Sometimes the simplest experiences — like wine tasting — become memorable moments. Such was the case during our visit to Vine Hill Ranch, which produces grapes for some of the finest wineries in the region. This includes their own label, VHR.
It all began when sommelier Erik Johnson suggested we try the 2011 VHR Cabernet Sauvignon. It was so good somebody deserved to be thanked formally! So I found the email address for Bruce Philips, the third generation operator of VHR. I sent a simple thank you for creating such a wonderful wine.
In under 24-hours Bruce responded with an invitation to visit. It took some time to coordinate schedules, but D’Aun and I made our way to Napa Valley Monday morning to visit Vine Hill Ranch.
And what a Ranch it is. Situated at the southern boundary of the Oakville AVA, to the west of Highway 29 and rising into the oak covered hills, the Ranch has been in the Philips family for over half a century.
Bruce led us through the vineyard and shared his memories and insights. We heard about their transition from growers to winemakers, how they care for the vineyard, why each block of the vineyard is unique, where the best places are for a kid to build a fort in the trees (Bruce grew up on the Ranch), and how they’ve kept a family business together over the decades. I especially enjoyed Bruce’s stories about his Dad (who he recently lost). It made me remember the wonderful years working with my father.
After the walk we settled into the cozy home for a tasting of their 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. Joining us was Master Sommelier Chris Blanchard, who just recently joined VHR. How cool is it to taste wine with a Master Sommelier? There are only 219 Master Sommeliers in the world, and Chris taught a lot of the young sommeliers at The French Laundry. He knows his stuff!
So there we were, sipping wine with the owner of VHR, under the encouraging eye of a Master Sommelier, in a cozy little home with the fire burning, surrounded by beautifully manicured vineyards, the oak trees framing the views … it was a simple wine tasting experience turned into a truly memorable moment.
Thanks, Erik, for the recommendation. And thanks, Bruce and Chris, for the amazing experience. You make beautiful wine in a beautiful place!