William Hill Winery is one of those belonging to the large conglomerate of Allied Domecq. But I, for one, see nothing wrong with the continuing globalization of wineries — in many ways, it adds to consistency and stability; something that many smaller, family-owned wineries are unable to obtain.
Considering its physical size, William Hill is also one of those off-the-beat-and-track, compared to many sitting directly on Highway 29 or the Silverado Trail. It is on a backroad, off Atlas Peak Drive, in what is considered the Silverado Bench. I have classified this winery under three different appellations; the Atlas Peak Appellation, where their Chardonnay and some premium Cabernet Sauvignon is grown, Carneros, where they have 80-some acres of additional Chardonnay, and the Napa Appellation, for much of their remaining grape supply. I understand that there are powers at work to make the Silverado Bench a new appellation within the Napa Valley and I hope to come back to this listing in the future to update it.
There is a long, grand twisting driveway that leads to where the buildings lie. The grounds are certainly worth a stroll because the facilities sit just a bit higher on the property, providing a sweeping view of the south end of Napa that is quite incomparable. Granted, there are mountain wineries which offer a different perspective, but this one is quite special.
The tasting room itself is bright and open with a touch of modern art in its austerity. Adjacent to the tasting bar, is a large, full-length open window which shows the cellaring of barrels; hundreds and hundreds of barrels. There are two tastings; the Napa Valley Tasting includes three wines for $5.00, or the Estate Tasting which is four wines for $10.00. I opted for both, wanting to taste across the spectrum, with the exception of the Chardonnay (as I had been tasting nothing but red all day, I wasn’t ready to go back):
2001 Malbec – 88% Malbec, 8% Merlot, and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. A tease of soy sauce and barbecue in its Syrah-like aromas, under which explodes dark berry fruit and a hint of strawberry. Subtle oak tendencies show in the initial taste, heightened by up-front acidity, a decidedly blueberry mid-palate, and an integrated, woody finish. $30.00
2001 Merlot – 88% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petite Verdot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. Opulent bouquet of boysenberries, dark plum, and hints of rustic herbs. Even, balanced entry brightens a bit showing smooth fruit. Not a fruit bomb by any stretch, with a slightly tinny finish. $20.00
2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec, and 2% Petite Verdot. Immediate aroma of vanilla and then fruit which is pretty strong and forward. A second swirl shows oak, cassis, blueberry, and black cherry. The mouth entry is bright but layers into depths that include all the fruit plus some leather. Slightly dry finish but opulent and smooth. $22.00
2001 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petite Verdot, and 1% Merlot. Dark berry liqueur with a hint of soy sauce. Sweet entry with a chew mid-palate. Heightened acidity shows touches of sweet cherry in the finish. $35.00
2002 Petite Sirah – 80% Petite Sirah, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 6% Merlot. Dark, inky purple color with ripe plum liqueur tones. Behind the sweetness of the liqueur are darker barbecued meat and sweet soy sauce. Full, rich aromas don’t provide the ‘pow’ factor in the first sip and the wine smells fruitier than it tastes. The smooth, easy-drinking wine displays a ‘pop’ in the mid-palate and a nice, lingering finish. $30.00
William Hill Winery ~ 1761 Atlas Peak Road ~ Napa ~ CA ~ 707.224.5424