Monday, December 7, 2015

Visiting Napa's William Hill Estate

On a recent trip to Napa and Sonoma, I had the pleasure of dining at William Hill Estate, located in the hills of Southern Napa’s Silverado Bench.

Napa vineyard developer William Hill has been exploring this region of Napa since the late 1970s. His namesake winery kicked off in 1992, and was purchased by California wine giant Gallo Family in 2006. William Hill produces a range of Classic Napa varietal wines, Cabernet, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The wines aren't stellar or particularly ground-breaking, but they're provide solid examples of delicious Napa goodness. The wines are now produced by Mark Williams, a UC Davis grad who's worked for Bridlewood Estate in Santa Barbara and Louis Martini in Napa.

It was an hour past sunset when I arrived at the estate, so, unfortunately I couldn’t fully appreciate the spectacular view from the lawn. But the outdoor space was wonderful, and coyotes yipping in the background added an interesting aura to the cold October evening. The food from Chris Johnson of Tra Vigne was very impressive and paired well with the wines. The whites hailed from William Hill while the reds were from Louis Martini (also owned by Gallo) were thrown into the mix as well.

2014 William Hill Winery Sauvignon Blanc - California, North Coast
SRP: $17
Brightly tropical with mango, pineapple and some lighter tones of lime and slight grass. Clean and bright with plenty of tropical richness, lots of orange peel, mango and pineapple with notes of basil and chalk. Nice way to start the evening. The grapes come from MacMurray Ranch and Solano County. (85 points)

2013 William Hill Winery Chardonnay Bench Blend - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $55
Smells oh so creamy with buttercream, butterscotch, yellow apples and hazelnut. Richly textured with lovely baked pears, yellow apples, hazelnut, cinnamon and nougat. On the full-rich-creamy-nutty end of the spectrum but not too far, as it still maintains a pretty appeal and some freshness on the finish. A Gallo winemaker referred to this as a Chardonnay with all the tricks, but they’re pulled them off with precision. (89 points)

2013 William Hill Winery Chardonnay Unfiltered - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $55
This is the zestier brother of the Bench Blend Chardonnay, with a bright and chalky nose, orange peels and crisp green apples along with some richer, creamier aspects. Still creamy and full on the palate but a bright and zesty appeal with vibrant acidity. I get white peaches, tangerines and limes along with saline, crushed shells and baby’s breath, some white tea and almond as well. Plenty of ripeness and layers of texture, but I really like the clean, vibrant sense as well. Aged 16 months sur lie in new French oak for 16 months. (90 points)

2012 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Lot No. 1 Napa Valley - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $145  
Deep and dark on the nose, with black cherry, boysenberry, plum cake, currant paste, underlying smoke, earth, vanilla and ginger snaps. A very powerful wine with intense structure, this wine begs to be buried for six to eight years. That said, it’s impressive young with such purity to the dark plum, currant and cherry fruit. Cola, loamy soil and coffee linger long on the finish. Beautiful stuff, but it will reward the patient. 100% Cabernet aged 21 months in new French oak. (91 points)

2005 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Lot No. 1 Napa Valley - California, Napa ValleyGorgeous nose with waves of complexity: currants, boysenberry, cola, coffee, interesting savory elements. Still solid but the tannins are smooth around the edges and the wine feels velvety on the palate. The fruit is fresh and juicy but starting to show some secondary complexity. The non-fruit elements are coming out, showing pepper, tobacco and bay leaf, mushroom, but I also get some sarsaparilla and cola notes. Long, elegant finish. Beautiful stuff, showing well now but it evolves in the glass and will continue to do so in the cellar. This was my favorite wine of the trip. (93 points)

N.V. Louis M. Martini Petite Sirah Port Thomann Station - California, Napa Valley, St. HelenaSmells of chocolate, cassis liqueur, plum sauce and violet petals. Full and powerful with caramel, bourbon barrel and coconut on top of the fig paste and black currant jam. Rich, a bit too hot perhaps, but quite nice. (86 points)

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