our reward is a wine that opens nicely with elegant oak, hints of blackberry, cedar and a black cherry aroma that builds steadily. The grapes come from our Briarstone vineyard that sits 1,000 feet above the valley floor on the eastern side of the Napa Valley.
On behalf of my family, thank you for giving us the opportunity to have our wine compliment your next dinner or social gathering. We welcome you to visit us at our little operation in Yountville on your next visit to the Napa Valley, and wish you continued health and happiness!
Enjoy your day. All my best,