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University of California Berkeley 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

The Wine Spectator California Wine Oral History Series 

William H. Hill 

An Interview Conducted by 

Carole Hicke 

in 1997 

Copyright 1998 by The Regents of the University of California 

Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing leading 
participants in or well-placed witnesses to major events in the development of 
Northern California, the West, and the Nation. Oral history is a method of 
collecting historical information through tape-recorded interviews between a 
narrator with firsthand knowledge of historically significant events and a well- 
informed interviewer, with the goal of preserving substantive additions to the 
historical record. The tape recording is transcribed, lightly edited for 
continuity and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewee. The corrected 
manuscript is indexed, bound with photographs and illustrative materials, and 
placed in The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, and in 
other research collections for scholarly use. Because it is primary material, 
oral history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete 
narrative of events. It is a spoken account, offered by the interviewee in 
response to questioning, and as such it is reflective, partisan, deeply involved, 
and irreplaceable. 


All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal agreement 
between The Regents of the University of California and William H. 
Hill dated July 9, 1997. The manuscript is thereby made available 
for research purposes. All literary rights in the manuscript, 
including the right to publish, are reserved to The Bancroft Library 
of the University of California, Berkeley. No part of the 
manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written 
permission of the Director of The Bancroft Library of the University 
of California, Berkeley. 

Requests for permission to quote for publication should be 
addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486 Library, 
University of California, Berkeley 94720, and should include 
identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated 
use of the passages, and identification of the user. The legal 
agreement with William H. Hill requires that he be notified of the 
request and allowed thirty days in which to respond. 

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows: 

William H. Hill, "Vineyard Development and 
the William Hill Winery, 1970s- 1990s, " an 
oral history conducted in 1997 by Carole 
Hicke, Regional Oral History Office, The 
Bancroft Library, University of 
California, Berkeley, 1998. 

Copy no. 

William H. Hill. 

Cataloging Information 

HILL, William (b. 1942) Winemaker 

Vineyard Development and the William Hill Winery. 1970s- 1990s, 1998, viii, 


Background and early interest in wine in France; experiences in vineyard 
development: Diamond Mountain Ranch, Mr. Veeder Vineyard, Silverado 
Vineyard, Foss Valley Ranch; importance of climate and terroir in 
winemaking; William Hill Winery vineyard properties; California Cabernets, 
industry trends, consumer preferences, marketing and sales; purchase of 
Parducci Wine Cellars; formation of Hill & Thoma Wines. 

Interviewed in 1997 by Carole Hicke for the Wine Spectator California 
Wine Oral History Series, the Regional Oral History Office, The 
Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. 






Childhood and Education in Oklahoma 1 

Attraction to California 

School Interests and Extracurricular Activities 

Exposure to Wine and European Travels 

College Education 6 

Army Years 

MBA Program, Stanford University 9 

Summer Jobs 12 

Work in Real-Estate Brokerage and Investment Companies 13 
Rationale for Entering Wine Business 14 
Learning about the Wine Industry and Grape Growing 18 
Agricultural Consulting Work 19 
Development of Diamond Mountain Ranch Vineyards 20 
Mt. Veeder and the Search for Cooler Climates 23 
New Focus on Vineyard Quality 25 
Veeder Hills Project 26 
New Partnership with Donald Hess 28 
More on the Development of the Veeder Vineyard 29 
Robert Mondavi's Influence on Hill 30 
Robert Craig 31 

Use of Others' Winemaking Facilities 32 
Early Vintages 33 
Aging Potential of California Cabernets 33 
Tastings of California Cabernets Against Bordeaux 35 
Effects of Climate and Terroir 

Selection of Winemaking Facilities 37 

Construction of William Hill Winery 39 

Winemaking Philosophy 39 

Pricing 41 

Wine Marketing and Changes in Public Taste 41 

Vineyards 44 

Silverado Vineyard 45 

Foss Valley Ranch 47 

Financing Troubles 48 

Other Vineyard Properties 50 

William Hill Wines Made in Oregon 51 

Sale of Winery to Allied Lyons 



Impact of Globalization on Wine Market 

New Financing 

Purchase of Parducci Wine Cellars 

Formation of Hill & Thoma Wines 

Trends and Changes in the Wine Industry 

Changes in the American Wine Consumer and Consumer Demand 

Shift to Focus on Vineyards 

Higher-Density Planting 

Value of Hedging 

Impact of Phylloxera Problem 

Pre-eminent Wine Growing Regions 




"History Repeats Itself --Across the Atlantic," San 

Francisco Chronicle. May 26, 1982 

"William Hill Takes On the Bordeaux First Growths 


Frank J. Prial, "Wine Talk," New York Times. February 

5, 1986 

CHA News Release, "Future Winery Near Napa to Be 

Designed by San Francisco's Field/Paoli Architects," 

September 5, 1986 

William Hill Tasting Notes and History 








The California wine industry oral history series, a project of the 
Regional Oral History Office, was initiated by Ruth Teiser in 1969 
through the action and with the financing of the Wine Advisory Board, a 
state marketing order organization which ceased operation in 1975. In 
1983 it was reinstituted as The Wine Spectator California Wine Oral 
History Series with donations from The Wine Spectator Scholarship 
Foundation. The selection of those to be interviewed has been made by a 
committee consisting of the director of The Bancroft Library, University 
of California, Berkeley; John A. De Luca, president of the Wine 
Institute, the statewide winery organization; Carole Hicke, series 
project director; and Marvin R. Shanken, trustee of The Wine Spectator 
Scholarship Foundation. 

Until her death in June 1994, Ruth Teiser was project originator, 
initiator, director, and conductor of the greater part of the oral 
histories. Her book, Winemaking in California, co-authored with 
Catherine Harroun and published in 1982, was the product of more than 
forty years of research, interviewing, and photographing. (Those wine 
history files are now in The Bancroft Library for researcher use.) Ruth 
Teiser 's expertise and knowledge of the wine industry contributed 
significantly to the documenting of its history in this series. 

The purpose of the series is to record and preserve information on 
California grapegrowing and winemaking that has existed only in the 
memories of winemen. In some cases their recollections go back to the 
early years of this century, before Prohibition. These recollections are 
of particular value because the Prohibition period saw the disruption of 
not only the industry itself but also the orderly recording and 
preservation of records of its activities. Little has been written about 
the industry from late in the last century until Repeal. There is a real 
paucity of information on the Prohibition years (1920-1933), although 
some commercial winemaking did continue under supervision of the 
Prohibition Department. The material in this series on that period, as 
well as the discussion of the remarkable development of the wine industry 
in subsequent years will be of aid to historians. Of particular value is 
the fact that frequently several individuals have discussed the same 
subjects and events or expressed opinions on the same ideas, each from 
his or her own point of view. 

Research underlying the interviews has been conducted principally in 
the University libraries at Berkeley and Davis, the California State 
Library, and in the library of the Wine Institute, which has made its 
collection of materials readily available for the purpose. 


The Regional Oral History Office was established to tape record 
autobiographical interviews with persons who have contributed 
significantly to recent California history. The office is headed by 
Willa K. Baum and is under the administrative supervision of The Bancroft 

Carole Hicke 
Project Director 

The Wine Spectator California Wine 
Oral History Series 

July 1998 

Regional Oral History Office 

The Bancroft Library 

University of California, Berkeley 


Interviews Completed as of October 1998 

Leon D. Adams, Revitalizing the California Wine Industry, 1974 

Leon D. Adams, California Vine Industry Affairs: Recollections and Opinions, 

Maynard A. Amerine, The University of California and the State's Wine 
Industry, 1971 

Maynard A. Amerine, Vine Bibliographies and Taste Perception Studies, 

Richard L. Arrowood, Sonoma County Winemaking: Chateau St. Jean and Arrowood 
Vineyards & Winery, 1996 

Philo Biane, Vine Making in Southern California and Recollections of Fruit 
Industries, Inc. , 1972 

William Bonetti, A Life of Winemaking at Wineries of Gallo, Schenley, Charles 
Krug, Chateau Souverain, and Sonoma -Cutrer, 1998 

Charles A. Carpy, Viticulture and Enology at Freemark Abbey, 1994 
John B. Cella, The Cella Family in the California Wine Industry, 1986 

Charles Crawford, Recollections of a Career with the Gallo Winery and the 
Development of the California Wine Industry, 1942-1989, 1990 

Burke H. Critchfield, Carl F. Wente, and Andrew G. Frericks, The California 
Wine Industry During the Depression, 1972 

William V. Cruess, A Half Century of Food and Wine Technology, 1967 

Jack and Jamie Peterman Davies, Rebuilding Schramsberg: The Creation of a 
California Champagne House, 1990 

William A. Dieppe, Almaden is My Life, 1985 

Paul Draper, History and Philosophy of Winemaking at Ridge Vineyards: 1970s- 
1990s, 1994 

Daniel J. and Margaret S. Duckhorn, Mostly Merlot: The History of 
Duckhorn Vineyards, 1996 

David, Jean, Peter, and Steven Ficklin, Making California Port Wine: Ficklln 
Vineyards from 1948 to 1992, 1992 

Brooks Firestone, Firestone Vineyard: A Santa Ynez Valley Pioneer, 1996 

Louis J. Foppiano, A Century of Agriculture and Winemaking in Sonoma County, 
1896-1996, 1996 


Alfred Fromm, Marketing California Wine and Brandy, 1984 

Louis Gomberg, Analytical Perspectives on the California Wine Industry, 1935- 
1990, 1990 

Miljenko Grgich, A Croatian-American Winemaker in the Napa Valley, 1992 
Joseph E. Heitz, Creating a Winery in the Napa Valley, 1986 

William H. Hill, Vineyard Development and the William Hill Winery, 1970s- 
1990s, 1998 

Agustin Huneeus, A World View of the Wine Industry, 1996 

Maynard A. Joslyn, A Technologist Views the California Wine Industry, 

Amandus N. Kasimatis, A Career in California Viticulture, 1988 

Morris Katz, Paul Masson Winery Operations and Management, 1944-1988, 1990 

Legh F. Knowles, Jr., Beaulieu Vineyards from Family to Corporate Ownership, 

Horace 0. Lanza and Harry Baccigaluppi, California Grape Products and Other 
Wine Enterprises, 1971 

Zelma R. Long, The Past is the Beginning of the Future: Simi Winery in its 
Second Century, 1992 

Richard Maher, California Winery Management and Marketing, 1992 

Louis M. Martini and Louis P. Martini, Wine Making in the Napa Valley, 

Louis P. Martini, A Family Winery and the California Wine Industry, 1984 

Eleanor McCrea, Stony Hill Vineyards: The Creation of a Napa Valley Estate 
Winery, 1990 

Otto E. Meyer, California Premium Wines and Brandy, 1973 

Norbert C. Mirassou and Edmund A. Mirassou, The Evolution of a Santa Clara 
Valley Winery, 1986 

Peter Mondavi, Advances in Technology and Production at Charles Krug Winery, 
1946-1988, 1990 

Robert Mondavi, Creativity in the Wine Industry, 1985 

Michael Moone, Management and Marketing at Beringer Vineyards and Wine World, 
Inc., 1990 

Myron S. Nightingale, Making Wine in California, 1944-1987, 1988 

Harold P. Olmo, Plant Genetics and New Grape Varieties, 1976 

Cornelius Ough, Researches of an Enologist, University of California, Davis, 
1950-1990, 1990 

John A. Parducci, Six Decades of Making Wine in Mendocino County, California, 

Antonio Perelli-Minetti, A Life in Wine Making, 1975 

Louis A. Petri, The Petri Family in the Wine Industry, 1971 

Jefferson E. Peyser, The Law and the California Wine Industry, 1974 

Joseph Phelps, Joseph Phelps Vineyards: Classic Wines and Rhone Varietals, 

Lucius Powers, The Fresno Area and the California Wine Industry, 1974 
Victor Repetto and Sydney J. Block, Perspectives on California Wines, 1976 
Edmund A. Rossi, Italian Swiss Colony and the Wine Industry, 1971 

Edmund A. Rossi, Jr., Italian Swiss Colony, 1949-1989: Recollections of a 
Third-Generation California Winemaker, 1990 

Arpaxat Setrakian, A. Setrakian, a Leader of the San Joaquin Valley Grape 
Industry, 1977 

Elie Skofis, California Wine and Brandy Maker, 1988 

David S. Stare, Fume Blanc and Heritage Wines in Sonoma County: Dry Creek 
Vineyard's Pioneer Winemaking, 1996 

Rodney S. Strong, Rodney Strong Vineyards: Creative Winemaking and Winery 
Management in Sonoma County, 1994 

Andre Tchelistchef f , Grapes, Wine, and Ecology, 1983 
Brother Timothy, The Christian Brothers as Wine Makers, 1974 
Janet and John Trefethen, Trefethen Vineyards, 1968-1998, 1998 
Louis (Bob) Trinchero, California Zinfandels, a Success Story, 1992 

Charles F. Wagner and Charles J. Wagner, Caymus Vineyards: A Father-Son Team 
Producing Distinctive Wines, 1994 

The Wente Family and the California Wine Industry, interviews with Jean, 
Carolyn, Philip, and Eric Wente, 1992 

Ernest A. Wente, Wine Making in the Livermore Valley, 1971 
Warren Winiarski, Creating Classic Wines in the Napa Valley, 1994 


Albert J. Winkler, Viticultural Research at UC Davis (1921-1971), 1973 
Frank M. Woods, Founding Clos Du Bois Winery: A Marketing Approach, 1998 

John H. Wright, Domaine Chandon: The First French-owned California Sparkling 
Wine Cellar, includes an interview with Edmond Maudiere, 1992 


William H. Hill, founder and owner of William Hill Winery and Hill 
& Thoma Wines, was interviewed as part of the Wine Spectator's 
California Wine Oral History Series to document his career and 
contributions to the history of California wines. 

Hill has participated in wine industry businesses since the early 
1970s, when he began forming partnerships to develop promising 
vineyards. Identifying terroir of the vineyard as a crucial component 
of successful winemaking, he bought and developed for grape growing 
important properties in Napa Valley, California. He then began making 
wine under the William Hill label, producing acclaimed Cabernet 
Sauvignon and Chardonnay wines. After this winery was sold to Allied 
Lyons, he went on to further ventures in the industry, culminating in 
the formation of Hill & Thoma Wines. 

Starting up a new company is a challenge, and we are fortunate 
that William Hill was willing to record his oral history. He made time 
to be interviewed in his Napa office in July 1997. Although we covered 
the major steps in his career, a more leisurely interview would have 
been valuable. He reviewed the transcript and made few changes. 

This series is part of the ongoing documenting of California 
history by the Regional Oral History Office, which is under the 
direction of Willa Baum, Division Head, and under the administrative 
direction of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. 

Carole Hicke 
Project Director 

June 20, 1998 

Regional Oral History Office 

Berkeley, California 


Regional Oral History Office 
Room 486 The Bancroft Library 

University of California 
Berkeley, California 94720 


(Please write clearly. Use black ink.) 

Your full name 

Date of birth 



Father's full name 

Occupat ion o 

fkAjJ Birthplace ^/njj Nfiwh . &AjOuL> 


Mother's full name 

Your spouse 



Your children 

Where did you grow up? \J JuJA 
Present community 
Education ( ) fj, 


Areas of expertise 



Other interests or activities 



Organizations in which you are active 

[Interview 1: July 9, 1997] !#' 

Childhood and Education in Oklahoma 

Hicke: Let's just start this afternoon by asking you when and where you 

Hill: I was born in Oklahoma City in 1942. 
Hicke: Did you grow up there? 

Hill: Yes. I lived there all the way through my undergraduate college 
education. I went to the University of Oklahoma, and so that 
whole period of time I lived in Oklahoma City- -well, I lived in 
Norman, of course, when I was going to school there, but Oklahoma 
City was still my home. 

Hicke: You didn't give me the actual date, did you? 
Hill: October 18, 1942. 

Hicke: Thanks. How did you like growing up in Oklahoma? Was that an 
interesting experience for you? 

Hill: Oh, sure. Well, it was fine. It was home to me, and it's still 
sort of home, but I've been in California so long I really 
consider this my home. But I had a good childhood and certainly a 
good family life, so growing up there was just fine. 

'## This symbol indicates that a tape or tape segment has begun or 
ended. A guide to the tapes follows the transcript. 

Attraction to California 

Hill: As I got older, thoughwhen I was going to school and started 

thinking about where I wanted to go in the future, I was attracted 
to many things that made me decide that I wanted to move to 
California, long before I ever decided to get into the wine 
business . 

Hicke: What things? 

Hill: Oh, I had come out here and worked for a while, and everything 

from economic opportunities to the wonderful aesthetic things of 
California: the coast, the weather, the mountains, and all of the 
things that have brought millions and millions of other people to 
California. I decided, by the time I was a sophomore in college, 
that I was probably going to move to California. So I came out 
and worked one summer. As well as working and living in Southern 
California, I traveled around the state just to get a feel for it, 
and I decided, then, by that time that, one, I wanted to move to 
California, and, secondly, if I could get in, I wanted to go to 
Stanford for graduate school. So that was already in my mind by 
the time I was a junior at the University of Oklahoma. 

Hicke: Where did you work that summer? 
Hill: At Disneyland. 

Hicke: It was a warm summer though. Well, you were used to it, maybe, in 
Oklahoma. And where did you travel? Just up and down California? 

Hill: We came up the coast, spent time in San Francisco, went to the 
mountains. I mean, nobody sees California in a short period of 
time. There's so much to see, but I got a pretty good flavor for 
it, and decided, among other things, that I especially liked 
Northern California. I still hadn't thought anything about the 
wine business, but I really liked California on all those 
different levels. So from then on, it was just a matter of when I 
would come and what I would do when I got here. As I mentioned, 
I'd already decided I wanted to go to graduate school. 

School Interests and Extracurricular Activities 

Hicke: Let's back up to grade school and high school. What kinds of 

classes did you like, particularly? What interested you the most? 

Hill: Math and science, I suppose, but at different periods, I liked 

different things like history. I guess when you look back on it, 
really, I liked all different kinds of study areas at different 
points in time. I think a lot of it was when I had good teachers. 
So I liked everything when I had good teachers, but as far as 
areas that I had more natural talent in, I guess math and science 
and English, to some degree. 

Hicke: Yes, I think the teacher makes a lot of difference. What about 
outside activities? 

Hill: This was like still when I was back there in school, you mean? 
Hicke: Yes, before you got out here. 

Hill: Mostly sports. I did a lot of sports up through the high school 

age: football, wrestling, and baseball, mostly. Then, after I got 
into college, I started playing a little bit of golf and skiing a 
little bit. We'd go up to Colorado and go skiing. So sports have 
always been a real important part of my life. 

Exposure to Wine and European Travels 

Hicke: Did you drink wine at home? 

Hill: No. Oklahoma at that time was not too many years removed from 

Hicke: Yes, blue laws. 

Hill: Yes, they were a dry state long past national Prohibition, of 
course. Keep in mind, at this point, America was not a wine- 
drinking culture. There were pockets of it on the coasts, but it 
was not a wine-drinking cultureand Oklahoma certainly was not a 
wine-drinking culture. And my familythey were not religiously 
opposed to drinking or anything like that, but they did very 
little. I was the first one on my father's side and the second one 
on my mother's side, among many cousins and grandkids and so on, 
to go to college. They were working-class people. Working-class 
people, at that time in the middle part of America, really were 
never exposed to wine. Beer and liquor, yes, but not wine. So, 
no, I wasn't exposed to that. 

The first time I really became exposed to it was when 1 was at 
the University of Oklahoma. This would have been the summer after 
my sophomore yearor junior year, perhaps that I went to Europe, 

just for the summer, along with several friendsone of whom is 
the fellow named John Mayes, who is currently here with me and is 
my partner. There used to be a book at that time called Europe on 
$10 a Day or something like that . 

Hicke: Five dollars a day was the first one, but I don't know. It kept 
going up. 

Hill: Europe on $5 a Day, that's what it was. We used to scoff at that, 
because we got along on about two dollars a day. [laughter] We 
had a big joke about that, because all of uswell, at least three 
of the four of uswere working our way through school and so on. 
We didn't have very much money. So we went. One of the four of 
us had more, but our lifestyle seemed to be dictated by the other 

Hicke: What inspired you to go to Europe? 

Hill: Oh, we were getting far enough along in our education to be 

thinking that we wanted to go see these places. We wanted to see 
the world. So we found ways to do it very cheaply. We went to 
New Orleans and went on a freighter. I mean, you talk about the 
"slow boat to China," this was the slow boat. [laughs] You had 
to stop all along the East Coast before it finally went and made 
it across. We went over on a freighter and came back on one of 
those student ships. They were real cheap, but a lot of fun; they 
were like big floating dormitories. We went over like that, and 
we rented this little car. The four of us lived out of the car I 
mean almost every night. We would check into a hotel about once 
every week or so to kind of clean up, but we would take turns 
sleeping in the car and sleeping on the ground in sleeping bags. 
So that was my first exposure to Europe. 

Hicke: Where did you go? 

Hill: Oh, we just made the big circle. We started in France and went 
down through Spain and over to Italy and back up through the 
German- speaking countries and ended up in England. 

Hicke: The grand tour. 

Hill: The grand tour. You know, it was three months, and we would just 
drive all the time. But during that period of time, many things 
were very powerful experiences. Among them was being exposed to 
food and wine at an artistic level that you didn't see in Oklahoma 
at that time. I mean, this whole thing about the wine culture 
arising in America over the last twenty-five years or so: it's not 
wine in a vacuum; it's really an increased level of sophistication 
and the maturation of our culture, in many ways, that it's a part 

of. One slice of that is it's appreciation for quality in food 
and wine--or quality in food, which wine is a part of. But that 
wasn't really happening in America yet. I mean, we still mostly 
judged food on how big the helping was, you know. [laughter] And 
that, of course, has changed dramatically during this period of 

But to go to Europe, where that was so different, was really 
interesting to me. It made a big impression, and tasting all 
these gourmet cheeses and all these pastries and all these things, 
and seeing how much attention went into really making qualityand 
the same thing, of course, with wine--was a strong experience. It 
essentially left me with a greater appreciation for paying 
attention to qualitythings that create quality of life. That's 
probably the biggest single thing I brought back from that trip. 

Hicke: So you were tasting wines along with the foods and so forth? 

Hill: Oh, yes. Yes. 

Hicke: Did you decide on a preferred country for wines? 

Hill: Oh, sure. France. [laughs] That wasn't too hard. Not that 

there aren't good wines in the others, but wineparticularly at 
that time, before a few other places in the world like California 
and Oregon, and more recently a couple other places before those 
emerged, wine was clearly at its height in France. In fact, at 
that time, Italy had sort of slipped into mediocrity. It's come 
roaring back; there are some great wines in Italy and so on. 

Hicke: Chianti used to be just the straw bottle, and so forth. 

Hill: Yes, but wine as an artistic and aesthetic expression was clearly 
at its height, then, in France. That's still true today, it's 
just there are other places that sort of share those heights, to 
some degree. 

Hicke: So, that was really a memorable experience. 

Hill: It was. Then I lived in Europe a while also before I moved to the 
coast, after that. After I graduated from the University of 
Oklahoma, I was in the army for a couple of years. 

College Education 

Hicke: Okay, let's go back to school. First of all, how did you pick the 
University of Oklahoma? It was your state university? 

Hill: Yes. Again, as I mentioned, I was the first one to go to college 
in my family except for one person on one side, so I really didn't 
have much guidance there, and it was really pretty simple: the 
University of Oklahoma was the best university in Oklahoma and 
they had a great wrestling team. I wanted to wrestle in college, 
and that is sort of the extent of my search. If I were doing it 
with the knowledge I have now, I would apply a much broader range 
of criteria to my selection processnot that there's anything 
wrong with the University of Oklahoma. But that was really it. I 
mean, all my friends were going there things like that. It was 
really that sort of criteria. 

Hicke: Did you have in mind what you wanted to study? 

Hill: Well, I did, but it changed about five times by the time I got 

out. That was a period of time in America in which there was a lot 
of encouragement from public policy and otherwise for more 
engineers. So I started out studying engineering. I actually got 
several years into that program before I decided I didn't want to 
be an engineer, so I shifted over into liberal arts. I decided at 
that point that I wanted to go to graduate school. At that point, 
I kind of figured out something that I still believe today but 
that I hadn't figured out previously: that if you're going to go 
to a fairly high level of education, that the undergraduate level 
still should be viewed sort of like high school, giving you a 
broad base of understanding in many things, and not so much 
specializing, and then specializing more when you get to the 
graduate level. So I started sort of coming to that conclusion 
that I didn't want to be an engineer; then I shifted into a 
liberal arts program so I could study a wide range of things from 
humanities through sciences and so on with the idea of going to 
graduate school. I was pretty sure I wanted to go to a graduate 
business school. I was thinking a little bit about law school and 
possibly some other areas, but before too long focused in on going 
to graduate business school. 

Hicke: What year did you graduate from the University of Oklahoma? 
Hill: '65. 

Army Years 

Hicke: What did you do right after you graduated? 

Hill: I was in the army. Back in those days, either you signed up or 
you were drafted. [laughs] So I was in the Reserve Officers 
program. I was in the army, then, for two years. The first part 
of that time I was in a couple of different advanced training 

Hicke: Which ones? 

Hill: Well, I was at a NATO school in Virginia in a couple of advanced 
programs. Then I was stationed and transferred to Germany, which 
is where I was to spend most of my time. 

Hicke: Where? 

Hill: A little community out in the western edge close to Trier, called 
Idar-Ober stein. 

Hicke: I know it well. 

Hill: You know Idar-Oberstein? 

Hicke: Oh, yes. 

Hill: You're probably the only person I've ever run into since then 

who's ever heard of Idar-Oberstein. What a nice little place that 

Hicke: We were actually just there a couple of years ago. 
Hill: Oh, it was great. I really liked it. 
Hicke: Full of gems. 

Hill: Yes, gems and the gem-cutting business and all that, and such a 

beautiful little place. I mean, if you've got to be in the army, 
what nicer place to be? In Idar-Oberstein at peace-time, 
[laughter] It was great, and that allowed me to, then, continue. 
In the meantime, during this period in which I went back into 
liberal arts, I really enjoyed history, and it was sort of like I 
was catching up on and waking up to all these things that I had 
kind of missed in my education. I did a lot of reading on my own 
on history and stuff. It was great to go back to Europe, then, 
and go back to some of these places that I maybe had been to once, 
but they had more meaning now. 

Hicke: There are some wine-growing areas around there now. I don't know 
if there were then. 

Hill: Yes, there were some. So that allowed me, also, to travel a 

little more and to further develop my interest in food and wine- 
still never entering my mind that that might be a business. It 
was just a growing interest, as a part of the enrichment of life 
beyond what you do to make a living. 

Hicke: How long were you there? 

Hill: I was only there about a year, and then, unfortunately, it got cut 
a little short. This would have been in 1967, and that was the 
point at which the Vietnam War was just starting to change from 
being a volunteer situation to building up and taking draftees and 
so on over there. So my stay over there got cut short, because I 
got called back to be part of the staff at a basic training camp 
at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. So I was there for the last six months 
of my stay in the army. 

Hicke: Training for--? 

Hill: Well, that's where they were processing all these people that were 
building up the army to go to Vietnam. I didn't have very long 
left in the military, so I didn't have long enough left to get 
sent to Vietnam. But I was brought back because, you see, those 
training camps--back during that volatile Cold War era, during 
times when everything looked peacefulthey just shut those places 
down. They'd go to ghost towns. Then something happens and 
they'd build them back up. They just had to restaff this whole 
thing. So they just drew officers and enlisted men, too, out of 
every place, brought them in, and created this staff. 

Hicke: What was your job in the army? 

Hill: Well, like in this place, I was a company executive officer. They 
were going through basic training. So my whole companyexcept 
for the officers and the sergeantsthe bulk of the people were 
going through basic training. 

Hicke: And you just were in charge of them? 

Hill: Right. 

Hicke: Getting them up in the morning. [laughs] 

Hill: Getting them up in the morning, getting them fed, getting them 
over to where they were trained for this, and getting them over 

where they were trained for that, and doing exercises, that kind 
of thing. 

Hicke: Classic army training. 

Hill: Yes. 

Hicke: When did you get out of the army? 

Hill: Let's see, '67, because I got out in the summer of '67. 

MBA Program, Stanford University 







In the meantime, I'd been accepted to Stanford for the MBA 
program. So I came out in the fall of '67 and started school in 
Stanford. I was there through '69. 

Now, why did you decide you wanted an MBA? It wasn't entirely 
because you wanted to go to California? 

Well, no, it was because I knew that I wanted to do some kind of 
business. I wanted to have some kind of involvement in business. 
I just didn't know what industry or what kind of company that 
would lead me to. But I decided that was what I wanted to do, and 
so if you want to do that, your best avenueas far as educational 
preparationis a good business school program, and there's none 
better than Stanford. I was lucky enough to get in there, so that 
was easy. 

I doubt if it's luck, 

You must have had pretty good grades and so 

Well, you know, interestingly enough, I actually had better grades 
after I got to Stanford among much harder competition than 
anything I'd ever been around before, and a lot of people that had 
a lot of better educational preparation than I did. I had 
actually had much better grades there than I did at the University 
of Oklahoma, because at the University of Oklahoma, I would make 
As if I liked the course and Cs if I didn't like it. So my grades 
weren't that spectacular, but I think it's my standardized test 
scores that got me in. So I had a good day when I took the 
standardized tests. [laughs] 

And obviously your interests were more engaged when you got to 
graduate school. 


Hill: Yes. I was much more mature. I was very goal-directed. I mean, 

I came there with a purpose, you know, 
maturity and having a plan for myself, 
student at Stanford. 

It was just a function of 
I was a very serious 

Hicke: Focused. 
Hill: Yes, very. 

Hicke: Does anything about that time at Stanford particularly stand out? 
Any outstanding professors or other students? 

Hill: Well, all of them. I think, certainly, one of the ones that jumps 
to mind is a professor who has become a friend over time: a fellow 
named Jack McDonald, who is now a senior professor there, mostly 
teaching financial things. His first year of teaching was my 
first year there. He was very good and his class was very 
popular. Over time, he's become a renowned professor and is on 
many boards of directors and a consultant and so on. He also 
happens to speak French and spent a period of time in France and 
loves wine. I knew none of that then, when I was taking it, I 
just liked him as a teacher. He spent some time teaching in the 
interim in France and came to love wine. So, at some point about 
the early eighties, he had sort of heard about and followed my 
career a little bit. We started talking a little bit, and he 
created a case study on our company. They use a lot of case study 
method at the business school. 

Hicke: Which company? 

Hill: Well, it was William Hill Wine Company and our efforts back then. 
He created a case study of that in the early eighties, which he 
has updated and continued to teach until today. It is now the 
longest running case study in Stanford Business School. [laughs] 

Hicke: Wow, congratulations. 

Hill: And the names have changed, the properties have come and gone, and 
everything else. As a matter of fact, I was down there about in 
April sometime. I went down and spoke to his class. I do that 
most years--! '11 go down there and talk to the class after they've 
had the case study. 

Hicke: Well, I trust they give you a little commission or something, 

Hill: No, it's fine. I do it for Jack and the school. It's one little 
way to give something back. Stanford was a wonderful experience 
for me. It's such a stimulating, intense, intellectual 


environment. I was ready, as I mentioned. I came there hungry 
for that kind of thingand not just the business school, but that 
whole environment. It's a wonderful place with a lot of really 
intelligent people thinking about a lot of really important 
things. It was a very significant time for me. 

Hicke: Stimulating. 

Hill: That was a time in which a lot of us were stimulated, thinking 

about the meaning of life and international affairs, and Vietnam 
was going on, and the whole hippie movement was challenging a lot 
of our concepts of values; all those debates were going on in that 
late sixties period. It was a good place to be at those times 
because there was a lot of good, meaningful debate going on about 
those things. It was definitely one of the high points of my 
life--my two years at Stanford. 

Hicke: Were there any major protests there? I can't remember. 

Hill: Oh, yes. Definitely. And marches. There was the Stanford 

Research Institute, which did a lot of defense contracting that 
was the target of some of that. 

Hicke: So there was a lot of fermentation? 

Hill: Yes. Of course, the important thing was not the dramatics of the 
marches and all that, but the lasting effect was the intellectual 
stimulation and debate about all these things that were so 
prevalent. It was a good time. 

Hicke: You didn't have to worry about getting called up to go to Vietnam? 

Hill: No. Legally, it could have happened, 'but they never shifted into 
that mode where they were calling the reserves back like that. I 
mean, it could have happened, but it was not very likely. 

Hicke: Did you stay in the reserves? 

Hill: You have to. Yes. If you train for that officers' program, you 

can go through trainingpart-time trainingfor four years before 
you can go in. Then you go through a basic training program for 
one summer. Then you graduate and you become an officer. Then, 
if you're in for a couple of years, you're still an officer in the 
reserves for at least two years. It may have been a little longer 
than that. I think it's active reserve for two years and inactive 
for three more or something like that. So, theoretically, I was 
in the army for a while after that, but it's rare to call people 
like that back. 


Hicke: Well, you were ROTC in the university? 
Hill: Yes, right. 

Hicke: So, that's how you got started there. Now what year did you 
graduate from Stanford? 

Hill: Spring of '69. 
Summer Jobs 


Hicke : 



Hicke : 

And what were you doing all these summers? Were you going to 
school all year 'round? 

When you say "all," you mean going back even before Stanford? 
Yes, 1 didn't ask you about some of the other summers. 

I had going way back--a different job every summer. I mean, I'd 
been working since I was nine years old. 

Paper boy? 

No. My father had a business way back when I was in my early 
teens--a fruit business, watermelons and things like that. I used 
to be involved in that, and as I got a little older, at one time 
or another, I did roofing. I worked in a steel fabricating factory 
for a couple of summers when I was at the University of Oklahoma. 
I worked at Disneyland as I mentioned. At Stanford, I really only 
had one summer in between years, because then I was out the next 
summer. The summer between years at Stanford I worked for a long- 
defunct stock-brokerage house in San Francisco--back office kind 
of stuff. 

What was the name of it? Do you recall? 

Oh, boy. I don't know if I could even remember. It was a real 
small, one-office place. In fact, there used to be so many of 
them. They don't exist anymore, generallythat industry is so 



Work in Real-Estate Brokerage and Investment Companies 

Hicke: After you graduated, what happened? 

Hill: Well, I still hadn't thought of the wine business. While I was at 
Stanford, I had some friends that were interested in wine, and we 
had these casual groups where we would each go out and buy our 
five-dollar bottle- -which for us was swinging big-time. We'd save 
up for it, buy our five-dollar bottle of French wine, and taste 
them blind. Everybody brought a bottle and we could taste them 
all. So I was into that, and it was a growing hobby, but I still 
hadn't thought of it as a business. So I had several jobs through 
that two-year period after I first got out. 

My very first job was with a company called Grubb & Ellis, 
which at that time was an Oakland-based real estate brokerage and 
management operation. They hired me to do what was basically 
analysis work. They were trying to put sort of a new concept 
together to provide new investment opportunities for institutions, 
among others. So I was hired to help them analyze properties to 
buy, but that was a very brief stay. 


Hill: And I worked briefly for two other companies that were similar. 
One was named Coldwell BankerI'm sure you've heard the name. 
They're a very different company now, but at that time they were a 
California-based real estate brokerage company. They also wanted 
to start putting together some funds for institutions, like 
pension plans. So I took a job with them. Then I worked for a 
small private company that put real estate partnerships together. 
It was during that period that I learned how to put together 
partnerships, and I later applied that knowledge to putting 
together partnerships to buy vineyards. That's where I sort of 
learned how to do that. 

Hicke: You learned the legal aspects of what forms to fill out? 

Hill: Yes, right. How you set them up, how they are operated, and all 

Hicke: But were you also having to gather people up for partnerships? 

Hill: Very little, very little. I really wasn't involved in that part 
of the agreement. 

So that sort of real estate investment of one aspect or 
another is sort of what I was involved with for several years. 
But always during that period, those were just jobs. I was trying 
to figure out what I wanted to do at this point, like many people 
fresh out of college are doing. 

Hicke: Sure. 

Hill: In about 1971, maybe 1972, I was doing some work for a company 
that was in the investment advisory business. They managed 
people's portfolios and stocks and bonds that kind of thingand 
they hired me because they were considering possibly offering 
their clients what they called illiquid investments --meaning 
things that aren't traded on a stock exchange, like investment in 
real estate or investment in oil and gas or leasing or something 
like that. So they hired me just to look at these areas and then 
tell them what I thought, and then they would decide if they 
wanted to start offering these things. 

Rationale for Entering Wine Business 

Hill: As I said, this would be probably 1972 when I was going through 

that. At that time, some people were just starting to notice that 
America's wine consumption was starting to grow steadily from a 
very low base. But in the late sixties, wine consumption was tiny 
compared to today. 

Hicke: More interest in better wines? 

Hill: Well, in those days, the focus was mostly just wines at all, but 
certainly, what it's become is a higher orientation towards the 
higher quality. So as a result of that, there were also some 
people who were putting some investments together in vineyards and 
so onand that's sort of what called my attention to it, because 
in my capacity with this company, a couple of these things came 
across my desk. I thought, "Gee, well that's kind of 


interesting." Because, remember, by this time wine is a hobby of 
mine--wine and food are something that really interest me. 

Hicke: You were still doing some tastings and things like that? 

Hill: Oh yes. So, one, it's an interest of mine; secondly, I'm trying 

to decide what I want to do with my life and looking for something 
that's interesting, which none of this stuff I'd done at that 
point was--I mean, in a career sense. So this started coming 
across my desk, and, "Well, gee, I think I'll look into this." 

Hicke: Look into what, specifically? 

Hill: Why they're doing these vineyards; why they're saying that the 
wine industry is going to grow. I said, "I think I'll see if I 
can understand what they're talking about here." 

Hicke: Wasn't this also a period when there was a lot of interest in 

partnerships and there were a lot of tax advantages and all that 
sort of thing? 

Hill: Yes. Vineyards typically weren't tax deals like some of the real- 
estate deals were. Some of the early ones I saw were tax-shelter 
oriented to some degree, but they more relied on "the industry's 
going to grow." By the time I got around to doing them--or at 
least, certainly by the eightiesthey weren't tax deals at all. 
The laws had changed in such a way that they weren't at all, but 
at that timein the early seventies they were. 

While doing all these other things at my job for like a year, 
there--! spent a lot of time researching. The basic question is 
always the foundation of any industry, and that is, "What is the 
demand? Who wants this product? And are there going to be more 
of them? And what is it they want?" So I spent a significant 
amount of time trying to understand: "Is there reason to believe 
that this is going to continue to grow like this? Is America 
actually going to become a wine-drinking culture?" 

Hicke: How did you go about looking at that? 

Hill: Well, first of all, I looked at the patterns of consumption- -who 
was doing it . But you know what it really came down to in the 
long run, when I finally decided, "Yes, this is going to continue 
to grow steadily and way into the future"- -what it really came 
down to was no more sophisticated than this: I said, "Look, I 
think this is applicable to a significant proportion of the 
population, not everybody, but a significant portion of the 
population: life is a little bit better if you have good wine with 
dinner at night. And if that is true to a significant part of the 


population, then the only reason they're not doing it now is they 
just don't know that yet. So as they become more exposed to this, 
they're going to do it. They're going to do it in Cleveland, and 
they're going do it in Birmingham- -not just in San Francisco and 
New Yorkthey ' re going to do it in Albuquerque and every place 

Also, it was clear to mebecause of a lot of research and 
things I'd been exposed to in my travels, my educationthat 
America was maturing in many ways. In the sixties and in the 
seventies, a lot more Americans were traveling; a lot more 
Americans were exposed to the things in other parts of America 
and in fact, to other parts of the worldby electronics and 
television. Everything was causing Americans to become much more 
worldly, much more sophisticated, and as a part of that more 
quality oriented and so on. So that meant that the concept I just 
described they 're going to figure this out pretty soon. "Pretty 
soon," as the evolution of industries goes, may take twenty years, 
but in change of culture, twenty years is a very short time. 

So the first realization was, "Well, gee, for these reasons, 
this wine business is going to keep growing and growing and 
growing." Furthermore, I felt that probably, since America was 
relatively affluent, that it would probably be more oriented 
toward higher quality wines. So I said, "Okay, that's 
interesting, but that's only half the equation. The other half of 
the equation is what does it take to make?" Particularly, I 
quickly focused in on the higher quality end, because a main 
motivating factor was not f inancial it was that I loved wine. So 
I was more interested in the business of fine wine than I was the 
cheaper wines. Regardless of which was the best business, I had a 
higher level of interest here. 

So I said, "Okay, if this is probably going to unfold, then I 
think the next thing for me is to figure out what is entailed in 
making high quality wine. I mean, is it something that if people 
start drinking it, we could all of a sudden be flooded with a lot 
of volume and you still can't have a decent business because 
there's an over-supply? Or is it hard? Is it mysterious? Is it 
something you can figure out if you work hard enough?" So then I 
spent a lot of time particularly focusing on the European 
experience. It proved to be an advantage, coming from ignorance, 
in the sense that not having any ties to the California industry, 
I looked a lot to the European experience. Since the California 
industry was so young, there was a wealth of wisdom in Europe that 
has since become incorporated in California, but frankly, wasn't 

Hicke: And thanks to people like you who brought over interest in wine, probably. 


Hill: Well, yes, the whole flood of people that have come in, yes--but 
all driven by the American consumer, who has been getting 
progressively more and more sophisticated, more and more 
demanding, and more and more willing to pay to produce the higher 
qualitybecause it costs more to make higher quality. 

Hicke: When you say Europe, now, are you speaking primarily of France? 
Because there is a diversity of wines in Europe. 

Hill: Primarily France, right. So then I spent a period of time trying 
to understand what it takes to make wine, particularly what it 
takes to make really high-quality wine. These efforts actually 
overlapped: starting on the demand side and then on the supply 
side. When I got far enough into that attempt to understand what 
it takes to make really high-quality wine--when I got far enough 
into that to realize a couple of principles that ' s when it really 
clicked to me that this is maybe what I want to do for a business. 
Once again, fortunately I was looking at the European experience, 
and this is the most important thing I've learned in the wine 
business everything else has been built on this: that the primary 
determinant of wine quality is the vineyard, which is a function 
of climates and soils and then the variety you put on that. If you 
go to Bordeaux, there are a few vineyards that make great wine, 
and many vineyards that make very mediocre wineand it's always 
the same vineyards that make the great wine. So the overwhelming 
determinant of wine quality is the vineyard. 

Hicke: But you were way ahead of your time in figuring that out. 

Hill: Well, it was conventional wisdom in Europe. It was just that I 
was tapping into the European experience instead of where this 

Secondly, then, I tried to understand a little bit, at a very 
cursory level, what is it about a piece of property that makes it 
a great vineyard or a not-so-great vineyard. When I got far enough 
into that to realize that the circumstances that determine whether 
a vineyard, a property, has a potential to be a great vineyard, [I 
realized they] unfortunately are very rare in the world. You have 
to be on west banks of continents between certain latitudes with a 
certain amount of maritime influence, and it's a little different 
from one variety to another. Chardonnay's a little different from 
Cabernet [Sauvignon]. Pinot Noir that's why I'm in Oregon, 
because Pinot Noir is better up there. Cabernet is better down 
here just like Burgundy and Bordeaux in France. 

So when I realized, then, that first of all, the vineyard was 
the primary determinant of wine quality; secondly, that the nature 
of great vineyards were such that they were scarce in the world-- 


that's when the lights sort of went on. I said, "Okay, wait a 
minute. It looks like America is going to slowly, but surely, 
become a wine-drinking culture; we're undevelopedit 1 s a frontier 
here." It's not like if I decided that in France and I went over 
and tried to work my way in the industry with no capital and buy 
great vineyards forget it. That's why the French people keep 
moving over here, because they can't do it over there. It's 
already controlled. But over here, if I could learn how to 
identify properties that make great wine and then develop them and 
eventually make and sell wine from them in an environment of 
growing demand, it could be a good business doing something I 
loved . 

So that dawned on me about the end of 1972 or early 1973, and 
from that time forward, I've never wanted to do anything except 
grow grapes and make wine. 

Learning about the Wine Industry and Grape Growing 

Hicke: This is just absolutely fascinating, but I have to go back now. 

Did you learn all this by reading, by talking to people, by going 
out and digging down in the soil? 

Hill: All those things, plus drinking wine. 

Hicke: But you can't learn about the vineyard from drinking wine. 

Hill: Yes, you can. In fact, the way I've learned to be a winemaker, 
what I do, it's an iteration process over time. For example, 
let's say I wanted to make a wine from some Italian variety I had 
no experience in, like Sangiovese (until recently). What I'd do 
is I'd line up all the very best Sangioveses I could find in the 
world, and I'd start tasting through them. As I say, this is an 
iteration process over time. I'd taste through, and after a 
while, you start to identify flavors and aromas that you like, 
some you don't like. Here are fifteen wines--well, these nine 
wines have this one flavor that I like and these don't. Then you 
go back and you research where they came fromwhat were the soils 
and the climates and how were they made? Eventually, you'll start 
being able to associate these flavors and aromas with the 
causation factors: climate, soils, clones, varieties, growing 
techniques, cellar practices, and all that. 

Hicke: So you can learn all about the winery and the vineyard of each 


Hill: And the learning process starts in tasting the wine--at least, 
that's the way I've done it. 

Hicke: But you also have to know where they're located geographically and 

Hill: That's right. 

Hicke: It sounds like a huge amount of work, but also some fun. [laughs] 

Hill: Yes, but it's enjoyable, and what greater blessing can you have 
than to have a job that you love. Then you can afford to do it 
over years, and you keep working and working. 

Agricultural Consulting Work 

Hicke: But, meanwhile, you were making your living elsewhere. At least 
until you came up with this decision. 

Hill: Well, in '73, then, I decided that I wanted to get in the wine 

businessmore specifically, try to figure out how to find great 
vineyards and then, eventually, make high-quality wine. But I had 
no credential or capital at that point. So then I did a little 
bit of consulting just here and therewherever I could find some 
consulting that was agriculturally oriented, just to give myself a 
little more knowledge and a little more of a credential. I can 
remember doing a consulting job in almonds--! didn't know anything 
about almonds except that I loved to eat them, but it was more 

Hicke: You went and analyzed their business? 

Hill: Yes. If somebody wanted to buy a place, I showed them how you lay 
it out and you budget it and you figure the costs and decide how 
much you could pay for it and that kind of thing. In the 
meantime, I'm learning about how you grow almonds--or as they say 
in the Central Valley, "am-mens." [rhyming it with "salmons"] I 
had to learn to be bilingual. I said "almonds" to my employer and 
I'd say "ammens" when I was talking to the farmer. [laughter] 
But anyway, it's a process, then, learning how you grow things and 
how you do that. I helped some people buy a rice ranch. 

Hicke: A rice ranch? 

Hill: Yes, it all was just a little step down the road. 

Development of Diamond Mountain Ranch Vineyards 

Hill: In the meantime, I was coming up here and talking to people. See, 
at this point, I knew that you had to have a great vineyard to 
make great wine, but I didn't have much of an idea about what a 
great vineyard was. During that period of '73- '74, essentially 
what I was doing was I was coming up here and talking to people 
like Andre Tchelistchef f and saying things likeif I could just 
paraphrase it- -"Andre, I understand you have to have great 
vineyards to make great wine. You've made a lot of it. Where 
have you found your best fruit coming from?" And one of the 
things that he, in particular, told me was, "Well, the mountains 
on the west sidethey 're not economic to farm"--which they 
weren't back then- -"but they sure do make some good Cabernet." 
That's the kind of level of sophistication or knowledge at that 
point. [laughs] 

So in late 1973--or, no, it was in 1974--I started looking for 
properties in the Mayacamas Range: those were the mountains on the 
west side of the valley, here. I found a property up by Calistoga 
that had been grapes in the late 1800s and the early part of this 
century and had been abandoned. It was for sale, and it was way 
back up in the mountains, and it was real cheap. So I took that, 
and I went to a company that was in the business of putting 
investment partnerships in real estate together. They had never 
done anything in vineyards, but they bought apartment houses and 
that kind of thingand they had done a little bit of agriculture 
in the Central Valley. So they were at least open to that. 

Hicke: What was the name of this company? Do you recall? 

Hill: I think it was called "Questor." It's not in existence anymore. 
So I went to them and said, "Look, I think this is a good 
investment opportunity for you, and if you guys put a partnership 
together and buy it, I'll move up there and manage it for you." 
You see, I didn't have enough leverage to even be a partner or 
anything like that. So I just said, "You buy it, and I'll move up 
there and manage it . " I had done some work for them and they at 
least knew that I was honest and hard working. In retrospect, I'm 
amazed that they hired somebody with no experience. But I said, 
"Look, I'll take most of that management fee you give me, and I'll 
hire the best consultants around that I can find." So that's how 
they had enough confidence to do it. And I did. 

Hicke: And who did you hire as consultants? 

Hill: The two main guys were Jim Leider, who lives here in the Valley 

still. Jim was, at one time, the farm advisor here in the county 


but by this time was a private consultant and farm manager. His 
brother, Lloyd Leider, was a professor of viticulture at UC Davis. 
Jim was a very knowledgeable guy, a very nice guy--def initely one 
of my most influential people during that period. And there was 
another fellow named Joe Miami. You know, Joe was your good-ol'- 
boy Italian farmer, but he had managed a lot of mountain 
vineyards, and mountain vineyards are a little different than 
valley- floor vineyards. Joe had managed, among other things in 
his past, Monta Rosa, which is Martini's hillside vineyard. So he 
had experience in how to do it on the hills. Jim Leider had that, 
too, but he had more of a theoretical UC Davis background and so 
on. Most of what I was getting paid was going to those two. 

Hicke: Which vineyard was this? 

Hill: This is a property which is called Diamond Mountain Ranch, which 
is Sterling [Vineyards] ' s best Cabernet vineyard. 

Hicke: Yes, I've heard about that. 

Hill: So that was my first project. We started that in 1974, and I 

lived up there in Calistoga. In the meantime, I'm continuing this 
iteration process that I've described, continuing to taste, and 
study, and read, and try to understand why a given property 
creates a certain kind of wine, and gradually was getting better 
at understanding that. By '76, I'd decided that I really wanted 
to be farther south in the Valley where it's cooler. So I started 
looking around a lot on Mt. Veeder. 

Hicke: Let me back up to Diamond Mountain Ranch. What did you do? Did 
you plant more grapes? Were there grapes already on it? 

Hill: No. Actually, there were some old vines in the forest from the 
1800s that were still alive, but they weren't any good and they 
were in amongst trees this big around. 

Hicke: About a foot and a half in diameter. 

Hill: And growing up right where it used to be vineyard. So we cleared 
it, prepared it, and planted 120 acres, I believe it was, of 
Cabernet and Chardonnay. 

Hicke: On the mountainside? 

Hill: It's very steep, very difficult. I look back on itit's one of 
the hardest projects I've done. It was only the naivete of youth 
that would lead me to take on that project as my first project, 
but, you know- -the wine enthusiasm of youth. What the heck. 
Sleep? Who cares! Let's go. 


Hicke: And why did you pick Chardonnay and Cabernet? 

Hill: At that time, those were the only two varietiesof the varieties 
that make the best wines in the world- -that had demonstrated 
already that they were at a very high-quality level in Napa--or at 
a high-quality level, not as high as today, especially for 
Chardonnay. And secondly, at that point in the development of the 
American wine culture, those were the only two wines of interest, 
really, among the people that were fueling this interest in high- 
quality wines--sort of the growing wine hobbyists, let's say. In 
fact, it wasn't until the eighties that first the consumer and 
then the supplier started really making some interesting wines in 
other categories, frankly. 

Hicke: So were you thinking of making wine? Or did you sell the grapes? 
What were your goals? 

Hill: Well, always my goal was to have great vineyards and make and sell 
great wine. But it's such a capital-intensive business, 
especially on the high-quality end, because you have to own all 
these vineyards and it takes so much time. I never knew, nor did I 
really worry, about whether I would keep that particular vineyard. 
It was more like another step along the road in that if I created 
value, I would know more about how to do it, I would have more of 
a credential for doing future things, and I would get some kind of 
piece of the profit and build up my own financial resources over 

Hicke: But it was primarily grapes? You weren't trying to make the wine, 

Hill: Well, I didn't know. I was going to wait and see if that group 

wanted to make wine. As it happened, that group wanted to follow 
the typical rules of those investors in real estate, and about 
five years later, they wanted to sell it and take their profits 
and move on to other things. So we sold it to Sterling. In the 
meantime, I'd already got involved on Mt. Veeder. So there has 
been a series of properties that I've done over time that have 
been soldevery one of which, I would be happy to have today and 
keep forever. But they all served some purpose in taking me 
further down the road. 

Hicke: Is there somebody you worked with, particularly, in this Questor 
partnershipor in the partnership they formed? 

Hill: Not really. Frankly, they were sort of passively involved. Well, 
probably the most key person there--! may have misinterpreted your 
question- -and the most instrumental in doing this deal with me was 
a fellow named Gary Bar. 


Hicke: And he was a financial--? 

Hill: Well, I believe he was the president at Questor. He was sort of 
the main manager of it, and he since has moved on to other things 
and lives in Colorado. I'm not sure what all he's involved in 
now. I've kind of lost track of that, but he was sort of the main 
interface person. But none of them really lived out very close to 
it, and I don't think they ever did any vineyards after that 
either, actually. It wasn't too long after that until that 
company splintered into a couple of others and people went their 
separate ways. 

Hicke: They didn't come up and offer to stomp on your grapes or anything? 

Hill: [laughter] No. Well, you know, Gary and some of the others were 
very interested, but they were just very busy people, and that 
wasn't their main business. They had a booming, growing business 
in other directions, so it was just more a matter of this being a 
minor sideshow for them. 

Hicke: Okay, so you moved up to somewhere near this? 

Hill: Yes. I lived just north of Calistoga when all this was going on. 

Hicke: Were you married by this time? 

Hill: No. Not yet. 

Hicke: Okay. When that comes along, let's include that. 

Mt. Veeder and the Search for Cooler Climates 

Hill: I had decided during that period of time that I wanted to get into 
cooler climates. So I started looking on Mt. Veeder. 

Hicke: Why? 

Hill: Very simply put, I felt that most of the wine in generalmost of 
the Cabernet, in particular- -was grown in areas that were on the 
warm side of what was ideal for that variety. They would have 
benefited being in a cooler environment. That probably, to a much 
lesser degree, is still true today. 

Hicke: And you got that from tasting the wines growing around in this 


Hill: And growing in France and growing every place else. 

Hicke: You hadn't had any wine made out of your grapes by this time? 

Hill: No, but I had a lot of wines made by vineyards in that area. 

Hicke: Okay. 

Hill: So the coolest mountain-top growing region in the Mayacamas is Mt . 
Veeder. When I say cool, what I'm talking about is during the 
growing season, not the winterand more specifically, the end of 
the growing season, although I didn't understand that until much 
later. But in the summer months, Mt. Veeder is much cooler than 
Diamond Mountain. Mt. Veeder, as you may know, is this first 
mountain here, west of town. So it's sort of the southern-most 
mountain in that Mayacamas chain, and it looks right out on the 
bay, so it gets much more maritime influence. So it's cooler, 
and, as you probably already know, Napa Valley in general is 
cooler as you go south because of the maritime influence. Once 
again, that's in the growing season; in the winter, it's the other 
way around . 

Hicke: Does the altitude make any difference? 

Hill: Some, but minor compared to the maritime influence. 

Hicke: I interrupted what you were just starting to say, because in the 
winter, the maritime influence works the other way. 

Hill: It's the other way around: Calistoga is colder in the winter and 
hotter in the summer. Anyway, because I wanted a cooler 
environment to make the Cabernet with a different balance of 
flavors, then I started looking at Mt. Veeder, which led to a 
series of several properties we were involved with on Mt. Veeder. 

Hill: By I would say '75, I was starting to decide that I wanted a 

cooler environment, so I was starting to look around. By '76, I 
had found a property. In the meantime- -this is while I was 
developing the Diamond Mountain propertyby '76, I found a 
property on Mt. Veeder that already had some acreage planted. In 
fact, I'd bought grapes from it and had made wine just before we 
ended up buying the ranch itself. So the first wine I made was 
1976 off of Mt. Veeder. 

Hicke: And did you buy the grapes with the idea that you wanted to make 


Hill: Well, yes. I was working on trying to buy the ranch, but I was 
trying to find partners and so on. 

Hicke: Cabernet? 

Hill: It was Cabernet. So we ended up buying that in a partnership, and 
this time, since I still didn't have any money, but at least I had 
a credential, I was able to be the co-general partner. There was 
another fellow who was the general partner and then we had a few 
limited partners; it was a real private partnership. You see, at 
Diamond Mountain, I wasn't even a partner. I just said, "You 
folks do it and buy it. I'll go manage it for you." But this 
time, at least, I was actually able to become a partner in it. 

Hicke: What happens to the partner's investment, like in your Diamond 

Mountain Ranch? Did they get anything as it went along? Or did 
they just get their investment back on it? 

Hill: Well, they got their investment, plus a profit when it sold, but 

they hadn't been getting cash, because the vines, as you know, are 
coming on. At the point we sold it, it was just starting to 
yield. So, at that point, they would have started to get cash 
flow, but we sold it just as it was starting to mature. See, 
Diamond Mountain Ranch was actually part of a bigger partnership 
that had some other agricultural properties that I had nothing to 
do with. So they decided to liquidate that whole thing. It had 
nothing to do really with this partnership. 

New Focus on Vineyard Quality 

Hill: This is, I think, maybe an interesting historical point. At that 
time, it was not the conventional wisdom in Napa that the vineyard 
was the primary determinant of wine quality. The whole question 
of how to make better and better quality was not only new in 
itself, but people hadn't focused a lot on it. We were growing 
out of a commodity orientation, because agriculturegenerally 
speakingis a commodity-type business. Prices are paid for 
getting high yieldsnot whether your almonds are better than the 
other guy's almonds. The market doesn't pay that, unfortunately. 
So people were just starting to change, and there were very few 
people around that adhered to the theory that certain vineyards 
had a lot higher quality, and so on. 

I mentioned Andre was one that understood that and was 
something of a mentor, but another one of my friends and 
associates during that period who was one of the few that 


understood that and appreciated hillside vineyards was Ric Forman, 
who, at that time, was the winemaker at Sterling. Ric was very 
aware of that. We spent a lot of time talking about ideas. We 
were both trying to sort that all out. About that time, Peter 
Newton sold Sterling to Coca-Cola. This would have been about 
1977 or something like that. Ric stayed on for a while as 
winemaker, and that gave him some capital to invest. See, they 
turned him loose to go buy some vineyards. So, my partnership 
wanted to sell, Ric wanted to buy, and he was one of the few 
people in the valley that understood- -even though we hadn't 
produced a grape, yet that that was going to be a great vineyard. 
I think that's very interesting. 

Hicke: A bright guy. 

Hill: He was. And he was definitely ahead of his time on that. So they 
bought it, and it is, in fact, the best Cabernet vineyard. I'm 
sure people up there would confirm that. They say that. 

Hicke: I've read that. 

Hill: Ric bought that without ever having seen a grape. So I give him 
credit for that. 

Hicke: Was anybody else growing a lot of grapes on mountainsides? 

Hill: Not very many. Now there are a lot. 

Hicke: Now, but at that point? 

Hill: Not very many, and the vineyards around tended to be very small. 

Veeder Hills Project 

Hill: So then I came down here and started this Veeder Hills project in 

Hicke: Who were the partners in that? 

Hill: There was another general partner, myself, and only about three 
limited partners, and, frankly, I don't even remember who they 
were. They were friends of his, and he was a fellow named Ron 
Wornick. He had been a successful businessman, he had been an 
executive with Clorox and had some other fruit-drying business in 
Texas or something. I don't know the details of that. 


Hicke: And why did he get interested in your project? 

Hill: I don't remember why, but he had already been interested generally 
in vineyards when I met him, and I must have mentioned to 
somebody, "Hey, look, I want to buy this property," and somebody 
must have said, "You ought to talk to Ron Wornick, because I heard 
he's looking for property." So I went and talked to him, and we 
ended up becoming partners and doing it. 

So we started further developing that over some acres there 
that were planted already by the previous ownerswhich 
fortunately were St. George [rootstock]. And we planted maybe 
another hundred acres over a seven-year period of time. 

Hicke: Cabernet was there? 

Hill: What was there was Cabernet, a little bit of what was supposed to 
have been Pinot Noir--but I think it really, as was common in 
those days, was mislabeled. It was really Camay. But that was 
very small. We pulled it out after a while. 

Hicke: Were those old vines? 

Hill: No, when we took over, they were maybe five years old, six years 
oldsomething like that. So they were just coming to come into 

Hicke: Why did the former owner sell? 

Hill: They had some kind of financial difficulties. 1 don't really know 
very much about that. In fact, I think we actually bought it from 
somebody that had foreclosed on it, as opposed to the person who 
had planted it. I don't know too much about that background. But 
I was very enamored with the ranchand it was a big ranch, over 
five hundred acres. So it potentially had way over a hundred 
acres planted- -maybe approaching two hundred. So we bought it. 

Hicke: I should have been asking you the prices. That would be 
interesting. Do you remember what you paid per acre? 

Hill: I think when we bought Diamond Mountain Ranch, it was probably 

about $3000 per plantable acre, maybe. That's per plantable acre, 
not gross. 

Hicke: Okay. Is that how they measured it? 

Hill: That's the way I measure it, because on these mountain pieces, you 
can get something that's 500 acres and only 100 acres are 
plantable--so it makes no sense to figure your value at 500 acres 


because you can only use this small part. So that's the way 
you've got to figure it. 

Hicke: Yes, true. 

Hill: The Veeder property was probably a little more than that, but not 
much. I'd guess maybe $4000 an acresomething like that. Now 
it's more like thirty to forty instead of three or four, and 
that's with no vines on it- -nothing. So we started developing 

Hicke: Did you move now, down here? 

Hill: Yes. In fact, I lived on this ranch for a while. I got married, 
and my son was born there. 

Hicke: And your wife? Tell me your wife's name. 
Hill: Carolyn. We're not married anymore. 

New Partnership with Donald Hess 

Hill: We developed that, and then in 1979, my co-general partner and I 

decided we wanted to go separate ways. At that point, then, I met 
Donald Hess, and Donald Hess had come over here from Switzerland 
to look at the mineral water business. He has a very big mineral 
water business in Europe called Valser Wasser. It's a Swiss 
business. He lives in Switzerlandhis main home's in 
Switzerland. He has dual-American citizenship. His mother was 
American, and he wanted to invest in some things over here. He 
has other business interests over therea very successful 

He had a very little wine business in Europe. It's a little 
distribution business which is tiny and more a matter of interest- 
-at least at that point. I think it might have grown since then. 
But he liked wine. He came over here with a broker to look at 
some mineral water property up in Calistoga. He decided he didn't 
want to do it, so he said to this guy, "Well, I don't like that 
property. I'm not going to do anything on this mineral water 
thing; but while I'm here anyway, do you know any vineyards that 
are for sale? My plane doesn't leave here for a while, so do you 
know anything?" [laughter] I mean, it's literally that kind of 
thing. So this guy says, "Well, Bill Hill's got this sort of 
interesting thing going on up on Mt. Veeder. Do you want me to 
call him and see if he's around?" And they called me up it was 


Saturday morning or somethingand my other partner and I decided 
to split by this time. So they called me up, I said, "Come on 
down, I'll show you around." We spent the day driving around the 
ranch, and I explained to him my theories about climate and soil 
and grape vineyards and this and that. That led to a purchase 
very shortly thereafter. 

Since then, Donald Hess is the fellow that has the Hess 
Collection [Winery], and he's made a tremendous success out of 
that winery. His Hess Collection wines are essentially off that 
property. Donald and I have become very good friends. He's just 
a charming, very interesting guy. He still accuses me of sucking 
him into the wine business, because now he's not only big in 
California, he's involved in Chile and Argentina, and has a half- 
interest in a winery in South Africa. He's incurably hooked. 
[ laughter] 

More on the Development of the Veeder Vineyard 

Hicke: You went over the development of the Veeder vineyard pretty fast. 
What did that involve? You were planting grapes again? 

Hill: Well, it was another very steep property, which makes it a very 
tough engineering job. You're not just laying out a bunch of 
straight rows. There's a lot of terracing and underground 
drainage systems and stuff like thatbut that's part of what I 
enjoyed about that. It's a property that's got soil 
characteristics and climate that certainly have proven to be what 
I thought they would be, and they produce really good wineboth 
Cabernet and Chardonnay. We planted both varieties there. 

Hicke: Did you harvest any? 

Hill: Well, yes, because there were the acres that were already planted 
when we bought it. So I made wine from that for years before-- 

Hicke: Oh, did you? You didn't sell the grapes? You used them to make 
your own wine? 

Hill: Right. Plus, then Donald sold fruit for a while, because even 

after he bought it, he still hadn't made the commitment to build a 
winery. So I bought fruit from him until the end of the early 

Hicke: To make wine? 


Hill: To make wine. 

Hicke: Under what label? 

Hill: The William Hill label. 

Hicke: Okay. 

Hill: It was one of my sources for a while. I don't remember exactly 
what was the last year, but it was into the early eighties. 

Robert Mondavi's Influence on Hill 

[Interview 2: July 11, 1997] ## 

Hicke: I noticed on the notes you made on the outline that you mentioned 
Robert Mondavi. Maybe you can talk about him as one of your early 
influences . 

Hill: Okay. So, is the question how is he an influence? 

Hicke: Yes. Tell me about your relationship with him, or just talk about 
his importance in your career. 

Hill: Well, I think it was both personal in the sense of talking with 
him and being advised on certain thingsbut also just observing 
him as far as how he conducted himself and what he did. In that 
category, I think the most important things were his love for wine 
and all the things related to it and his commitment to quality. 
He's had his problems along the way, and he's made some good wines 
and some bad wines, but all along, the enthusiasm that he brought 
to it and the commitment to quality that he never wavered from was 
an inspiration to me. And all the things that go with it: his 
commitment to learning how to do things better and the way he 
built an organization of people that felt similarly and he gave 
them the opportunity to pursue that. Then, on a more personal 
level, he advised me at different times on things to do and things 
not to do, which were useful. 

Hicke: Can you give me an example? 

Hill: He had an experience- - let ' s see, this would have been in the 

sixties when he started Robert Mondavi Winery- -in which he had a 
partner that was a big brewery. So he hadwithout getting 
specif ic some very useful advice to me about, as you go forward 
in all this, making sure that you do it in a way that you don't 


let your partners get in control of the situation and cause you to 
deviate from your long-term objectives--in this case, making 
really good wine. That was useful. 

Hicke: Partnerships seem to me a notably difficult way to handle things, 
and you've been involved in a lot of them. So I suppose any help 
along those lines would be appreciated. 

Hill: Yes. That's right. And I think the main thing in that particular 
example was just the point of maintaining enough control of the 
situation that you can keep your eye on the long-term objectives. 
Because if you have objectives that relate to building a company 
that makes really good wine, that takes a long time to do. You 
can't be looking at quarter-to-quarter financial statements; 
you've got to keep your eye on the long-term objective, and keep 
your eye on the ball. 

Hicke: Yes. And I think that's not the way most of these larger, multi 
national corporations normally look at things. 

Hill: That's true. That's very true. 

Robert Craig 

Hicke: I also read in some article that Robert Craig was one of your 
early partners, and he later went on to become a winemaker, I 

Hill: Right. He was a partner of mine at the time when we were doing 

what we called the Veeder Hills project, which subsequently became 
the Hess Vineyards. Then, after we sold that property, he went 
off and did some other things. Ultimately, he started making wine 
on his own. There are a number of people that have worked with me 
at one point or another that are around various places of the 

Hicke: Anybody else that stands out that you'd like to mention? 

Hill: Oh, gosh. I'd be hesitant to do that because of who I would leave 
out . 

Hicke: I understand. 



Use of Others' Winemaking Facilities 

Hicke: When did you sell the Veeder property? 

Hill: Let's see. That must have been about 1979. 

Hicke: But before that, you had started the William Hill Winery? 

Hill: Well, I made a little bit of wine in '76, but '78 was really my 

first significant commercial production. I had some partners who 
came in with me just on that part of the businessthe making of 
wine--and we made about five thousand cases of '78 Cabernet and a 
little bit of Chardonnay. 

Hicke: Where did you make it? 

Hill: Let's see, I'd have to stop and think for a while. The first 
several vintages in the seventies were all in other people's 
wineries on what's called a contract crushing basis. The very 
first vintage, at a very small quantity, was at Stonegate; then 
there was a whole series. I'll bet I've made wine in at least 
fifteen wineries in this valley. 

I made wine even last year. Even though I have a bonded 
facility, it didn't have enough room. Last year I made wine in 
two other wineries besides our own. So I've worked in a lot over 
the years. 

Hicke: It must be interesting to see the different facilities. 

Hill: Well, in fact, you asked about partners. My partner on my very 

first wine, my very first yearthe '76, a very small volumewas 
Tony Soder, who's also now a very prominent winemaker. Then we 
went different ways, and I bought him out of that. He's had a 
very good career as a winemaker also. 


Hicke: Did you actually act as the winemaker in the late seventies for 
your label? Or did you have another? 

Hill: The answer is yes. I was very definitely involved on a hands-on 
basis, but I always had other people that were involved, too, 
whether it was consultants or people working with me that were 
enologists and involved in winemaking. I think the best way to 
describe it is: always I've been in the winemaking role, but there 
have always been others, too--or usually there have been others, 
too, that had involvement. 

Hicke: How did you learn how to make wine? 

Hill: Well, it really comes back to something I mentioned earlier. To 
me, it's been an iteration process based on tasting as the 
starting point. So tasting wines on an iterative basis over time; 
learning to identify flavor and aroma characteristics; going back, 
finding out how those were generated, including how the wine was 
handled in the cellar; and then doing that as it applies to the 
wine that I was making. So that's been my approach from the 
beginningand, of course, with a lot of reading and some classes 
and talking to people, but all of it based on the tasting. 

Early Vintages 

Hicke: Can you tell me about the first wines you made for the William 
Hill label? 

Hill: Well, the first significant one was the '78 Cabernet. Seventy- 
eight was a very good year for Cabernets, as you may know--in 
California, anywayparticularly in Napa. That was lucky, because 
we made a really good wine and got a lot of press and sold it 
easily. It was one of the better Cabernets from one of the best 
vintages. It's always helpful in launching a venture if you have 
something that sort of becomes sought after. So that was a bit of 
luck that my first significant vintage was such a good year. 

Aging Potential of California Cabernets 

Hicke: I read an interesting article. I think it might have referred to 
the '78 vintage, but some later ones did very well in tastings 
against the Bordeaux wines. But I read an article in which the 
writer maintains that the Bordeaux wines were meant to age much 


longer, and the California wines that are tasted against them are 
more mature to start with. 

Hill: That is a bit of conventional wisdom that you used to hear a lot 

in the seventies and the early eighties. You don't hear that very 
much anymore. There's some truth to it, and there was more truth 
to it back then. I believe I mentioned earlier in our discussion 
here that in my opinionespecially back then, and now to a lesser 
degreethat we're growing most varieties in climates that are on 
the warmer side of what's ideal. 

Hicke: In California, you mean? 

Hill: Yes. In California. That's shifted, but it's still a little bit 
the case. It was a lot the case back then in the seventies and 
the early eighties. Wines made in warmer climates if they're 
good ones from good vineyards and made properly they tend to have 
big, strong, pronounced flavors in the case of Cabernets, say, 
big, rich, ripe flavors of plum and so on but be perhaps a little 
out of balance relative to acidity and tannin structures. This is 
not a perfect analogy by any means, but if you have two clusters 
of table grapes in your kitchen and they sit there for a while, 
and one of them started out really ripe and the other ones were 
just not quite so ripe, the ones that are really ripe will develop 
and spoil a lot sooner. Well, wine is the same way, and a wine 
that's aged a long time needs to have a certain balance of a 
certain type of flavors and a certain balance of components, 
including good acidity at least a modest amount of tannin; fairly 
high alcohol helps, and so on. 

Most of the California Cabernet made in the late seventies was 
not as age-worthy as good Bordeauxs were, and that's valid. But 
as our industries change mostly because of changing where 
vineyards are in the cooler environments and the environments that 
are more suited to that variety the nature and the balance of 
those wines have changed, and there are many California Cabernets 
now that will age longer than most Bordeauxs. I say most not all, 
but most. So that's a bit of conventional wisdom that has gotten 

Back then, I did five different tastings against First-Growth 
Bordeauxs. And it wasn't just one wine; the first one, I think, 
was three vintages; and then, subsequently, I think it was four 
vintages. So we did every vintage. We didn't skip any vintages. 
It was '78, '79, '80, '81, and then, eventually, the '82 I believe 
got into it. I don't remember if we got that far, but at least 
through "81. I did tastings in Washington. Let's see, the first 
one was in San Francisco, then I did one in Washington, one in Los 
Angeles, and one I believe in Dallas. 


Hicke: Here's one I found. I guess I don't even have a date on this one. 

Hill: Yes. This one was at Dallas. So, by this time, I'm using all 
four vintages. We didn't skip any vintages, so we couldn't say 
that we were just using good vintages. 

By the time I was actually making wine, I'd already started to 
figure out the theoretical framework I was looking for, and I 
wanted to get into a cooler climate because of this subject we 
were just talking about. 

Hicke: I think you actually led the way into this change that you were 
discussing, towards cooler climate. 

Hill: Among others. I certainly wasn't the only one doing that, but the 
whole industry, now, has done that. It's shifted south, and 
Sonoma has shifted up the Russian River and so on. 

But the point is that I was making Cabernet, already, at that 
time from these cooler environments which did not have a make-up 
like California Cabernet typically had. This was hillside 
Cabernet, which resulted in it being very concentrated. It was 
from a very cool environment, which means it had high acidity and 
a lot of soft tannins--and just a lot of tannins in generaland a 
high concentration of everything, and a balance in nature that the 
wines were sort of austere and closed when they were youthful, but 
they were classic for aging. So even back then, that 
[generalization about aging potential] just was not applicable to 
these wines, and essentially reflected that the people making 
those comments didn't understand very well how to taste a wine and 
decide whether it's going to age well. If they had understood 
that better, they wouldn't have made that comment. They were 
generalizing from the California experience. 

Having said that, the longer I've been in the business, the 
less I care about how wines age anywayexcept for maybe some 
small quantities of Cabernet, but that's another subject we can 
come back to. 

Tastings of California Cabernets Against Bordeaux 

Hill: But these tastings were extremely useful as far as sort of getting 
us on the map, if you will, because we did everything as 
scientifically was we could. We took all the vintages I had 
available. We picked out First Growth Bordeauxs to taste them 
against. It was done totally blind by hundreds of people. But my 


point was never to beat the Bordeauxs, per se. Because I love a 
great Bordeaux. But, rather, my point was to demonstrate that we 
were making some wines--and had a potential to make wines in the 
futurethat deserved to be considered in the same category 
quality-wise--maybe different from them, but comparable in 

Well, today, California Cabernet has achieved that status 
largely, but it hadn't then. In 1981, when I first started 
selling wine--that was when my '78 vintage was coming to market--! 
remember very clearly going back to the East Coast and being told 
time and time again that you can't sell expensive California wine 
on the East Coast because it's a French market. Well, since then, 
of course, California has taken control of that market, but that 
was their conventional wisdom. So my point was simply to say, 
"Look, we're making some wine that I think you ought to pay 
attention to; and if you do, I think you'll conclude it deserves 
to be considered with other great wines of the world." That's 
what I trying to achieve. 

So when we did these tastings, it wasn't that our wines won 
although some of them did. Some vintages in certain tastings 
would be the first choice in the groupin fact, several of them 
but it became very clear in the tastings that, number one, the 
overwhleming majority of the tasters couldn't tell which was the 
Calif ornian and the French. The people that came to these things 
were, by selection, a pretty sophisticated group of people: a lot 
of trade people, a lot of wine merchants, and restaurant people. 
The others were chosen from lists of wine clubs. So these were 
way more sophisticated than the average American consumer, and the 
overwhelming majority of them could not successfully tell which 
was which. In this particular tasting in Dallas--! had forgotten 
this, frankly the group ranking had our "78 in first place, and 
that is against [Chateau] Latour and [Chateau] Mouton. Our '79 
was in first place; and our '80 was in first place; and our '81 
was in second place out of three wines the other two being First 
Growths. In the others, the results were a little bit more mixed, 
but we always had at least one or more vintages in first place. 

That was very successful, and we got a lot of attention from 
that in the press. I still have people come up to me today to 
tell me that they were at our tasting in Washington, Los Angeles, 
or Beverly Hills. So that was great. I'll probably do it again 
some time soon. Probably the next time I'll do it is with Pinot 
Noir and Burgundies Pinot Noir from the Van Duzer corridor in 
Oregon. So I think I'll probably be doing something like this 
before too long with Van Duzer Pinot Noir and Burgundies. 

Hicke: Great. That should be interesting. 

Effects of Climate and Terroir 

Hicke: The climate, that terroir if you want to call that thenthat 
you're working with is more like that in Bordeaux? 

Hill: Well, first of all, the climate's different from terroir. Terroir 
refers to the whole set of circumstances, including the soil, the 
climate, humidity- -climate broadly defined including humidity, 
rainfall, as well as heat and so on. I would say that the 
climates that I've moved to for various varietiesbecause it 
varies by varieties, you knoware more similar to the European 
version where they get the best wines than older regions in 
California, to be sure. Absolutely. I mean, that's the whole 
reason I went to Oregon: to make Pinot Noir and sparkling wine and 
Chardonnay in a more Burgundian style. It's because the climate 
conditions in this one little area of northwestern Oregon are 
virtually identical to the Cote d'Or region of Burgundy. Then, 
within that area, I sought out good soils with the result that the 
whole terroir is much more similar to the Cote d'Or region of 
Burgundy than is, say, Carneros or Monterey or Santa Barbara. 
That's not to say those other areas can't make Pinot Noir, but 
they make different Pinot Noir. 

Selection of Winemaking Facilities 

Hicke: Okay, back to the actual evolution of the William Hill label: did 
you have specific things you were looking for when you chose the 
facility to make your wines? 

Hill: You're talking about during those years when I was working in 
other people's wineries? 

Hicke: Yes. 

Hill: Yes, I would say the most important specific thing I was looking 
for was who would let me in. [laughter] 

Hicke: The open door is definitely important. 

Hill: The whole concept of having to be a nomadic winemaker is not 

anything I recommend by any means. It was imposed by necessity. 
To answer your question more seriously, I tried very hard to find 
people that were running the winery that had a real quality 
orientation, and therefore could understand and would try to 
cooperate in letting me do what I wanted to do. Secondly, where 


possible, [I sought facilities] that had the equipment that lent 
itself to high quality production, like small tanks and various 
good presses that are gentle, and those kinds of things. 

I started from a short list of those that I thought would be 
my favorite place to do it, but then the trick is always finding 
the space, because some years are full and some years they've got 
space, and it's definitely not the recommended way to try to make 
great world-class wine: working out of other people's facilities. 

Hicke: So eventually you decided to build a winery? 

Hill: Oh, I always wanted to; I just didn't have the money to. 

Hicke: Well, tell me how that worked out. 

Hill: How we finally built it? 

Hicke: Yes. 

Hill: Almost my whole career I've been working out of leased buildings. 
My first one was an old ice plant, down by where the Napa Valley 
Wine Train starts there in town. Do you know where the yard is 
there? Just down one more street, there is an old ice plantwhat 
was an ice plant twenty years ago. I leased that maybe 1980 or 
something like that, but I still usually did custom fermentation 
elsewhere because I didn't have all the equipment therepresses 
and that kind of thing. For example, on the Cabernet I'd ferment 
it in someone else's winery, and then as soon as it's ready to go 
in the barrel, I'd take my barrels over there. And I'd have tanks 
so I could process it from there on out, including bottling. 

I worked out of there for quite a while, and then it must have 
been about 1985 or so, I leased another building, kept that one, 
and then added another building down in the industrial park south 
of town. Not too long after that, I dropped the first one and 
rented a second building in this industrial park. This is just 
south of the golf course there in that industrial area off of 
Kaiser Road. Then, following that, I had a third one. So at one 
point I had three buildings that were all sort of in the same 
area. In fact, at that point I was making 70,000 cases of wine 
under the William Hill label still all in these three leased 

Hicke: And did they all come from your vineyards? 
Hill: Mostly. 

Construction of William Hill Winery 

Hill: So I didn't actually build the facility that is now the William 

Hill winery until 1990. I entered into an arrangement with Allied 
Lyons, which is a British public company that is now called Allied 
Domecq, and they're the entity that ultimately, two years later, 
bought William Hill. The deal with them was actually entered into 
in 1990, in which they lent me money to expand the business, build 
a new winery facility on our property off of Atlas Peak Road. It 
was an arrangement where they lent me money to expand and mature 
the business, they undertook the selling of the wine, and they had 
an option to buy it. They ended up buying it in 1992. So that 
was the first time I ever had a building that we had built that we 
owned and made wine in. 

Hicke: What promoted their interest in California wine? 

Hill: Well, one of their three areas of activity already as a company 
are wine and spirits. They're huge. They are one of the two or 
three big British companies that are in wine and spirits. So they 
had a lot of European involvement, and they owned a lot of big 
brands in spirits that you would recognize: Beefeaters and all 
the Hiram Walker whiskeys. In fact, by 1990, they already had 
entered the California wine business, and at that time they 
already owned Galloway and Clos du Bois. Clos du Bois is in 
Sonoma County. So now they have Galloway, Clos du Bois, William 
Hill, and the Atlas Peak winery. 

Hicke: Is the Wine Alliance the name of their subsidiary? 

Hill: Yes. They're a subsidiary of what is now called Allied Domecq. 
Back then it was Allied Lyons. 

Hicke: Then you oversaw the building yourself? Did you have an 
architect, no doubt? 

Hill: Yes. 

Winemaking Philosophy 

Hill: Should we go back and make a couple of observations during the 

Hicke: Oh, yes. I didn't want to skip over that. 

Hill: I kind of jumped ahead because of the wine building part, but the 
eighties were really the period in which we built William Hill. 
It was built on the principle that we wanted to try to produce 
really high quality wine, and that the most important thing was 
you had to have great vineyards to make great wines. That was our 
focus, and while there was a lot that I learned through that 
period and laterand still a lot of things I'm learning today- 
more particularly, what is it about a property that determines 
wine quality? Nevertheless, the general principle proved to be a 
very valid one for us. So William Hill was very successful during 
that period. Eighty-one was our first year, really, to sell wine; 
we sold a few thousand cases. By the end of that decade, we were 
selling a little over 70,000 cases and this was relatively 
expensive, because we were sort of the opposite of most wineries, 
in that most wineries make more less expensive wine, and the 
higher you go up their quality spectrum, the less the volume. 
That's the shape of the market, too. But at William Hill, we 
actually made more reserve wines than we did what we called 
"silver label," at least until the latter part of that period. 

Hicke: Oh, that's interesting. 

Hill: Because our theory was to take these estate wines and make 

reserve, estate-type wines. Then if we had some young vines and 
we bought some fruit, then we would blend those and make a silver 
label wine. So most years, during that period, we actually had 
more reserve than we had silver label; and we only had two 
varieties: Cabernet and Chardonnay. So it was 72,000 cases at 
that time, and that was quite a few, given that the average FOB 
price, which was our price at the winery, was over a hundred 
dollars a case, and it was very heavily weighted towards high-end 

Hicke: About how much of that would be the reserve wine? 

Hill: Well, it sort of evolved during that period. The first couple of 
years, we didn't even make silver label, and by the end, it was 
about 50 percent silver label, 50 percent reserve. 

Hicke: You started out with the high end, though? 
Hill: Yes. 



Hicke: Do you know what it was selling for--how that evolved all through 
the 1980s? 

Hill: Well, the retail price in a shop, for examplenot a restaurant, 
because that varies so much from one restaurant to anotherwas 
probably about twelve or fourteen dollars in the early eighties 
when we started, and it was about eighteen or twenty dollars a 
bottle by the end of that decade. 

Hicke: You were just saying there weren't very many at that price. How 
did you decide on that price niche? 

Hill: Oh, as far as pricing, I pretty much relied on my associates that 
were in the selling end of the business. During that period, we 
built our own internal sales force, and by the latter part of the 
eighties, we had seven regional managers around the country that 
lived there like in New York, Chicago, Washington, Florida, 
Texas, and two in California. So, let's see, [counts] seven, yes, 
and other support people in the sales and marketing area. The 
pricing was really dictated by the market and what they 
recommended. It wasn't a specific strategy that I came up with 
and said, "Let's be at eighteen dollars in five years," or 
anything like that. 

Wine Marketing and Changes in Public Taste 

Hicke: Were you involved in the marketing, say, traveling and that kind 
of thing? 

Hill: I did a lot of that in the eighties, although my participation on 
the sales side was pretty specific in the sense that, as I 
mentioned, we had a good sales team. They were the pros that did 
everything, and I did a lot of traveling around doing trade 
luncheons and big dinners. A typical day for me would be to have 
a luncheon of maybe thirty-five or forty trade people, and then, 
since I'm in that town anyway, that same night try to because 
these things are frequently planned months in advance- -have 
something that's more consumer-oriented, like get together with 
one of the big wine clubs or wine and food clubs like Les Amis du 
Vin. We'd try to make it coincide with one of their monthly 
meetings, and have maybe two or three hundred people there at 

those consumer-oriented ones, 

So that would be sort of a typical 

Over those years I did a lot of traveling, and it wasn't just 
to Chicago and New York, either. I mean, it was to Birmingham and 
Kansas City. There aren't many cities over 100,000 in this 
country that I haven't been to at one time or another. [laughter] 

Hicke: Did you notice different reactions in different parts of the 

country? I mean, certainly the East Coast people would be more 
knowledgeable than those in the Midwest, and that sort of thing? 

Hill: Well, I would say it has shifted as you go through time, but if 
you take the period in which I was starting to sell in '81 and 
'82, first of all, the wine consumption was heavily weighted 
towards the two coastsor you could actually even say the 
Northeast and the West Coast. Especially for high quality wine, 
it was even more weighted to those two areas. The middle part of 
the country was just barely starting to become aware of all of 
that and to incorporate it into their culture. Another thing that 
was true back then was that the Northeast- -which I would, for 
these purposes, define as Washington, D.C. up through Boston and 
all the cities in between therewas much more European-oriented. 
So that was sort of the starting point in the early eighties. 

I mentioned earlier how I was told by trade people in that 
period that "You can't sell significant volumes of expensive 
California wine back there, this is a French market." As we've 
come through time, the regional differences in this country have 
just blurred enormously. I mean, you don't go to Dallas and hear 
Texas accents anymore, necessarily, [laughter] The people you're 
interfacing with are kind of Californian. You have to ask to know 
where they came from, because they're from all over. People are 
so much more marbled, and our culture and our economy are so much 
more marbled. Of course there's been this whole phenomenon of 
growth in interest in food and wine and maturation as a culture. 
So, generally speaking, that aspect of wine interest is everywhere 
now. Wine knowledge is much more uniform, and then, of course, 
California wines and, more recently, Oregon wines are accepted in 
the Northeast as being among the best in the world. So that's 
been the shift, I would say. 

Well, I guess the other thing is the proportion of the 
population that has at least some exposure to and interest in wine 
is a much higher proportion of the population than it used to be- 
everywhere, even in California. 

Hicke: What kinds of questions would people ask you? 




Hicke i 


Hicke : 


In the early days back then? 

Yes. I mean, were they interested in the wine? 
interested in you? 

Were they 

That's testing my memory, but-- [laughter] I would say that one 
thing that sort of stands out is that they were always interested 
in the personal side of it. I mean, I would be up there talking 
about the grape vineyards and the soil and the climate and how we 
make the wine, and I would very frequently get questions about who 
the people are, because I would tend to leave that out a little 
bit. I think in the wine business it's different than most 
products. I mean, when somebody buys a tape recorder, I don't 
think they really think about "Who are the people who made this 
tape recorder?" But when they buy wine or when they buy a 
painting, they think about "Who are the people that crafted this?" 
So, as a result, at these affairs, a lot of questions are about 
who was involved and what's the life like. And then there are 
always questions like this one about aging. I used to get a lot 
in those early days, but those things have shifted over time. 

Do you still travel, and, if so, what's it like now as compared to 

Well, I haven't traveled much since 1992. I should say, I haven't 
traveled much selling wine since '92, because that was the year I 
sold William Hill winery, and I've been making wine since then and 
had brands, but the volume has been very small until recently. 
Now, this last year when we formed the new company and I put these 
evolving brands together and we bought Parducci--now we're making 
over 400,000 cases of wine. In this first year, I haven't 
traveled very much yet selling wine because, one, I was very busy 
the first year getting the company sort of organized. Secondly, 
the new wines that we made- -namely the '96 vintage- -haven ' t 
started coming out yet, but they will by this fall. As those come 
out, then it's much more effective for me to travel, because I'm 
talking about wines that we made. So I will probably travel six 
or eight weeks a year, at least, for the foreseeable future, on 
what you might call selling wine, telling our story. 

I think it's interesting that people are interested in the 
personal end of the business, too. 

So is there anything more about the eighties, now, that we 
should cover? 

I think the main thing that came out is that I became certainly 
convinced with experience that we were on the right track as far 
as building on the foundation of trying to understand great 

vineyardsthat if you have a strategy of making very high-quality 
wine, that the first thing you have to understand are climates and 
soils and source your fruit from that. Also during that period of 
time, I think I started to get some grasp of what it takes to sell 
wine, particularly expensive wine, which is a niche. Those were 
the main things. 




You haven't talked about your vineyards, 

What vineyards did you 

We have done a series of projects since that first Diamond 
Mountain project. As I may have mentioned earlier, we sold some 
along the way, not because they weren't high quality, but because 
maybe when I had an opportunity to buy a property that I thought 
would make a great vineyard, then I had to look around and see 
who's available to put money into helping me do this. Well, I 
just took what was available. It's better to do it that way than 
not do it at all. So we would develop them and sell them, and, 
each time we did, then I'd take my share of it and have a little 
bit more to work with and so on. 

So we started with that Diamond Mountain project; our second 
one was the vineyard on Mt. Veeder that I mentioned became the 
Hess Collection Estate Vineyard. Then we did another vineyard on 
Mt . Veeder, which I had for a number of years on the north side of 
Mt . Veeder that we called Veeder Peak. It was a great Cabernet 
vineyard. That's next to what is now the Chateau Potelle; it's 
contiguous to their property. 

The next in sequence, which we actually started in 1980, was 
the property around what is now the William Hill Winery. We 
called that the Silverado Vineyard. Actually, that was kind of an 
interesting project, now that I stop and think about it, as far as 
significant things that happened during the eighties, in the sense 
that that property had been looked at by numerous people in the 
past and judged not to be suitable for planting grapes. Now, this 
is the early eighties, so keep in mind at that point we were still 
very young as a wine culture, and our effort to make really high- 
quality, world-class wine was a very new thing that had evolved 
during the seventies. So the level of knowledge was mixed. Up 
until that time, most farmers had done what makes sense for 
farming most crops: that is, if they were going to plant grapes, 
they preferred to do it on this nice, rich, bottom-land soil, 
where the vines grow quickly and vigorously. 


Hicke: And produce a lot of grapes. 

Hill: They produce a lot, and so on. I think we may have already talked 
about that . 

Hicke: Not very much. 

Hill: But under those conditions, that doesn't mean that they aren't 
good vineyards from the point of view of profitability, but you 
can't make great wine from those kind of vineyards. Then, as we 
grew in our sophistication--"we" being the industrygradually 
people understood more and more. They actually started 
understanding climates first, so they started looking for cooler 
areas. Then later, it wasn't really until the mid-eighties, when 
many people also starting looking not just for climates that were 
more well suited, but started looking for soils that followed the 
pattern that hundreds of years of experience in Europe had proven 
make the best wine: which usually is coarse, rocky, gravelly soil 
on benchlands or hillsides. Generally speaking, the climate 
determines the balance of the flavorswhich components in the 
wine are more or less prevalentand the soils mostly determine 
the level of concentration of the flavors. So, up until the 
eighties, farmers didn't focus on that a lot. In fact, usually 
the growing decision was made because they already owned the piece 
of land and the grape business was good, so they took out the 
prune trees and they put in grapes. There weren't too many people 
going around trying to figure out where to do it. I mentioned Ric 
Forman was kind of an exception and a valued colleague who kept me 
from feeling so lonely back in those early days, [laughter] 
because he was. 

Silverado Vineyard 

Hill: So, in any case, I spent a lot of time looking at the hills and 

the benchlands. This property that became the Silverado Vineyard, 
which is the one that is around the William Hill Winery now, and 
the only vineyard property they bought when they bought William 
Hill Winery, because it's the one that the winery building itself 
was on when I first was looking at that, it was pasture and had 
been used by cattle. It had been looked at by other people in the 
past who deemed it as not being suitable for grapes, because it 
was this consolidated, hardpan soil it wasn't nice, loamy soil- 
it was gravel and cobbles. It appeared to have been like an old 
lake bottom, maybe. I don't think it was a sea bottom, because I 
didn't find any shells in it, but maybe a lake bottom, or maybe a 
big meandering river bed, or something which was very ancient and 


had been compacted with the sands and the clays and the loams and 
the rocks and so on into this hardpan. 

Almost ten years earlier, when I'd been trying to get into 
business, you may recall that in order just to get myself a 
credential and a little experience before I moved to Napa, I did 
consulting on several different crops. I had an opportunity 
during that period of the seventies to observe some things that 
were going on down in the Central Valley in which farmers for 
other crops than grapesmostly this was for orchardswere 
starting to go up into the foothills and get into some of these 
very tough, hardpan soils. They would come in with these huge, 
massive tractors and rip this soil up, and just break this rock 
and stuff up until it was gravelly, and then they would come in 
and plant almonds or whatever they were doing. I had observed the 
use of these huge tractors. 

So when I saw the Silverado property, then, I could see from 
the profile that it looked like if they were just broken up, it 
would be great, great soilall these cobbles and pebbles and 
coarseness and so. But it was cemented and water couldn't get 
through it and roots couldn't get through it. 

Hicke: Was it hilly? 

Hill: It was sort of rolling topography. It's at the base of Atlas 

Peak, right where it's starting to go up. It's on the other side 
of the trail, right sort of at the foot of Atlas Peak. 

So I brought in a D-9, which was the biggest of Caterpillars 
at that time, and we tried to rip it and we couldn't rip it. So I 
brought in a second D-9. Ripping, by the way you probably know 
thisbut ripping is when you have a single deep plow that goes 
down. I wanted to rip it to at least six feet, because I figured 
that if I could get enough power, I'd break this up the way I'd 
seen them do it in the Central Valley. So we had a D-9 
Caterpillar with this six-foot shank on the back, and then another 
D-9 Caterpillar pushing it. It was in tandem like that, and we 
were able to rip this place up. Once this stuff was broken up and 
was exposed to the oxygen and water for a couple of years, it just 
dissolved and just became this great grape soil. So that, then, 
was the first time I did that. And it was very successful, it was 
a great vineyard. 

Hicke: How many acres did you do this to? 

Hill: About a hundred, a little over a hundred. 

Foss Valley Ranch 

Hill: Then, about a year and a half after I was into that project, I 

found a property up on top of Atlas Peak, which is the area called 
Foss Valley. We used to call it Foss Valley Ranch. That is now 
the vineyards that are known as Atlas Peak, and, in fact, the 
vineyards are now owned by Piero Antinori of Italy, one of the 
biggest names in quality wine in Italy. He's sort of like the 
Robert Mondavi of Italy, in that he has fairly big volume and, 
yet, he's very quality-oriented. 

Hicke: Innovative, too. 

Hill: Yes, very, and just a tremendous guy--just a real gentleman. But, 
in any case, I found a ranch up there that again was deemed by 
some previous studies of other wineries around here not to be 
plantable. I'll never forget that, because I saw these reports. 
This was a huge place. It was 1200 acres, of which I figured-- 
eventually, after I looked into it--that up to 600 would be 
plantable, which in Napa, you know, is a huge holding. 

Hicke: Oh, yes. 

Hill: So I looked at that, and these reports essentially said it's not 
useable because, one, you don't have water; and, two, the soil is 
too hard in places and has big boulders in it. But I knew that on 
those mountains you get like forty inches of rain. Now, keep in 
mind that before 1975, when people went up in the hills, they 
usually dry farmed. They didn't have the big equipment to build 
lakes up there for drip irrigation, and, frankly, the market 
wouldn't pay for that anyway, back in those days. But we started 
right off the bat building reservoirs. 

Every time we built lakes. When I did Diamond Mountain Ranch 
we built lakes; when we did Veeder Hills we built lakes. We just 
come in and built lakes in these places, because we do have the 
tractors now that can do that. Twenty years ago, thirty years ago 
or longer, it wasn't economic to build reservoirs. So I looked at 
this and I said, "Wait a minute. I know on this mountain you get 
over forty inches of rain a year," because the rain is accelerated 
when the clouds go over the mountains. "So you've got the water; 
you've just got to build a lake and catch it. Secondly, I think 
these D-9s can rip this thing, and pop these big boulders out and 
push them out of the way and we'll have good soil." 

We bought that, and that was where, then, also there was a big 
jump in our activity. Then I had this little winemaking business 
with a few partners that made wine, and then I had partners in 


several different vineyards, including the one by the William Hill 
Winery that I called Silverado. That led, then, to merging all 
that into one company, which became William Hill Wine Company. It 
now had a vineyard on Mt. Veeder, the vineyard down herethe 
Silverado Vineyard on Hardman Avenuethis big property, which we 
bought to raise new money from new partners and increase the 
volume of production of William Hill Wine. That all occurred in 

As far as the development of it, I learned that Caterpillar 
now made a much bigger tractor called a D-ll. Actually, that was 
a D-10, but it was two and a half times bigger in weight than D-9s 
were. It was just huge, and the only way they could get it up to 
Atlas Peak was to disassemble it. They had to take out the blade 
and the track and put it on separate trucks and move it up. And 
still, what was left of the tractor was so big it had to have a 
truck pushing and a truck pulling to get it up the hill. 

Hicke: Were there roads up there? 

Hill: Oh, yes, but if you've ever been up to Atlas Peak, it's a steep, 
windy road. But we got it up, we built the property. 

Financing Troubles 

Hill: We started the development in '81, and then about 1984 we were 
about three or four years into the project there was a period 
which you may or may not remember that the banking industry in 
this country was in deep, deep trouble mostly because the energy 
market fell apart, and they had a lot of loans to the petroleum 
industry, and, secondly, loans to underdeveloped countries. Those 
crises happened at the same time, and there were a lot of banks, 
including Bank of America, for example, that just almost went out 
of business. And Bank of America was my development lender. They 
were in deep trouble. Since then, of course, they've come out of 
it and they're just doing gangbusters, but at that point, they 
were taking various survival measures. 

One of those was that they just pulled out of the wine 
business. They just pulled the plug on virtually everybody. They 
probably still lent to Heublein if they wanted it [laughs), but 
all the rest of us got our loans called. And this project wasn't 
complete enough, yet, for me to get replacement financing, so that 
forced us to sell it. Fortunately, the project was going really 
well, so we sold it at a nice profit. That's when we sold that 
project, and that would have been about '85 or maybe '86, to a 


partnership consisting of Piero Antinori and the Bizot family that 
owns the family Bellinger champagne house in Champagne, France. 
The third partner was a company called Whitbread, which was a 
publicly traded British company. I think their main business was 
beer and spirits and so on. 

They were partners owning that, and they continued to develop 
it. Just to take that property a little further down the road: 
interestingly enough, then, in 1990, at the same time we were 
signing the agreement with Allied Lyons from William Hill, they 
sort of inherited that property by virtue of the fact that Allied 
Lyons bought most of the wine and spirits portfolio from 
Whitbread. So now Allied Lyons was partners with the Bizot family 
and Piero Antinori. Shortly after that, the Bizot family wanted 
out, so they got bought out, and a couple of years ago they 
separated further in that Piero Antinori bought the land and 
leased it back to them. Now the Allied Domecq, through their Wine 
Alliance subsidiary, leases that property. So the Wine Alliance 
owns the Atlas Peak brand that you see in the stores now, and they 
operate the property, but Piero Antinori still owns the land. 

Hicke: Kind of a convoluted story, isn't it? 

Hill: Yes. 

Hicke: But very interesting. 

Hill: So one of the things there that evolved during the eighties during 
those two experiences was that I learned to use these big tractors 
to come in and develop what had been considered to be unplantable 
property and turn them into property that is actually very well- 
suited for vineyards: rocky, well-drained soils. 

Hicke: Yes. I always remember there's some winery in Bordeaux--! can't 
remember exactly what its name is--but the name of it translated 
means "pebbles," as in beautiful pebbles. [Ducru-Beaucaillou] 

Hill: There's the whole area where the Sauternes come from, and also dry 
white Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon wine. It's called Graves. It 
doesn't literally translate to gravel--more like cobbles, I would 
say, would be the most accurate translation of graves. That whole 
area is called that. 

Hicke: So by 1990 you had sold the Foss Valley and you had left the 
Silverado Vineyard? 

Hill: Yes. By the way, on that last thing, just one observation is that 
because of all this, the ranch that I currently live on, and 
hopefully always will live on, is also on the base of Atlas Peak, 


contiguous to that Silverado property I did. Two weeks ago, the 
D-ll just moved up. D-ll is now the next notch up from the D-10, 
and they just left two weeks ago from their latest job on that 
ranch. It's a similar situationbreaking up this hardpan and 
creating this great vineyard ground out of it, because that's my 
home place. I've decided that I'm going to name that ranch 
"Broken Rock Ranch." [laughter] 

Hicke: Oh, that's excellent. I like that. 

Other Vineyard Properties 

Hill: I left out, really, one area, I guess. During the eighties also, 
then, I developed these relationships with this growing circle of 
people that were interested in investing in vineyards. Even though 
William Hill Wine Company now had a vineyard on Mt. Veeder and two 
vineyards on Atlas Peak, there were also, during the eighties, 
five or six other vineyard properties that we acquired outside of 
that companyeach it's own separate partnership to acquire, 
develop, and operate as a vineyard various properties. They 
ranged from 400 acres in Carneros, which we still have today. 

Hicke: Is that the Big Horn? 

Hill: Yes, what is now the source of the Big Horn wines. We have a 

really good Cabernet property on the east side of town that's in a 
partnership called Kruese Creek Vineyard. We had brought a 400- 
acre property in Sonoma on the south slope of Sonoma Mountain. We 
bought 1400 acres in Anderson Valley in Mendocino, and we bought 
two ranches in Oregon- -one in a partnership and one that I bought 
personally, together with John Mayes, my partner here. We just 
bought it individually without other outside partners. 

Hicke: Is that the Van Duzer? 

Hill: No, neither of them is developed yet. 

Hicke: So you were already looking around in Oregon? 

Hill: Yes. So William Hill Winery then had those three properties: two 
on Atlas Peak and one on Mt. Veeder. Then we had these other 
projects two in Napa, one in Sonoma, one in Mendocino, and two in 
Oregonthat we had bought in the eighties. Now, the way these 
investors came in on these it had just grown word of mouth in the 


sense that we would do something, then somebody else would say, 
"Well, I see what you've done here, and next time you do one, let 
me know." And so on. That circle grew, in other words, without 
wisdom by design. It just sort of grew by contact and word-of- 
mouth. Most of the people that were raising the money there were 
people that were, to one degree or another, involved with real 
estate syndication and partnerships and so on. 

For reasons that have nothing to do with the wine business, 
that whole so-called real estate syndication business just 
disappeared in the eighties. Economics changed and tax laws 
changed; they just went away. So two of the companies that I had 
bought the land with went out of business before we had even got 
them developed. So I had in my portfolio properties that weren't 
part of William Hill, then. They ranged from properties like 
Carneros and Kreuse Creek that were fully developed to other 
properties that hadn't had anything, and then a couple that had 
some in-between work done but were not finished. So, at the end 
of the eighties, then, we were sitting there with this portfolio 
of properties all of which to one degree or another we felt would 
make great world-class wine, and we had the properties under 
William Hill. This was coming into 1990. 

William Hill Wines Made in Oregon 

Hill: I would say the other really significant thing in the eighties was 
that I was gradually, methodically coming to understand climates 
and soils a little better, and had concluded that, in the case of 
two other wines that I was interested in making--Pinot Noir and 
sparkling wine--that the best place to do it--for those two wines- 
-was in Oregon. This was an effort that I spent ten years trying 
to figure out--once again, from tasting wines and then talking and 
reading and looking at places all up and down the coast. Two of 
those ranches that we acquired during that period, as I mentioned, 
were in Oregon. We also started, then, making a small amount of 
wine with the '89 vintage in Oregon under what became the Van 
Duzer label. 

Sale of Winery to Allied Lyons 

Hill: So that brings us back to the point, then, where in 1990 we signed 
the contracts with Allied Lyons, which led to them purchasing 


William Hill in '92. Do you want me to tell you a little bit 
about how that evolved? 

Hicke: Oh, definitely. 

Hill: Well, it was a very mixed experience for me. First of all, it had 
never been my plan to sell the William Hill name. That was the 
bitter part of the whole thing. It was more a case of not being 
able to foresee the future, and with the benefit of hindsight, I 
would have done somethings differently. Like I wouldn't have used 
my name on that label until I got far enough down the road to have 
better control of what the future was. 

Hicke: Awful to lose your name. 

Hill: Yes. But during that period, we raised a lot of money from 

different people, and I was by this time a significant partner but 
still a minority partner. 1 owned more of William Hill than any 
other individual, but 1 was still in a minority position. The 
brand had been successful, but it was time. It was a partnership, 
and these people didn't have any way to get out. It wasn't like a 
traded share a stock or something that they could go sell and it 
was time to deliver to these people that had invested. They had 
stuck with me for a long time. Earlier, I had hoped that when we 
got to that point, that the circumstances would allow me to have 
other alternatives to just selling out. The possibilities that 
I'd hoped would arise included that the businesses were far enough 
along to be able to borrow money and buy those partners out. 
Another possibility was to buy back some of their sharesenough 
to keep controland sell the remaining portion to the public, 
like Mondavi has done recently, where the Mondavi family controls 
the winery, but a minority position is publicly traded. 

So I'd hoped to do something like that, but the late eighties 
were a time in which that just wasn't possible because we were 
sort of at the tail-end of the period in which alcohol 
consumption, in general, had diminished, and wine sales had been 
going down for a while, and even at the high-quality end they'd 
sort of flattened. There was that period in the mid-eighties in 
which there was a lot of focus on the problems of drunk driving, 
and getting that under control, and health issues, and so on. A 
lot of that was very good stuff; it was good that we, as a 
culture, recalibrated ourselves and so on, but in any case, it was 
a tough time for the wine business. Also, the economy was up and 
down; the financial community was such that there wasn't money 
available from banks for the wine business. 

So, to make a long story short, it was not a good time to try 
to borrow and buy people out. It wasn't available, and it wasn't 


a time you could take a winery public. Everybody was fairly 
pessimistic about the industry at that time. My personal feeling 
was that those were things that we would work our way through, and 
that nothing had changed about the long-term outlook of the 
businessbut that was my personal feeling, not the conventional 
wisdom. The conventional wisdom was that it was not a good 
business to invest in. So, the only avenue I had left during that 
period of time was to sell. So that's how that arose. 

The sale actually was consummated in 1992. As it turned out, 
what they bought was the brand, the William Hill Wine business, 
plus the new winery building we had built over on Atlas Peak Road. 
The only vineyard property they bought was the one that the winery 
sits on, which is the one that I referred to as Silverado: the 
first one I used the D-9s on. They did not buy any of the other 
vineyards. So then, when the smoke cleared on that in 1992, I 
still had the small Van Duzer business and I had a little bit of 
Cabernet in the pipeline in what became the Clos Fontaine Cabernet 
linebut very small volume. But mostly I had all these 
properties. I had three ranches in Napa, one in Sonoma, one in 
Mendocino, and two in Oregon. As I mentioned earlier, some of 
those were developed and others not developed at all. 



Hill: Between 1992 and 1994, my business was to continue to develop 

these small brands the Van Duzer business with purchased fruit 
and Clos Fontaine for Napa Cabernetand to run these various 
projects that we had. I was really trying to decide what I wanted 
to do. For simplicity's sake and brevity's sake, I'll say that my 
decision process I was going through was really, "There are sort 
of two different directions I can go, here. I can spend ten years 
trying to develop new financing sources and new partners and take 
all these great properties and develop them into wine estates and 
have this fairly significantly sized company, but one which, 
unlike most large wine companies, is based on great wine estates, 
and therefore most of the wine is real high quality." Which, from 
a professional challenge point of view, on the winemaking side, 
was very interesting, but I didn't see how to go about it. You'd 
be talking $100 million, or $50 million if you just did some of 
them and so on. I wasn't sure I wanted to pay the price at that 
point in my life of working so hard to develop new sources, but I 
was thinking about that approach. 

The other approach I was thinking about was, "Okay, why don't 
I just sell those off, take my share out of each of them, keep 
this ranch that I have called Soda Canyonthe one I'm renaming 
Broken Rock Ranch, the one that I own just by myself with no 
partners it's a 240-acre piece over at the foot of Atlas Peak 
and just plow that back in, develop this little wine estate, no 
partners, and make a limited amount of very high-quality wine and 
have more private lifestyle and play more golf and spend more time 
with my kids and so on." That was a very attractive alternative. 

Impact of Globalization on Wine Market 

Hill: So from '92 to '94, I'm kind of trying to weigh these, because 

during that period of time, the market was just starting to turn. 


Some of the things that happened in the late eighties and into the 
early nineties, you could sort of see that they probably ought to 
have an impact, but there was a lag effect. They all started 
kicking in at that time. I mean, you almost have to go back to 
the macro view and say that things like the decline and fall of 
socialism around the world resulted in not only the opening up of 
many economies and the further globalization of the world economy, 
but also less money had to be diverted into defense, which in turn 
could be channelled back into the economy. All these things were 
happening which made the world economic outlook look much better 
than it had ever looked in the history of man, I guess. Secondly, 
this would be further fuel to accelerate the globalization of the 
world economy, which meant that, all of the sudden, instead of 
thinking about selling wine to North America, you could start 
thinking about selling wine to at least the affluent portions of 
Japan and, eventually, China, and every place else, because the 
world is becoming one big marketplace. So this affluent 
entrepreneur in Bangkok wears Italian suits and drives German cars 
and drinks French and California wine. All of the sudden, this is 
new; this is happening. In a person's life it may drag kind of 
slowly, but with the change in the world, it was so huge. 

On top of those general things that would have caused the wine 
business to go up anyway, there started emerging all this research 
about all these health benefits of moderate consumption of wine. 
Those things together made wine consumption just [makes whooshing 
sound] start going like this. 

Internationalization is significant, because, remember, wine 
is different that most products. If the Japanese start liking 
fine wine, they're on the wrong side of the continent, climate- 
wise. They can't make it there. So if they want it, they have 
got to either buy it from us or they have got to come over here 
and set up their own wineries, and they've done both. I'm just 
using them as an example. So if you have a product that can only 
be made in certain areas of the world, then there has to be 
systems to get it around. So if you want Maine lobsters, you've 
got to go to Maine, and so on. If you want soft shell crabs, 
you've got to go to Chesapeake Bay. If you want great Cabernet 
from America, you've got to come to California. 

All this is happening. So, actually by 1994, I'm starting to 
get more optimistic. Because of all these thingsMondavi goes 
public, the financial community starts paying attention to the 
wine business, the lenders are coming calling on us wanting to 
give us money--! 'm thinking, "Well, gee, maybe it's not so far 
fetched to keep at least a few of these properties and create wine 
estates out of them. So by 1994, that's what I was trying to do. 


I decided by at least late '94 that what I was at least going 
to take a shot at was to see if I could put together an acceptable 
group of partners and incorporate several of these vineyards or 
undeveloped properties that had a potential to make great wine, 
develop them, and operate them under one umbrella company. So I'd 
have Oregon Pinot Noir and Napa Valley Cabernet and Anderson 
Valley Merlot and Mendocino and so onand have enough size to be 
a little less vulnerable than a little winery, but still have a 
fine wine focus. Because most of the fine wine is still made by 
very small companies, and most of the big wine companies don't 
make very much fine wine. So that's what I set out to do by late 

New Financing 

Hill: In '95, then, I spent almost the whole year working with various 
firms on Wall Street like First Boston Corporation, a little bit 
with Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs; but after a while it came 
down to mostly First Boston, the investment banking part of that 
company. They were working with me to try to put together mostly 
institutionally funded investors, like pension funds and so on, 
that would invest in this thing. 

We spent a lot of time, and we never could quite get it 
together. We had lots of meetings and I spent a lot of time 
traveling and so on, but we couldn't quite get it together- - 
primarily because most of those companies had a relatively short 
time horizon. They wanted to invest in something, and they wanted 
to be out in three years. The question was how did they get out? 
They always have to have an exit strategy. And that's a little 
inconsistent with me, because my objective was to build this 
company and be there forever, and pass it on to somebody when I'm 
too old to do it anymore. So we couldn't quite get that together, 
really, because of that one problem. 

In the meantime --and this is significant--! realized that one 
problem with attracting capital to do this was that it takes so 
long to create a wine estate. If you start with undeveloped 
property, it's three or four years before you get a very decent- 
sized crop, but then the vines are too young to make really good 
wine. So you don't start making really good wine until they're 
six or seven years old. Then, if you make a wine and you age it, 
say, a year and a half at least with Chardonnay-- three years, 
maybe with Cabernet you're talking about a decade from when you 
started to when you demonstrate that it worked. So even if the 


rate of return is okay, these people don't have that kind of 

So I said, "Okay, I've got these wine estates that I want to 
create, but to make this business opportunity be of a nature that 
I can attract the capital, I'm going to have to buy some existing, 
sizeable wine company that's already profitable to be sort of the 
foundation, and then build these things on top of it, so that 
right from the beginning, this business is at least modestly 
profitable. Ten years from now, it's going to be much more 
heavily weighted towards these high-quality wine estates, but in 
the meantime, this sort of carries it. If I do that, then maybe I 
can get these people to bring in the capital to do it. 

Purchase of Parducci Wine Cellars 

Hill: This realization evolved before we even started the effort with 

First Boston. I knew that. So we spent a lot of time looking at 
wineries for sale, from, say, '93 up until last year, and during 
that period, I looked at a lot of things, from Southern California 
through Washington. Parducci [Wine Cellars] emerged as the clear 
favorite. It had so much going for it. Parducci had been in 
Mendocino for thirty-plus years as a wine producing entity. The 
Parducci family had sold it in the early seventies to an 
investment partnership, and this investment partnership wanted 
out. The partners were feuding with each other. But the things 
in addition to that that attracted me were that they had been 
always sort of just this value winery. They just got all their 
wine every year and threw it in a big pot, made darn good wine, 
and sold it at a cheap price. They had been successful and they 
had grown to a 300,000-case winery during that period of time. 

Hicke: I remember John Parducci told me that he thought their wines were 
good, but they could sell them at such a reasonable cost because 
he had built the winery himself, he had bought the vineyards 
decades ago, and he didn't have all this money invested. 

Hill: Yes. That was sort of their approach, and for their time, that 

was a good approach. The vineyards that they owned, which totaled 
about 300 acres, still only represented about 20 percent of their 
volume. So 80 percent was from purchased fruit. And they had all 
these long-standing relationships with all these Mendocino growers 
that had these great vineyards, but Mendocino had been sort of 
overlooked, and it wasn't given the attention that Napa and Sonoma 
were, so they were just like commodity growers. Everybody got the 
same price for Cabernet. It wasn't this guy gets more because his 


is really good, and this one not so much- -which had become the 
case in Napa and Sonomathey were just sort of a commodity 
business. So there weren't really incentives to do anything 
except get the biggest crop they could get. That was sort of the 
nature of Mendocino business. 

That's starting to change rapidly, but you didn't have a lot 
of these little quality-oriented wineries. There were two big 
shows in town: there was Fetzer [Winery] and Parducci. Then there 
was Mondavi buying bulk, taking it out. They bought a lot of wine 
out of there. A lot of people don't realize that a lot of Mondavi 
wines had a lot of Mendocino fruit in themeven the ones labeled 
Napa, because you can have up to 25 percent. 

So the second thing about them was that they had all this 
great fruit that I thought was capable of making much, much higher 
quality wine than they had so far done which was my niche, you 
know. There's nothing wrong with doing what they were 
doing although, actually, in today's market, I don't think it 
works too well. 

Also during this investment partnership, they had built a good 
winery. It was state of the art stainless processing equipment, 
sanitation systems and so on. The only problem, really, is that 
it's the big batch processing. The smallest fermenter they've got 
is fifty tons. You have to have at least fifty tons of fruit per 
batch for fermentation. I mean, that's really big. That's 3000 
cases. There are wineries in Napa whose whole production for the 
year would be that one tank at once. That's something we're 
changing. We're changing the equipment to be more quality- 

In any case, what we had was a good facility, a great supply 
base of vineyards that could make wine every bit as good as the 
best wineries in Napa and Sonoma. They had motivated sellers, so 
the price was in line with what was there. You weren't paying 
some kind of premium to somebody that really didn't want to get 
out. I would focus on that, and, "Boy, that's the one I want, 
because I can do what I do, or what we as a team can do: over a 
couple of years, we can take this quality way upstream. Then, 
after we've done that, we can charge a little bit more money and 
it would be a nice deal and I'll carry this, in the meantime, over 
the years I'll develop my wine estates, and then ten years from 
now, not only will these wine estates be high-quality wines, but 
Parducci itself will be well up to quality stature." So that's 
the one I wanted to buy. 

Formation of Hill & Thoma Wines 

Hill: In early '96, then, I was still talking to a couple of these 

investment venture capital funds, and still trying to put this 
together, because it was such an attractive situation. But I was 
still having trouble getting over this "How long are you going to 
stay here?" problem, and I met Carl Thoma. Carl Thoma is a very 
successful venture capitalist from Chicago; he lives in Chicago, 
he actually is from Oklahoma, as I am, but I didn't know him from 
there. He actually went to Stanford Business School, too, like I 
did, but I didn't know him from there, either. I just met him in 
a couple of tastings in passing, but, frankly, if he'd walked past 
me, I'm not sure I would have even recognized him or maybe vice 
versa. But, in any case, he had gotten increasingly interested in 
the wine business. In fact, by the time I met him, he had already 
bought a second home, a summer home, up by St. Helena. He has a 
home up off of Zinfandel Lane and a couple of vineyards here in 

So he was looking around for other things he might do in the 
wine business, just because he loved it more than anything else. 
We were introduced by somebody and we started talking. I said, 
"Here's what I'm trying to do," and so on. And I ended up 
creating an agreement with him to form what became Hill & Thoma 
Wines. Essentially, the way that developed was that I showed him 
my business plan. We took some of the propertieswe couldn't 
take everything, because we decided that we wanted to keep this 
private. That's how we got around this timing thing: Carl and I 
own the voting shares fifty-fifty and there are some small amount 
of non-voting shares owned by John Mayes and a couple of the other 
people. But we had no outside investors, in other wordsnone of 
these venture funds or anything like that. The significance of 
that is that we both have a very long-term view of things, and 
we'll see how it works out after we've lived with each other a 

Hicke: When was this formed? In '96? 

Hill: Yes. Eleven months ago is when the deal was actually signed. 

When we started talking was in maybe April of '96. So a little 
over a year ago. By June, we had decided to do it. I'd also 
arranged and had great support from Prudential for long-term 
financing, and from Silicon Valley Bank for the inventory 
financing. They were really supportive in helping put the deal 
together to purchase Parducci. So, what ended up happening then, 
is I contributed a lot of assets and some companies like the Van 
Duzer wine business, and my Napa Cabernet business, a couple of 
ranches, like 500 acres in Oregon and part of this ranch out here 









where I live. I kept part of it so that my house wouldn't be in 
the company, but the ranch I put in it. He contributed capital, 
and together with the borrowed capital from those other two 
sources, we started Hill & Thoma Wines, and we bought Parducci for 
$19.5 million, I think it was, and away we went. 

So now we have this companyHill & Thoma Winesand that's 
not a wine brand, that's the name of the company. The brands are 
Carneros Big Horn Chardonnay and Clos Fontaine Cabernet. I think 
we're going to start making a Cabernet also under the Big Horn 
name. I think the way it's going to work is that Big Horn is 
going to become the name of our Napa operation. So it will be Big 
Horn Winery, and we'll have Carneros Chardonnay and so on. 

So we have Big Horn here in Napa. We have Parducci in 
Mendocino. We have a new brand we started in Mendocino called 
Sable Canyon. We have Van Duzer in Oregon; and we have vineyard 
properties then in Oregon and in Mendocino and here. Then, more 
recently, towards the end of last year, we formed MorningStar as a 
brand, under which we make Chilean wine. So we have Morning Star, 
Van Duzer, Big Horn, Sable Canyon, and Parducci. 

That's pretty impressive! 

And that sort of brings you up to the present. 

I see why you're so busy. Let me ask a couple of questions about 
this. Going back to the vineyards, do you have special goals or 
requirements in vineyard management, like in spacing and 
trellising and that sort of thing? 

By that, you mean things that I like to do because they are 
favorable as far as what we're trying to do? 


Yes, definitely. Can we take a quick break for a second? 

Sure. [tape interruption] it 

Trends and Changes in the Wine Industry 

Hicke: We are going to rephrase this question. Why don't you just tell 
me what you just said that you were going to talk about? 


Hill: Well, we were just commenting some on what the most significant 

trends and changes have been over the past ten or fifteen years in 
the business and then sort of where it's going. First of all, I 
think I'll focus my comments here on the high-quality end of the 
wine business, primarily because that's the segment that we 
compete in. Also, that will give us enough focus to have a little 
bit of brevity, because the wine business is very segmented. 
What's happening in the four-dollar retail bottle might be very 
different from what's happening at the high end and so on. 

Changes in the American Wine Consumer and Consumer Demand 

Hill: But if you look back, really, over the period I've been in the 

business, I think that the most powerful trends are because, like 
in any business, the consumer demand is what drives it--or doesn't 
drive it. [laughs] If you look back, I think that certainly one 
of the most important things to draw out of what's happened in 
this twenty-five year history of the modern American wine business 
would be going from a very low base of consumption in America 
through a methodical, steady evolution in which a larger and 
larger portion of the people at least occasionally consumed wine. 
I mean, America really wasn't a wine-drinking culture twenty-five 
years ago; there were little pockets here and there, but most 
Americans didn't drink wine at all. 

If you look at it more closely, it's still a fairly small 
portion of the total population that does, and it tends to be 
weighted toward educated people. I think that's partly because, 
maybe largely because, when a cultural change like this comes 
about, maybe people that are more affluent and more educated tend 
to be more traveled and more exposed to it. It's not that the 
others wouldn't like it if they tried it, they just maybe aren't 
exposed to it, so they don't think about it. It's still a growing 
circle, as far as the portion of the populationour wine 
consumption still is just a few gallons a year per adult, whereas 
in France and Italy and Spain it's into the mid-teens. It's more 
like fifteen gallons a year, and it used to be closer to twenty. 
So it's still a growing thing in our culture. 

The other thing I think is sort of related at the same point 
is the increasing sophistication. Being a relatively highly 
educated and relatively affluent culture in America, there has 
been a heavy weighting toward growth in very high-quality wines. 
There's a higher proportion of that consumed than, say, in Greece, 
for example, where almost everybody drinks wine, but maybe they 
didn't have the affluence to drink the high-quality wine. 


So there's the growth of wine demand, which continues; there's 
the growth in sophistication and appreciation of quality, and with 
that, a willingness to pay higher prices in order to get higher 
quality, because that in turn allows the winemaker to do the 
things necessary to make high quality. 

Then, I think, following that same line of observation, I just 
can't say how important I think this globalization of the world 
economy is, because wine as we think of it, from vinifera grapes, 
was really a very regionalized thing until recently. I mean, it 
was consumed in Europe and pockets on the coasts of North America 
and then somewhat extensively in South America, and that was sort 
of it, until the last decade or so. Now, all of a sudden, like 
other products that add to the quality of life, it's starting to 
show up in consumer demand patterns all over the world. And since 
it has to be made on west banks of continents, at certain 
latitudes, and all that, that means it needs to be made in these 
places like France and California and Oregon and Chile, and sent 
to these other places. So seeing that unfold has been very 
significant, and I think that growth and demand on a worldwide 
basis for high-quality wine is going to be one of the most 
significant things over the next decade or two. 

In that environment of growing demand and sophistication and 
willingness and ability to pay for quality in America, that in 
turn has led to a gradualor maybe I should say methodical, 
because sometimes it was gradual, sometimes it happened in spurts 
rather quickly- -improvement in, first, the knowledge, and then the 
resulting quality of the wine. 

Shift to Focus on Vineyards 

Hill: So wine quality from Californiaand Oregon, as far as that goes- 
has improved dramatically, even just over the last ten years. I 
think the first big causeit's obviously a little more 
complicated and there are more factorsbut the biggest single 
change in wine quality in my opinion grew out of the period in the 
late seventies and the early eighties, in which a number of people 
were starting to realize that if they wanted to make great wine, 
they had to have great vineyards. That was finally starting to 
dawn on a number of people in the industry. I don't want that to 
seem unkind or critical about the people in the industry before 
that, it's just the industry at that point had been around long 
enough that people would pay fifteen dollars a bottle more if you 
did something really good. 


Hicke: And I think the winemakers got most of the attention before that, 
didn't they? The process of making the wine rather than the 

Hill: Winemakers, and to some degree the science and technology and so 
on. The winemakers a lot. 

During the early eighties then, as a result of that, people 
were looking around saying, "Well, gee, if I need a vineyard 
that's so different than what I've been using, where is it?" So 
they would look at the knowledge available, which was you could 
draw some sort of empirically from Europe, even from a distance. 
They grow Chardonnay further north than they do Cabernet, so maybe 
it's cooler or something. Plus, the University of California at 
Davis had developed this system called the heat summation system 
for classifying climates and relating it to the suitability to 
certain varieties. 

Interestingly enough, during those early periods, the 
University of California had spent a lot more energy and focus on 
trying to understand the climate side as opposed to the soil side. 
If you go to Europe, they almost never talk about climate, they 
talk about soil. But after a while it became clear to me that the 
reason is that they sorted the climate out so many generations 
ago, and they figured out that Cabernet works up here in Bordeaux, 
Pinot Noir up here in Burgundy. They just forgot that it was 
important because they'd already sorted that part out. 

Hicke: Interesting. 

Hill: So they focus on soil. They focus on why this vineyard is so much 
better than one 300 yards away. That short distancethat ' s soil, 
not climate. 

So, as people looked around, then, they tended to grab what 
was the best set of useful tools that they could find, which was 
UC Davis 's approach to heat summation. They said, "Well, gee, 
when I look at this I realize that I've been growing Chardonnay in 
a climate that's too warm." So they moved south of Napa into 
Carneros; they moved south and west in Sonoma, up the Russian 
River; they moved close to the ocean on the Central Coast, and so 
on; then started planting vines. By the mid-eighties, those vines 
were coming out, and that, more than anything else, resulted in 
the dramatic improvement in California wines in the late eighties, 
because those vines had been planted in the early eighties in 
cooler environments. 

Some of them--a lesser numberalso started thinking about 
soil and started going up on the hillsides, where they understood 


that fruits seemed to do better on the hills, whether they had a 
theoretical framework to explain it or not. So you started seeing 
more hillside vineyards showing up. Boy, we've sure seen that in 
Napa. They're creeping up the hills and they're all over. There 
were hardly any hillside vineyards in the seventies. There had 
been in the 1880s. because the Italian and German farmers came 
over and some French, and they knew from the European experience, 
you always grow grapes on the hills. You don't grow grapes on the 
valley floor. [laughs] But this new generation that started in 
the sixties and the seventies see, they weren't wine drinkers, 
and they didn't have that heritage, so they went where good 
farmers always go and found that rich bottom down by the river. 
So that's where we planted first, and we've evolved up the hills 
over this period. 

During the eighties, then, there was a dramatic evolution in 
wine quality from California, partly because we had changed where 
we grew the grapes. We started, slowly but surely, to come to 
understand what it is about vineyards that determines quality. 
Also during that period, the winemakers that were coming in and 
getting experience had the ability of building their experience 
and building their careers in an environment in which quality was 
rewarded. So the ones that had talent for that and really 
preferred that could afford to try to make small batches of wine 
and sell it for twenty-five dollars if it's really good. They 
could survive like that, and now there are many of them like that- 
-probably a hundred or two hundred wineries in Napa and Sonoma 
that only make a few thousand cases. But if they're making a 
really good wine, and it's just a little family-owned thing, they 
can make a decent living like that. They couldn't have done that 
before very easily. They had to try to make bigger volumes and 
sell it at a cheaper price. So those were very important trends. 

Also, we were learning a lot more during that period at all 
levelsbe it formal research through the University of California 
at Davis, or Fresno State [University], or San Luis Obispo; or 
just experience by growers and people like myself trying to figure 
these things out. We started thinking about clones. There's not 
just Cabernet, there are half a dozen clones available now. There 
are many more, but there are half a dozen that have enough merit 
to consider. 

Higher-Density Planting 

Hill: We started thinking about other issues like higher-density 

planting. In fact, I would say if you wanted a little insight 


into my evolution as a winemaker and our evolution as a company, 
that sort of mirrors a little bit the industry and, therefore, is 
of interest because it sort of tells you what was happening in 
this period. Almost all the current plantings I'm doing now are 
like 2000 or more vines per acre; whereas back as late as the mid- 
eighties, virtually all the vineyards were, say, 400-600 vines per 
acre. Of course, it's much more expensive to put all these here. 

The evolution behind that is that during the period of the 
eighties, when people were starting to achieve quality, a lot of 
us always looked at what are the counterparts in Europe that make 
the great wine and how they do it; even if we don't necessarily 
understand what's happening, maybe we're better if we do this or 
we do that. One of the things you see right off the bat if you 
look at that is in, say, Bordeaux and Burgundy, your vine density 
per acre is very high. So during the period of the second half of 
the eighties, I was really trying to understand that, because I 
didn't just want to blindly do it they way the French had done it, 
because they were notorious for not assimilating new knowledge 
into the wine business over there. So I was sort of skeptical. 

The reasons that were held out for going to high density 
usually were that the vines would compete with each other for 
water and therefore create sort of a water-stressing effect. 
Well, I could see that does happen, but I wasn't sure that was too 
important to me, because at this point all my vineyards were up in 
the hills where they dry out and have a lot of water stressing 
anyway. The other thing was and the French had proven it 
repeatedly that you couldn't take a heavy, loamy vineyard and 
replace good drainage with vine competition. It just didn't work. 
If it did, there would be great vineyards all over Europe, and, in 
fact, the areas that will make great wines in Europe are very 
limited. So that reason was held out, even as late as when the 
Opus project was started, but I just didn't think that would work. 
I'm trying to figure out what the benefit is of that, if anything. 

In the meantime, in a parallel effort, not realizing at this 
time that they were related to each other, I was paying a lot of 
attention to and doing a lot of experimentation with something 
that is very fundamental to the wine business. Nobody likes to 
admit it, so a lot of people are slow to come to the realization, 
but it's so clear and so time-tested: and that is that the lower 
the crop, the higher the quality. No one wants to say that, 
because you don't like to drop crops. It's like throwing away 
money when you drop crops. But the fact is, that's been 
conventional wisdom in Europe for ages. 

I did a lot of experimenting in the eighties in which we would 
take a vineyard and we would take alternating rows and we would 


drop the crop to different levels, and then we would make separate 
batches of wine. It was so clear that the quality was increased at 
much lower crops than we were carrying in California. So I'm 
going through this process, and somewhere around '88 or "89, it's 
like the light came on. I mean, you work on something, and all of 
the sudden you say, "Oh, boy. Why didn't I see that way back in 
the process?" I realized that we were making a big mistake as far 
as evaluating our crop levels here, because we were saying, "Okay, 
Bordeaux, in a good year, they'll get four tons to the acre 
usually it's a little less than that but in a good year they'll 
get that. So we're not overcropping because we get four tons to 
the acre here on a good hillside vineyard for high quality wine." 
What we were overlooking is that we were doing it on 500 vines and 
they were doing it on 2000 vines. So the crop per vine was much 

That led me to a realization of what should have been obvious 
probably earlier, and that is that the vine is this physiological 
unit, limited by its genetic structure. No matter what you do to a 
vine, it won't grow big like an oak tree, nor will it thrive like 
some little plants. It's got certain genetic constraints in that 
it will be a little bigger under certain circumstances and a 
little smaller under others. But there's a range, and it's 
genetically constrained on what it will do. The cropping has to 
be viewed from the point of the vine. That's the unitnot the 
acre. It's the vine. We were grossly overcropping on a per-vine 
basis. As I did these experiments, it just showed it. The vines 
were all the same spacing because it was one vineyardbut the 
ones where I'd low-cropped the vine are much higher quality than 
higher cropped vines. 

Now then that leads you to an august conclusion: "Well, that's 
great, but if I only carry a low-cropped vine on these 500 vines 
per acre, I can't stay in business, because I'll only get a ton 
per acre, and I can't get paid for it and so on." Then that all 
started to come together, and I realized, "Well, first of all, if 
you do high-density planting, that allows you to do everything you 
need to do to hold the vine back." Maybe it varies by vineyard, 
but typically, now, on most of our vineyards I try to carry 
twenty-four clusters per vine or less. Traditionally around here, 
a hillside vineyard would carry forty-something, and a valley 
floor vineyard may well carry sixty clusters per vine. If you're 
going to do that, though, you have to keep the vine pruned back, 
and you have to thin in certain years and so on. And if you're 
going to do that, you don't use as much space, so you might as 
well do higher density, then get the extra croppage because you're 
not using that ground anyway. Secondly, if you are in a high- 
density situation, you do get some water stressingcompetition 
for waterwhich condenses the fruit. 


So I went and said, "Okay, well, now that makes it obvious why 
I want to go to high-density planningbecause I want my crop per 
vine to be very low to get high quality." So since then, I've 
been growing everything high-density planting. 

Hicke: But that really requires more capital and it's very much more 
labor intensive, it sounds like. 

Hill: And it only makes sense if you have got a vineyard to start with 
that's capable of making really high quality. If you have got a 
vigorous valley floor vineyard that's never going to make high 
quality no matter what you do to it, you might as well space them 
out, let them grow bigger, so you recognize that it's just going 
to be fairly good quality, get your tonnage up, and make your 
money that way. But if you've got a vineyard that has the climate 
and soil potential to make great wine, then you come in and do 
high density, and you do the right clones and everything else. 
Then you have the potential to make great world-class wine. That 
trend is not just us, that's the industry. Other people are 
starting to figure that to one degree or another, so you'll see on 
these replants on phylloxera, the average density is much higher. 
Most of them aren't as high as ours, but they're higher. 

Value of Hedging 

Hill: Then there are many other things. This period since '92 has been 
sort of a sabbatical for me. I have to go back and think through 
a lot of things and do a lot of research. For example, the 
purpose of hedgingwhich they do in France--! finally realized 
why they do that. The main reason is all the shoots end up being 
about the same, therefore all the fruit ripens at the same time. 
Because it's natural on the vine, when it starts growing, that one 
shoot will grow out bigger, so then the other one will come out 
slowly. The juice or sap will tend to go more into that vigorous 
one, but if you clip off the end, then for a while it doesn't 
grow, and this one grows and catches up. So if you keep hedging, 
like we do in our vineyards now- -we don't do that to make them 
look neat, but that allows all the shoots to get in balance. 

Hicke: I don't recall ever seeing any vineyards in California that have 
been hedged. 

Hill: We do. We do it in our newer ones. 

Hicke: Do you? Not very many others, I don't think. 


Hill: Not too many. There are others. 
Hicke: Now they're starting. 

Hill: And the machines we do it with we import from France, because 
nobody out here makes any of those machines. 

Hicke: I remember when we were in Bordeaux, we couldn't figure out why 
all these vines looked like they had been clipped off the top. 
Finally somebody told me. 

Hill: Yes. So those things have evolved. 

Impact of Phylloxera Problem 

Hill: In the meantime, of course, phylloxera came along and emerged. 

While that's been a very difficult economic thing for the industry 
and for us--in the sense we had vineyards that we've had to 
replant, are still in the process of replantingit did have one 
effect in the long run, and that is that all this new knowledge 
that had been building up--now here's a chance to apply it. 
Otherwise, a lot of these vineyards wouldn't have changed for 
another thirty years. That has accelerated the change. There's 
been a lot of knowledge about clones, then rootstocks--not just 
for phylloxera, but how do those rootstocks impact on the vines? 

So our thrust, then, if anything, more than ever is high 
quality, great vineyards, trying to apply the state of the art 
methodology in everything from how we develop the vineyard and how 
we farm it to how we make the wine. 

Pre-eminent Wine-growing Regions 

Hill: Do you want comments about where it's going? Or is that out of 
the context? 

Hicke: No. I definitely would like to ask you that. 

Hill: Okay. You notice this keeps looping back to one principle, and 
that principle has sort of two sub-parts. One is the vineyard 
determines wine qualityor more specifically, for the area we're 
talking about, you have to have a great vineyard to make great 
wines, which is a function of the concept of terrolr--both climate 


and soil, the environment. And, secondly, that such vineyards are 
scarce in the context of the world certain latitudes, certain 
distance from the oceanic inf luence--and then, within those 
pockets where the climate's right, you have got to find the soils 
and so on. Those two concepts--! just keep looping back and 
referring to that, because that's the most fundamental thing to 
understand if you're interested in fine wine, in my opinion. 

I think, as we look forward in the future, if demand continues 
to grow- -even with ups and downs along the way- -and if we are 
looking at this globalization of world demand, which is just going 
to take it into a new echelon most of these countries can't do it 
themselves; they can do mediocre wine, maybe, but not great wine. 
Then we're going to see pretty quickly over the next ten to 
fifteen years California and Oregonand to some degree, 
Washington- -becoming like France, where the grape vineyards are 
totally planted. While there's some ability to expand the other 
stuff, the lower you go down the quality spectrum, the more 
ability there is to expand it. 

But the great vineyards become like a fixed commodity, and any 
time you have a fixed supply in an environment of growing demand, 
you have prices getting bid up. Because, you know, Bordeaux and 
Burgundy prices of the classed vineyards the Grand Crus, the 
Premier Crus, and so on are the First Growths in Bordeaux they 
just keep going up, up, up. It's not because they're getting 
better, it's because Chateau Lafitte only makes 23,000 cases or 
whatever the number is, and that's it. But there are more people 
in the world with more affluence bidding for that fixed amount, 
and the prices just go up, up, up. You're going to see that. 
Napa is virtually all planted now; Sonoma is closer than people 
realize, because you look around and see those hills, and a lot of 
them if the hills aren't planted, there's a reason. Maybe the 
soil's bad, maybe there's no water, maybe it's rock six inches 
under the topsoil and you just can't see that. 

Hicke: Have to wait for a D-20. [laughter] 

Hill: Yes, or a nuclear plow or something. [laughter] Plus, in Sonoma, 
you've got competition with urbanization. Over there, 
industrialization is sort of gobbling up the land. Sonoma is a 
lot closer to being planted than you think; Mendocino is; and 
Oregon, the area where the climate's just right up in the 
northwestern part is really a pretty small area. So I think we're 
going to see those grape vineyards identified and planted out in a 
relatively short period of time. It will surprise a lot of 

70 X 

In fact, the best wine prices will get very expensive, and the 
Oregon wine industry will emerge as America's burgundy and 
champagne, with the very best coming from up therebut very 
scarce and very expensive. Washington will come onstream as a 
producer of claret-type wines, particularly Merlot, Semillon, and 
Sauvignon Blancmaybe more Chardonnay that will be good, not 
quite as good as the very best of California. But Washington will 
compete more with the claret-type grapes, even though it's farther 
north, because in Washington, what you have to work with is the 
high desert behind the mountains. So it's actually Oregon that is 
the environment that is most like the northern regions in Europe. 
Washington is actually more like Bordeaux, and therefore competes 
more with what we do here. They'll become increasingly important, 
but then that's about it. 

In the meantime, Chile will emerge and became known as a place 
to produce Cabernet and Merlot every bit as good as the great 
Bordeauxs and the great California Cabernets and Merlots. Those 
three will sort of reign supreme with everything else being a 
notch down, including Australia and South Africa and so on. They 
will all be a notch down. Particularly in the case of Cabernet- 
Bordeaux, certain coastal pockets in Northern California, and 
certain pockets in Chile will be, really, the best. Chile will 
make other wines too--I think, ultimately, Pinot Noir. But the 
point is, it will join France, California, and Oregon as the 
premier areas in the not too distant future for quality, which is 
not where it's been. Most people think of Chile as these nice, 
good, solid bargains for real cheap prices, but those will tend to 
eventually come more from other places. 

Let's see, what else? And then maybe we'll have some 
breakthroughs based on greater understanding of microbiology and 
genetic engineering which will make it possible for us to grow 
great wine cheaply in Mississippi, and all my theories will go 
right in the garbage pile. [laughter] 

Hicke: No. Well, you're not going to end on that note. Do you think 
we've pretty much covered everything, then? 

Hill: I think so. 

Hicke: It's been great. You're very insightful, and you've had a 

wonderful career. I might come back in fifteen years, though, and 
find out what happened. [laughter] Thanks a lot. 

Hill: My pleasure. 

Transcriber: Caroline Sears 
Final Typist: Amelia Archer 

TAPE GUIDE--William Hill 

Interview 1: July 9, 1997 1 

Tape 1, Side A 1 

Tape 1, Side B 13 

Tape 2, Side A 24 
Tape 2, Side B not recorded 

Interview 2: July 11, 1997 30 

Tape 3, Side A 30 

Tape 3, Side B 41 

Tape 4, Side A 50 

Tape 4, Side B 60 


A "History Repeats ItselfAcross the Atlantic," San 
Francisco Chronicle. May 26, 1982 

B "William Hill Takes On the Bordeaux First Growths 

Again" 73 

C Frank J. Prial, "Wine Talk," New York Times. February 

5, 1986 74 

D CHA News Release, "Future Winery Near Napa to Be 

Designed by San Francisco's Field/Paoli Architects," 

September 5, 1986 75 

E William Hill Tasting Notes and History 76 














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Latest Event 

On November 14, 1985, William Hill invited 150 wine lovers to a comparative tasting held at 
The Mandalay Four Seasons Hotel in Dallas, Texas. Except for a few special guests the tasters 
were chosen by lottery from over one thousand that had requested to participate. The participants 
were asked to taste and rank by preference First Growth Bordeaux wines along with Gold Label 
Cabernet Sauvignons by William Hill of the same vintages. The wines were served "blind", meaning 
that the participants did not know which wine was in which glass until after the voting. The pouring 
of the wines and the tabulating of the results were supervised by an international accounting firm. 

This event was the fourth in a continuing series of tastings. The previous tastings were held 
in San Francisco on November 22, 1983, in Los Angeles on January 26, 1984 and in Washington, 
D.C. on March 21, 1985. 

The results of the Dallas tasting which had been billed as 'The Showdown in Texas" are as follows: 

1978 VINTAGE: 


Chateau Latour 

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 

1979 VINTAGE: 


Chateau Margaux 

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 

1980 VINTAGE: 

Chateau Margaux 

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 

1981 VINTAGE: 

Chateau Margaux 

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 










Point Totals 
(Lower is better) 









Approximate Retail Shop 

Price Per Bottle 
When First Released 









The results demonstrate, at a minimum, that the tasters found the William Hill to be of 
comparable quality to the First Growths. Equally clear is that the William Hill, at a fraction 
of the price of the famous French wines, represents far and away the best value. Judge for yourself! 

Available at fine wine shops and selected restaurants across the country. 






Comparing apples and 
oranges: A great gimmick 
but a bad taste test. 

seriously and he wanted to tease 
the self-satisfied French experts He 
succeeded on both counts. 

Mr. Hill is careful not to contend 
that his wines are better than the first 
growths. He points out that the Bor 
deaux wines range in price from $40 
to $55 and argues that his, having 
done so well in the tastings, are incon- 
testably better values at around $15. 

Indeed, anyone planning to buy a 
1961 Mouton-Rothschild at $55 a bottle 
for current drinking would definitely 
be well-advised to consider the Wil 
liam Hill because it is ready for 
drinking For someone interested in 
laying down great wine for the future, 
though. $55 for a bottle of 1981 Mouton 
is not really so scandalous. After all. 
a bottle of the 1970 Mouton is worth 
about $200. 

Of much more interest is William 
Hill's competition in the same price 
range. Or lower For example, 
would happily stack either the 1982 
Chateau Larose Tnntaudon. an un- f 
classified Haut Medoc. or the Cha 
teau Greysac of the same year, an un 
classified Medoc, against Mi. Hill's 
recent wines 

His might still win, but these two 
full rich, dark-colored Bordeaux 
would give him a good run for his 
money because they, unlike the clas 
sified first growths, are ready to 
drink And when it comes to value, 
they sell for about $5 or $6 each Most 
of the better-known 1982 Bordeaux 
re sold out, but some can still be 
found: the popular Chateau Gloria, 
lor example, at around $11,. or Cha 
teau Meyney from St.^stephe for 

Ano even If most of the 1982's are 
cone there are dozens of fine 1981 s 
Uwt 'were overlooked In theexcite 
ment caused by the 1982's. The 196 
Suhan-Milon-Rothschild. at about 
$13 or $14, is a magnificent Pauill. 
It's delicious right now. but it does 
need a couple of years Chateau 
Pbelan Segur from St. Estephe is not 
a classified growth, but It has long 
been one of the bes: buys among Bor 
deaux wines Tht 196: can be found 
ft- ab)J. V- the:-; days 

No: if thtrt an\ reason to stay will. 
Bordeaux The wines of the Rioja re- 
eion in Spam, for example, are made 
ir, the Bordeaux style but often seem 

p.r- KUJ-V 

more to resemble the wines of Cali 

I recently tasted a Marques de 
Caceres Reserva from the 1970 vin- 
tag< that would be outstanding in any 
competition It costs about $10. The 
Torres wines, from the Penedes re 
gion, near Barcelona, have always of 
(ered exceptional quality at remark 
ably low prices It would be fun and 
1 hope instructive to put a Gmn 
Coronas Black Label, the very top of 
the Torres line, against Mr. Hill's 
cabernets. Some 1976 Black Labels 
run about $14. 

There are wonderful Italian wines 
lor $15 and less. A 1974 barolo from 
Pio Cesare, for example, sells for just 
about $15. A powerful Gattinara of the 
came vintage from Dessilani lists for 
about $12. There are good wines from 
Australia that are more Californian 
than the California wines, and. of 
course, we haven't even touched Bur 
gundy or the Rhone. Or other Califor 
nia wines but that's yet another 

What Mr. Hill is doing is not un 
usual. But it's not really comparative 
tasting It's called positioning. If the 
consumer can be made to associate 
William Hill wines with first growth 
Bordeaux, o much the better for Mr. 
Hill He will have joined the immor 
tals at a very low membership fee. 

It's like those automobile commer- 
ciah tha- say "More trunV spar* 
thar, tht legendary BMU!" Eve;, if 
the car in question is powered b;> 
squirrels on a treadmill, the associa 
tion has been made 



CLAIRE HARRISON ASSOCIATES Advertising and Public Relations 

September 5, 1986 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 


CONTACT: Michael Fineman 

CHA/Claire Harrison Associates 
(415) 543-7760 


San Francisco's Field/Paoli Architects, designers of the downtown Napa Town 
Center project in California's wine country, was selected to design the new 
William Hill Winery near Napa. According to Field/Paoli partner John Field, 
the planned 135,000 sq. ft. winery will include a public tasting room, staff 
offices, an entertainment hall, courtyard, parking area, lake, picnic and 
recreation area 

The William Hill facility will be located on a 60-acre site off Silverado 

"The spot used to be Brown's Feed Lot, .go part of the challenge will be to 
create a landscaped park-like area where there is now neither vegetation nor 
top soil," said Field. "However, it is a potentially idyllic spot with views 
extending to the San Francisco Bay on a clear day. 

Other current Field/Paoli projects include San Francisco's Stonestown 
Shopping Center, Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, Santa Barbara's 
downtown El Paseo Nuevo revitalization project, San Antonio Plaza near San 
Jose, California First Bank Building in San Ramon, and Draeger's Market in 
Menlo Park. 


>4 Mint Street, Suite 500, San Francisco, California 94103, (415) 543-7760 








fault cowpon.e.tit o-fa tkis wine Is yei^ectt^ fatAnced witk the ilc\\ 
d.eilve.d foam ba.iiel jet went at Ion, extended lees contact, 
And tnAtotActlc -foeitnentAtlon. 9t Is distinguished fy Its 
stnootk, cteAtny textuie jjiotn sui Lie A$ln$. <H.lnts o toASty oAk And 
cotnptetnent the life, -fooiwAid fault jtAvots And AtotnAS o tkis delicious 

1993 f^A^pA dtil>eiMt 

^IMls mine Is distinguished by Its outetAndlnj f>AtAnce And complexity. 
tyhe h)lne hAS An inviting nose of Apyle And -foloiAl AiotnAS, combined with 
heib And tnineiAl notes. ^Livots Aie mouth -fiillinf And cilsp, linfeiinf on 

the finish. 

' ' ' ' '.'' -.. 

7994 AJ*p* /hettot ..,...- v 

^tMis smooth And eie^Ant Mine \\AS dense fault ftAvots of juicy 

{>etti{ fault And spicy VAn'dLA AiomAS, Accented with the &Atest hint of - 

smoke, ^-uli And ilch with fitm And nicely l>AlAnced tAnnlns. 

YOilliam t/-(ilL YOinety kas lon$ been recognized as tke ptoducet of 
some of /^apa Galley's most ptized (Z-abetnet >auvi$non and (Zkardon- 
nay wines, ^Lke winety s estate vineyatds ate Located In tke coolet soutk- 
etn end of tke Napa Galley and ate planted in tocky, killside Locations. 

YOilliam <H>ill ptoduced its fitst wine in 19/8. immediately ac 
claimed by collectots and connoisseuts as unique and distinctive, a ttadi- 
tion of tke production of fitst-tate (Zkatdonnays and (Z-abetnet 
>auvi$nons was be^un tkat yeat, and continues today. 

^ktou^k sevetal diffetent killside vineyatds kave ovet tke yeats con- 
ttibuted to tke success of tke YOilliam J-{ill 'Resetve (2-abernet >auvi- 
$non and (Zkatdonnay, tke winety' s own 1OO acte vineyatd in tke kills 
above tke >ilvetado ^t-rali, fitst planted in 1981, comprises tke cote of 
tkese outstanding wines. -/\ state-of-tke-att winemakin^ facility was 
completed on tke ptopetty in time fot tke katvest of 1990, and since tkat 
time, all YOilliam <r{ill wines kave been ptoduced tkete. 

YOkile tke "T^esetve wines epitomize tke tick, focused, concenttated 
style of YOilliam cH.ill YOinety, its /\)apa Galley offerings ate also ttue 
to style. ^E-kese wines ate always ptoduced usin$ a percentage of estate 
ftuit, witk tke balance bein$ entitely Napa Galley $town $tapes. Mattel 
fotmented, witk tip, tick flavots, tkey offet significant value in Napa 
Galley appellation wines. 

~]^>e$lnnln$ witk. tke 1991 vintage, tke winety now also ptoduces a 
Napa /faetlot, and tke 1992 vintage was tke fitst yeat of ptoduction fot 
tke winety' s Napa >auvi$non ^Lanc. *&iue to tke YOilliam <H.ill style, 
tkese ate wines witk well-focused vatietal flavots and all tke tickness and 
structure associated witk outstanding ftuit ftom killside vineyatd loca-. 

YOilliam fill's winemaket, tyill *2$avis, is widely known as one of 
tke premier winemakets in (Zalifotnia. "-/\s YOinemaket'at YQ'Miam ;: 
</-(ill winety, 3 kave tke wondetful opportunity to work kands-on witk V- 
some of tke finest ftuit in tke /^apa Galley", says ^ill *7$avis. . ./ 

INDEX- -William Hill 


Allied Lyons, 39, 49, 51-53 
Antinori, Piero, 49 
Atlas Peak winery, 49 

Bank of America, 48 

Bar, Gary, 22-23 

Bizot family, 49 

Blue laws, 3 

Broken Rock Ranch, 50, 54 

Carneros Big Horn label, 60 
Chateau Mouton, 36 
Chateau Latour, 36 
Clos Fontaine, 53-54, 60 
Coldwell Banker, 13 
Craig, Robert, 31 

Diamond Mountain Ranch Vineyards, 

facilities for winemaking, 37-39 
food and wine appreciation, 4-5, 


Forman, Ric, 26 
Foss Valley Ranch, 47-48 

Grubb & Ellis, 13 

hedging, 67-68 

Hess, Donald, 28-29 

Hill & Thoma Wines, 59-60 

Leider, Jim, 20-21 
Leider, Lloyd, 21 

Hayes, John, 50 
McDonald, Jack, 10 
Miami, Joe, 21 
Mondavi, Robert, 30-31, 58 
Mt. Veeder vineyards, 23-24, 26- 

Parducci, John, 57 
Parducci Wine Cellars, 57-58 
planting and row spacing, 64-67 
pricing, 41 

Questor real estate investment 
company, 20, 22 

real estate investment, 12-13 
rootstocks, 27 

Silverado Vineyard, 45-46 
Soder, Tony, 32 

Stanford University, 9-12 

Sterling Vineyards, 21, 26 

tastings, 34-36 
terroir, 37 
Thoma, Carl, 59 

University of Oklahoma, 3, 6 

Van Duzer label, 53-54 
Veeder Peak Vineyard, 44-45 
vineyards, importance of in 

winemaking, 17-19, 25-26, 62- 

64, 68-69 

marketing and sales, 41-44, 54-56 

Whitbread, 49 


William Hill Wine Company, 10 
William Hill Winery, 32-53 
Wine Alliance, 39, 49 
wine, consumption of, 14-17, 61- 

winemaking, 17 

philosophy of, 39-40 
Wornick, Ron, 26-27 


Cabernet Sauvignon, 32, 33-36, 60 
Chardonnay, 32, 60 
Pinot Noir, 36 


Cabernet Sauvignon, 21, 23-27 
Chardonnay, 21 
Pinot Noir, 27 

Carole E. Hicke 

B.A., University of Iowa; economics 

M.A. , San Francisco State University; U.S. history with emphasis on the 
American West; thesis: "James Rolph, Mayor of San Francisco." 

Interviewer/editor/writer, 1978-present , for business and law firm 
histories, specializing in oral history techniques. Independently 

Interviewer-editor, Regional Oral History Office, University of California, 
Berkeley, 1985 to present, specializing in California legal, political, and 
business histories. 

Editor (1980-1985) newsletters of two professional historical associations: 
Western Association of Women Historians and Coordinating Committee for 
Women in the Historical Profession. 

Visiting lecturer, San Francisco State University in U.S. history, history 
of California, history of Hawaii, legal oral history. 

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