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William Hill Estate
Three Decades of Uncompromised Artistry
William Hill is a Napa Valley pioneer who, in 1976, came across 200 acres of land for sale in the picturesque hills known as the Silverado Bench. As a renowned vineyard developer, who had sculpted vineyards for Sterling and Hess Estate, he recognized the remarkable quality of the rocky, volcanic soils and decided to put his name to this slice of heaven. Sixty of those William Hill Estate acres contain the contemporary winemaking house which is enveloped by 140 acres of vineyards.
Back in the 1990s, Ernest and Julio Gallo started fulfilling their dream of moving into the premium end of the wine market by putting the Gallo name to award-winning Sonoma Valley wines. Then the Gallo family's 2002 investment in the historic Louis M. Martini winery elevated its status and the quality of its wines and brought its Cabernet Sauvignons much recognition across the nation. They are now on track to do the same with William Hill Estate after falling in love with it for the same reasons as William Hill and buying it in September 2007.
William Hill Estate has produced rich, intense Napa Valley wines with a distinctive elegance since 1978, steadily building a reputation for exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. When winemaker Ralf Holdenried was invited to continue in this tradition of crafting William Hill Estate's wines in the summer 2007, it was an offer he couldn't refuse. Ralf says, "The William Hill Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are classically styled Napa Valley wines and our Napa Valley Reserve wines offer more intensity, bigger structure and bolder fruit character nicely wrapped in our signature elegant style." Ralf acknowledges that William Hill Estate has a history of making world-class wine from grapes grown in the prestigious Napa Valley. "This is a wonderful opportunity for me to carry on an exceptional winemaking tradition."
Ralf was born into a German wine family where he worked in his father's vineyard throughout his childhood and adolescence. Ralf studied winemaking and viticulture at the University of California at Davis. In 1997, Ralf worked his first California harvest at Franciscan Winery in Napa Valley, and shortly thereafter joined Ernest & Julio Gallo Winery's Sonoma County winemaking team. After returning to Davis to earn an MBA, Ralf joined the Louis M. Martini Winery winemaking team in Napa Valley as the winemaking director of Louis M. Martini's small lot wines.
"Everything I've done up to this point has prepared me for this winemaking role," Ralf says of his new assignment at William Hill Estate. "The winery and vineyards are just the right size for making fine wine. I can check on fermentation in one of our steel tanks, then walk through one door and I'm in the barrel cellar. My vineyards are literally right outside my door. This place was clearly designed by winemakers for winemakers."
Although he is connected to a 200-year old winemaking tradition, Ralf thinks of himself as a "modernist" winemaker. His European training and experience afforded Ralf a highly discreet palate, sensitive to the delicate, complex flavors of Germany's winegrowing regions. That said, Ralf now pursues "more classic, California style wines," that offer rich, full fruit character. Ralf adds, "These are wines that I enjoy with food or simply as 'drinks' with friends."
With a new home at William Hill Estate and over 140 acres of vineyard outside his office door, Ralf declares, "William Hill Estate provides me with everything I need to make great wines. I can't wait to add my personality to the blend. We are a match with a great future." Ralf is already making his mark with his development of a sweet Late Harvest Chardonnay and a Proprietary Blend of the classic red Bordeaux grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. These new William Hill Estate offerings will be released later this year.
William Hill Estate is open to the public for tours and tastings by prior appointment. The friendly and knowledgeable hosts, Kendall, Claire and Mike, enjoy guiding guests through tastings of the Napa Valley and Reserve wines and aim to create a relaxed atmosphere where people feel free to ask questions. Guests appreciate the personal service the appointment system allows away from the hustle and bustle of Highway 29. William Hill Estate's wine club, The Connoisseurs Club, guarantees members access to small lot, exclusive wines and special events such the popular August Lobster Feed held on the beautiful arbor overlooking the vineyards. The arbor is also an ideal setting for guests who buy a bottle of William Hill wine to drink with their picnic goodies from local delis Soda Canyon and Monticello'sâ€¦And for the magnificent sunsets, photo opportunities, marriage proposals and for people who just want to sit for a moment and appreciate the natural splendor of the Napa Valley at its finest.
William Hill Estate is located at 1761 Atlas Peak Road off the south end of the Silverado Trail in Napa. A tasting of all their Napa Valley and Reserve wines currently costs $15.
For more information or to make an appointment, call (707) 265-3024 or visit www.williamhillestate.com.
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