Hello there! I’m Claire Hill. I’ve been making wine for the past 8 years and under my own name since 2017. I make only about 300 cases per year from carefully choosen sites around Northern California that have older vines and the ability to maintain acid without underripe flavors. All of my wines are made with neutral French oak, native yeast, and careful attention to pH.
After working at Rhys, Mount Eden, and Unti in California, I moved to the Rhône for a year to work with Éric Texier in his vineyards and learn traditional Syrah winemaking and growing practices. From there, I returned to California to start making my own wines and worked for a wine import company (Farm Wine Imports) where I had the extraordinary opportunity to visit and speak with winemakers I admire in France, Spain, Italy, and here in California (Jean-Louis Chave, Elisabetta Foradori, Alice and Olivier De Moor, and other greats).
****I have three wines currently available, all of which are discounted by 20% for Newbie Palooza using the code NEWBIE. Shipping is free on case orders.
Branciforte Vineyard Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains 2019
Discounted from $38 to $30.40
Though many people are drawn to Rhys for their Pinots, I fell in love with their Chardonnay, which is how I ended up working 2015 harvest there. This wine comes from a very small plot in Scotts Valley surrounded by redwood forest, adjacent to Branciforte Creek.
TA: 5.3 g/L
Brix at harvest: 22.7°
Harvest date: September 28th, 2019
Sulfites: 53ppm total SO2
The grapes were picked just before sunrise to keep the fruit cold. Whole cluster pressed and transferred to stainless steel for debourbage and browning, using the same approach we employed at Rhys (lifted from the traditional Burgundian practices that Roulot and others have embraced in an effort to turn back the tides on premox). The must went to barrel for fermentation the following day, in 4th and 5th use Taransaud barrels.
You’ll notice a bit of fine lees sediment in the bottom of the bottle – a few months before bottling, I still had 2.1 g/L of RS in the wine, and so I did some battonage to encourage the yeasts to get below 1 g/L RS (making the wine dry and stable without sterile filtration). As a result my final racking before bottling didn’t quite leave behind the very fine lees which have a clumping tendency.
Branciforte Vineyard, Scotts Valley, California
Like many Santa Cruz Mountains vineyards, Branciforte is attached to a private residence. Many premium growing sites in the Santa Cruz Mountains are also highly desirable real estate, and so there’s a bit of an ecosystem where those who want bucolic landscaping partner with those who want to make beautiful wines. Because the sites are so difficult to farm, and there’s so much disease pressure in these liminal growing sites, the cost of farming just covers the cost of the grapes which sit upon millions of dollars worth of land per barrel.
This very small vineyard gave 0.881 tons in 2019. It is farmed according to organic principles, though is not certified. It is sprayed with a range of organic treatments including Sonata, Serenade, Stylet oil and sulfur.
This vineyard is so special because it is nestled in an incredibly diverse coastal forest among cedar, pine, Doug fir, bay laurel, and Coast redwoods. For a neutral grape varietal like Chardonnay that tells one more about where it was grown than the varietal itself, this is a very special site. The vines are 12 year old Dijon clone 96, the most common Chardonnay clone found in Oregon as it does well with cool climates.
For each of my wines, I paint a branch in gouache and watercolor that ties in some way to the wine. The redwood branchlet is a nod to the vineyard’s site among the coastal redwoods.
Del Barba Vineyard Mourvèdre, Contra Costa 2019
Discounted from $28 to $22.40
This is a lighter style of California Mourvèdre - between the earlier pick and ability for old vines to retain acid, this 12% alc wine manages to be fresh and lithe without any greenness. The vines are ancient trees planted in the 1880s.
TA: 5.8 g/L
Brix at harvest: 20.1°
Harvest date: August 23rd, 2019
Sulfites: 21ppm total SO2
The grapes are mostly destemmed (90%) and uncrushed. The grapes see gentle punchdowns throughout their 14 day maceration with about 3 pumpovers at peak yeast activity. After pressing, the wine settles in tank overnight before being racking to used French oak barrels, where the wine rests for 11 months on fine lees. A small amount of sulfur is added before bottling the wine unfined and unfiltered.
Del Barba Vineyard, Oakley, California
The Del Barba family has been farming in Contra Costa for the past 6 generations. These Mourvèdre vines are head trained and were planted at the turn of the last century on their own roots in Dehli blow sand. I find that all of the wines from this vineyard have the bright yet soft red fruit one expects from sand and a beguiling garrigue note that speaks to the complexity that comes from vine age.
North Ponderosa Vineyard Zinfandel, North Yuba, Sierra Foothills 2019
Discounted from $29 to $23.30
I sought out this vineyard after having the good fortune to be nearby when someone opened an old Renaissance bottling at a wine dinner. Despite the higher (though Zin appropriate) alcohol level of 14%, this wine has screaming acidity that makes it a fantastic pair to wintry dishes like Bolognese.
TA: 7.8 g/L
Brix at harvest: 23.1°
Harvest date: September 10th, 2019
Sulfites: 15 ppm total SO2
The grapes saw a long, cool fermentation (2 weeks’ maceration, temperature never above 75°F) to prevent extracting anything harsh and bitter. The grapes were pressed off while the must was still a bit sweet (at 4.3 brix), finished primary fermentation in stainless steel over the following few days, and then was barreled down to used French oak where it overvintaged for 18 months to soften and develop.
With the very low pH at this site (3.03pH), no sulfur was added until just before bottling (15ppm). Due to the extremely low pH, this wine (much like some German Spätburgunders or Emilia-Romagnan Barberas) did not finish ML, and was bottled with a small amount of malic acid (<1g/L). To ensure stability, I filtered at bottling.
North Ponderosa Vineyard, North Yuba, California
North Ponderosa Vineyard is an organically farmed vineyard located in North Yuba County, near Grass Valley. I was thrilled to work with this site as it has incredible natural acidity and excellent farming. This bottling comes from a block of 23 year old vines of Dupratt clone Zinfandel grown on iron-rich decomposed granite soils of the Sierra Nevadas.
Beyond the vineyard being farmed organically, the mowing and weeding is done by some extremely cute Baby Doll sheep whose short little legs prevent them from reaching the grapes. Unlike a tractor passing through to mow weeds between and under the vines, the sheep don’t compact the carefully cared for vineyard soils as they munch cover crops and fertilize the vineyard. Unlike goats who rip out vegetation, sheep nibble at plants and leave the roots intact. Compost is made at the vineyard each year to enrich the poor mountain soils.
Excellent with pizza dusted with red pepper flakes, cured meats, and bistro style fare, this wine hearkens to some of my favorite Barbera blends from Emilia-Romagna. In all of my wines, I aim for delicate, perfumed aromatics and structure. Here, notes of ripe pomegranate and red currant and ripe pomegranate balance with grapefruit oil and fresh thyme.
Use discount code NEWBIE for 20% off. Free UPS Ground shipping on cases applies automatically at checkout.