Sta. Rita Hills AVA located in central California has perfect weather for growing complex Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. This past weekend, we were treated to the most amazing vineyard tours at Clos Pepe Vineyards with Andrew Turner, Brand Manager, and Hilliard Bruce Vineyard with owner John Hilliard.
I was very fortunate to get an introduction to Clos Pepe and winemaker Wes Hagen through my friend Barb Gustafson who, with her husband Mat, owns Paul Mathew Vineyards in Sonoma County making very tasty Pinot.
The in-depth tour at Clos Pepe ended in Steve and Cathy’s kitchen with a tasting of their appealingly dry Mouvedre Rose, two phenomenal Chardonnays, a delicious Pinot Noir, a fruity Grenache/Syrah blend, a tasty Cabernet Sauvignon, and a wonderful Grappa paired with local cheeses, butter, and salumi. The Chardonnays and Pinot are made from Estate grapes, the other wines are joint projects with nearby vineyards. We said “good by” with a cooler full of gems to share with friends who will appreciate the wine, albeit without the enviable experience.
Leaving Clos Pepe, we ventured on to the picturesque property of the Hilliard Bruce Vineyard owned by husband and wife John Hilliard and Christine Bruce.
John met us at the gate and took us on a tour of his state-of-the-art, LEED-certified facility. Among the many features at this gravity-flow winery is an underground humidity controlled cellar with temperature-controlled sections, and a large demonstration kitchen. We drove to the top of the vineyard to check out the 1.9 million gallon reservoir and appreciate the struggle some of the vines have in up to 40-mph winds. We finished the vineyard tour with a tasting of John’s immensely flavorful Pinot Noir wines and Christine’s voluptuous Chardonnays in their living room that was modeled after the most amazing Italian villa and just steps from Christine’s stable of gorgeous Arabian horses.