“The Stevens touted this place as “the hottest property in Napa Valley,” mostly because the Phillips family makes subtle, brilliant Cabernet—it speaks to the sophistication level of the buyers who appreciate their remarkable ($150) wines—but partly because the backstory is captivatingly unusual for a Napa cult wine. The Philips didn’t arrive in Oakville flush from some otherworld glamour occupation. They came from … right here on this property! They’ve been farming it themselves —grandfather to father to son—for 50 years. It was just that up until now they’d been selling off the fruit to tony brands like Bond, Etude and Lail. The family made the decision to cherry pick about 5% from diverse sections of the vineyard and put the grapes under the care of A-List winemaker Francoise Peschon. Shrewd move: The refinement and sense of proportion in these reds should shame the last anti-California wine snob into extinction.” – Richard Nalley, Forbes, “Collector’s Confidential: The Next Wave of Napa Cult Wines”, Nov 2012
Vine Hill Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon is the culmination of the Phillips family’s evolution from grape-growing to winemaking. Years of traversing vineyard rows and caring for each of Vine Hill Ranch’s seven blocks have imbued a deep understanding of the vineyard’s unique characteristics.
Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in the well-drained soil and temperate climate of the family’s vineyard. Tucked along the wooded hills of the Mayacamas Range near Oakville, fruit from the higher vineyard blocks exudes an earthy, forest floor chaparral quality. Here, the sloping grade and gravelly soil where the most mature vines are planted produce intense, concentrated and expressive black fruit. Blocks on the lower benchland, with its deep, loamy soils and younger vines, yield bright fruit flavours and fine tannins full of verve and energy.
A hands-off approach to winemaking is employed: harvesting at optimal ripeness, sorting fruit meticulously, cold-soaking crushed berries, extending maceration, using native yeast, and aging in new French oak barrels. Each lot is vinified separately to promote the unique expressions of the vineyard blocks.
Winemaker Françoise Peschon’s roots are in Luxembourg, but he was raised in California’s wine country. Françoise is an Enology graduate from UC Davis, and following post-graduate work at the University of Bordeaux and an apprenticeship at Château Haut-Brion, Françoise returned to the Napa Valley. The reputation of the Phillips family vineyard drew her to Vine Hill Ranch in 2008. She collaborates closely in the field with vineyard manager Michael Wolf to craft a wine that is dynamic, powerful, and elegant – a Cabernet Sauvignon that is soulful expression of the site.
“Since its inception, [Vine Hill Ranch] has ranked among Napa’s top performers. Its limited 500 case production fosters its status as a well-kept secret, though competition for the bottles is increasingly fierce.” – Kelli A. White, “Napa Valley Then & Now”, Rudd Press, 2015
“Proprietors Bruce and Heather Phillips, along with the team headed by viticulturist Mike Wolf and winemaker Françoise Peschon are making world-class wine at Vine Hill Ranch. The most impressive thing about Vine Hill Ranch is not the 2015 nor the 2016, but the lots I tasted on my most recent visit that have been excluded from the 2016 blend. The unused lots, some of which are better than the 2016s at many other estates, show the total commitment to quality that is at the heart of Vine Hill Ranch. I can still remember tasting the debut 2008 years ago. That wine was compelling. Since then, Vine Hill Ranch has gone on to even greater heights. Readers should do whatever they can to taste these magical Cabernets.” – Antonio Galloni, vinous.com, January 2018