You'll notice three kinds of grapes flourishing in the vineyards on Hunter Hill. Merlot was planted in 1992, two and a half acres of Syrah were planted in 2002. The south hillside was grafted to Pinot Noir in 2002 and we now bottle three wonderful Estate wines. A new acre of Zinfandel grapes, planted in the Spring of 2007, will add a new varietal to the estate line up in 2011.
Whether grown here on the property or in other parts of California Vann is dedicated to nurturing the quality of the fruit. He looks for small vineyards that take meticulous care of their grapes and builds relationships that last. He's likely to call the fellow who owns the vineyard really early in the morning to ask how the grapes look that day. And there is a method to his madness. By selecting growers who nurture their fruit and maintaining careful diligence from the crush to the bottle, Hunter Hill delivers consistent high quality with each varietal.
The 2006 Cabernet illustrates this approach. The grapes came from a vineyard in Saratoga so lovingly cared for it looked like a tended Japanese garden. Each individual bunch of grapes had been carefully pruned to hang comfortably in the sun to develop an ideal balance of acids and sugars. Those grapes produced Proprietor's Reserve, and wine you'll find Vann sipping at the end of a long day, when he is sitting at the winery enjoying the company of his grapes.
The Hunter Hill vineyard and winery are located on the old Manildi farm - the same property where Christine's maternal grandparents, Secondo and Sarah, raised apples, stone fruits, grapes and six children at the turn of the century. Back then, all of the fieldwork was done by hand, and every member of the crew had a bottle of Secondo's homemade wine at the midday meal and dinner.
In 1992, Christine and Vann decided to replace the old apple trees on one sunny hillside with Merlot grapes. The following year, a friend suggested (over a glass of wine, of course) that Vann make a barrel of wine in the basement. It turned out to be a very drinkable Merlot, and the next year found a barrel of Merlot and a barrel of Pinot Noir under the house.
Time has passed, but the land is still farmed as a family business. The six-acre property now produces ten to eighteen tons of Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Syrah grapes each year. Christine and Vann warmly welcome visitors to gather over a good bottle of wine and leave with lasting memories, just as the Manildis did more than a hundred years ago.