Saturday, February 17, 2024

Gala Family Birthday Celebration features fun novelty namesake wine

Gala Family Birthday Celebration features fun novelty namesake label wine

Son Alec and D-in-law Vivianna hosted a gala family birthday celebration for grand-daughter Marylin's second birthday. 

Family and friends gathered for beef tenderloin, shrimp cocktail, a selection of artisan cheeses and charcuterie, dips, fresh fruit, salads, and, of course, birthday cake and ice cream.

Alec pulled from his wine cellar several white and red wines for the occasion. As is customary in what is becoming somewhat of a tradition, I pulled from our cellar a novelty namesake wine as well. 

Hill Family Estate Vineyards Napa Valley Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

We featured Hill Family Estate Vineyards in these pages in detail last March in this blogpost - Hill Family Estate Napa Cabernet 2018.
We wrote about how As newlyweds, son Alec and Vivianna visited Hill Family Estate during their forest fire shortened honeymoon in Napa a year ago September. They visited the new Hill Family Estate winery, located just minutes south of Yountville just off Ste Helena Highway 29, the western main artery of Napa Valley. They tasted this wine there and since then have acquired wines as part of their wine club allocations.

Doug Hill founded Hill Family estate vineyards 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 now covering more than 100 acres in numerous significant sub-appellations within Napa Valley.

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. Hill Family grapes were considered among the finest grown in the prestigious Napa Valley. 

Around the turn of the century, Ryan and Carly Hill approached their father with the vision to establish the family winery with the family name on it. Hill Family Estate was born in 2001 with the first fruit that would become Hill Family Estate wines. A total of around 980 cases were produced and released in 2004. The new brand was immediately acclaimed and gained national prominence with numerous Awards and industry plaudits. 

Hill Family Estate winemaker Alison Doran joined the team and crafted the inaugural 2001 vintage. Alison was introduced to  Doug while he was growing grapes and she was making wine for Lewis Cellars, another one of our benchmark favorite producers, and the other estate visit tasting the kids attended during their shortened honeymoon. Alison  developed her skill while being mentored by renowned wine expert Andre Tchelistcheff, completing a degree in winemaking at UC Davis and spending time in the legendary  wine region of Alsace, France. Today, Doug and  Alison work closely together selecting the highest quality  grapes and producing ultra premium wines

Today, the Hill Family owns 120 acres of vineyards  with properties on Atlas Peak, in Carneros, Oak Knoll and American Canyon. They are 100% family-farmed, family-owned and  family-operated.Production ranges between 9,000 to 12,000 cases  annually sourced from 12 different estate vineyards allowing them to select the  highest quality fruit for their wines.  

The Hill Family portfolio has grown to over twenty five different labels across the broad range of varietals, blends, and single vineyard designated offerings.  
Hill Family Estate opened a tasting facility in downtown Yountville, directly down from the famous French Laundry Restaurant of Chef Thomas Keller and Keller’s Bouchon Restaurant, a classical French bistro also located in Yountville where Ryan Hill was formerly a sommelier.  

We've had several Hill Family Estate wines with Alec and Vivianna and I believe this may have been the best label so far. 

We had another one of their special limited release premium labels available to Hill Family Diamond Club members that Alec acquired as part of Alec's club allocation during Father's Day Grilled Steak Wine Dinner last year. 

Winemaker notes - This release was blended from fruit from several Hill Family Napa Valley vineyard sources. The high elevation Baker Vineyard up on Atlas Peak at 1,200 ft. providing intense tannins and color, was blended with vineyards from the valley floor and cooler areas - Windy Flats on the western foothills in Wooden Valley, and Beau Terroir is in the Carneros foothills. Also included in the blend was fruit sourced from Beau Terre, Hansen, and Villagio vineyards on the valley floor. Added to the blend was some Malbec and Merlot to add complexity of aromas on the nose along with fruit and oak spice, and finally some Syrah to add density without astringency.

"Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon is accumulating a well-deserved reputation for intensity and finesse. At 1,500 ft. elevation, the Baker vineyard is a series of different volcanic soil types carved out of heavy chaparral in Foss Valley with a southwestern exposure, featuring several clones and rootstalks selected for their suitability to the thin, rocky soil. 2018 had nice rainfall and a long growing season, with bloom in early June, and veraison around August 14. The Cabernet Sauvignon had big color and big tannins and showed off the potential of the site and to create elegance and complexity. We did an optical sort and used F15 yeast, letting the fermentation reach 97 degrees at its highest point. Atlas Peak is not for everyone. It needs to settle down and evolve for a while in bottle to soften and broaden the structure. But for the collector who wants to see their investment pay off, this wine is ready to age and grow for a long time."

:The 2018 Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon aromas burst out, with many layers of cassis, mocha, sage and blackberry. Mountain tannins underlie the midpalate and persist to the end The palate is dense and focused, with mountain tannins and plenty of structure that will act as scaffolding for this wine to grow in the future."

Interesting that Atlas Peak has emerged as a favorite in another wine tasting of several labels from the same vintage release including this gala winemaker tasting event -
Some other wines from this sub-appellation -
I found this dark inky purple garnet colored, full bodied with bold, full round complex expressive ripe black berry, raspberry and black currant fruits with a layer of soft sweet mocha, with notes of spice, floral and hints of cassis on a lingering tongue puckering tangy acidity silky tannin laced finish. 

RM 93 points.

Gathering of clan McNees for
family birthday celebration

Nova Wines Napa Valley Marilyn Merlot 2011 

We then opened from our cellar a (almost) namesake wine for grand-daughter Marylin that we have fun with for these occasions. We featured Marilyn Merlot and their portfolio of wines in these pages in earlier blogposts including this one back in 2014 - Marilyn Merlot and Norma Jean Wines - A Study in Branding

The 2011 features a relaxed, playful image of Marilyn Monroe in a green, low-cut blouse, short black skirt and timeless fishnet stockings with black peep-toe pumps. Like the wine, a fashion that never goes out of style.

Winemaker’s Note: The 2011 vintage Marilyn Merlot is the 27th release of this fine wine. It is a straight Merlot this year . The wine was aged in 100% oak barrels, 35% of which were new for this vintage. Aromas of Ripe Strawberry and cherries, primarily thyme and lavender complement the oak components of vanilla and smoke from the wood. Moderate alcohol and good acidity make this wine a good pairing with fine foods. Vineyard loc ations for this wine are from our longtime growers in Yountville and Oakville regions of the Napa V alley. -- John McKay."

:With a resurgence of interest for our 25th/SILVER ANNIVERSARY in 2011, and the sexy Red Dress in 2012, people continue to talk about the quality and collectability of Marilyn Merlot,” says Donna Holder, an owner of Marilyn Wines, "but Marilyn wouldn't have just collected these wines, she would have drunk them." That’s because “the wine lives up to its reputation, plush, soft, and sultry" according to Leslie Sbrocco, author of "Wine for Women". And when they try it, reviewers admit to “surprise” at the high quality."

We have fun with these wines and find them okay for casual sipping on such occasions. 
At a dozen years of age, this was dark ruby colored, medium bodied and taking on some of the non-fruit characteristics of a Bordeaux varietal late in its tasting window with earthy woodiness and some smoke and leather setting in taking over from the brambly black berry notes.