Saturday, April 6, 2024

H3 - Hill Family and Hawk & Horse Cabernets for Final Four

 H3 - Hill Family and Hawk & Horse Cabernets for Final Four Watch Pizza Dinner

We were invited to son Alec and Vivianna's to watch our Big-Ten candidate Purdue, and Vivianna's UConn play in the Final Four semi-finals. They ordered in pizza and Alec pulled from his cellar two Big Red Cabernets. 

Hawk & Horse Lake County Red Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Hawk and Horse Vineyards was establish by David Boies after searching across California’s North Coast wine growing regions for a ideal property he believed would support a world-class vineyard. In 1982, after exhaustive searching, he purchased the historic El Roble Grande Ranch in Lower Lake, California, in Lake County, north and east of renowned Napa Valley/County, a rather run-down abandoned horse breeding ranch situated on 900 acres of wilderness.

There he found ideal terroir, all the elements for producing fine wine - situated at elevations of between 1,800 to 2,200 feet, the mountain vineyard is composed of rich red rocky volcanic soils studded with “Lake County Diamonds.", ideal growing conditions and sources of fresh water.

We visited and toured the area during one of our Napa Valley Lake County Wine excursions back in the early nineties. We visited the Guenoc Winery and Vineyards, which became the Langtry Farms Vineyard & Winery as part of that visit which predated opening of this estate and winery, and long before we were blogging and chronicling our experiences. 

In 1999,  Mitch and Tracey Boies took over the ranch and began to plan the vineyard, planting vines in 2001. The first release in 2004 earned an International Gold Medal. 

Hawk and Horse Vineyards was developed maintaining the rustic elegance of Lake County horse country and the historic El Roble Grande Ranch. The tasting room is the former horse trainer’s residence complete with tack room with antique saddles and tack from the property’s storied past. There remains horse pastures that still house a handful of American Saddlebred and American Quarter Horses that the family uses to ride the fence line and for play at amateur rodeo events. Some of the pasture lands are also home to Scottish Highlander Cattle which contribute to the biodynamic farming used in the growing of Hawk and Horse Vineyards wine.

The vineyard is also home to a large number of Red-Tail Hawks - hence the name Hawk and Horse Vineyards.

Today, eighteen acres of vineyard sits at an elevation of 1800 to 2200’ in the Lake County Red Hills AVA - American Viticulture Area. 

The growing season is marked by warm, bright, sunny days and cool evenings. Fed by on-site artisan spring water and pristine clean air, the microclimate of Hawk and Horse Vineyards possesses natural growing conditions perfectly suited to producing Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varietals of distinction. 

Hawk & Horse Lake County Red Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Winemaker notes - On the nose rich notes of blackberries cassis, moist forest floor, bit of suede notes and tarragon.

Dark ruby/garnet colored, full bodied, tightly structured, complex concentrated black berry fruits laced with notes of anise, spice, hints of toasted oak with moderate tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 91 points. 

Earthy flavors, eucalyptus, a hint of cassis. Good acidity, well-integrated tannins.

Hill Family Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Alec then opened one of their favorite producer’s labels, from a collection acquired as part of their wine club allocation shipments. Ironically, producer Doug Hill called Alec just yesterday to wish him happy birthday, and to thank him for being a loyal wine club member. 

Not ironically, a year ago we were with Alec and Vivianna under similar circumstances, watching the NCAA Tournament pairing show when Alec opened this same label, from the previous vintage. I wrote about Hill Family and their portfolio of Napa Valley Cabernets in a blogpost at that time, replayed here below.

From Sunday, March 13, 2022

Hill Family Estate Napa Cabernet 2018

 Hill Family Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

We were invited over to son Alec and Vivianna's new home to watch March Madness, the Big Ten Basketball tournament as a lead up to the NCAA selection show.

As newlyweds, 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 acquired it as part of their wine club allocation. 

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 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. 
Hill Family Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 

2018 label
I believe I liked this label release as well as the best of all those selections, meeting the same rating of their most expensive premium label selection with a similar tasting profile and experience. 
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.

The winemakers's notes for this release: "The 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has aromas of black currant, black cherry, violets, vanilla and pie spice. The palate is rich, with flavors of blackberry, hazelnut, raspberry and mocha. This wine has tremendous viscosity for being so young and has a lot of room to grow and integrate all the flavors."

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.

Similar and consistent with that release, but the 2019 release was extraordinary with a dramatic bright vibrancy with a full round forward layer of sweetness akin to jelly bean candy or cotton candy! 

Winemaker Notes - The 2019 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has beautiful aromas of rich mocha and blackberry with violets and vanilla. The palate is ripe and smooth, with blackberry, and black cherry flavors and a rich oak spice backbone and a broad lush texture. This wine has tremendous viscosity for being so young and has a lot of room to grow and integrate all the flavors.

This release of a blend of Bordeaux varietals - 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, 1% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc.

This was extraordinary with bright notes of sweetness yet dry at the same time - dark ruby/garnet colored, full bodied with bright vibrant sweet black berry and black cherry fruit flavors with sprites of spice, sweet cotton candy, violets, oak and vanilla with a tangy tongue puckering lingering tannins on the finish.

RM 93 points.