Although he is currently in the thick of harvest with most of the Central Coast’s other winemakers, Ron Hill took time early in August to taste me through his new releases. Hill is the owner and winemaker of a-non-ah-mus Wines, based in Orcutt at C2 Cellars. I last wrote about Hill prior to the March 2014 Southern Exposure Garagiste Festival.
After he increased the a-non-ah-mus case production from about 340 cases in 2013 to 500 in 2014, Hill now is content to “stay small.” That way, he can keep overhead and labor low (or non-existent, if he utilizes the help of friends), and enjoy total quality control over his wines from vine to bottle.
That said, Hill has plans to open his first tasting room, in hip Los Alamos, by year's end.
In August, we sat out on Hill’s back patio with his two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Jack and Lily.
His newest releases include a 2014 viognier, 2014 grenache blanc, 2014 rosé of syrah and a 2013 pinot noir. Still available are older vintages of syrah and grenache; visit http://www.anonahmus.com
If you’ve met Hill, I’m sure you’ll agree that his personality — humble and serious with a side of playful — means that he’s a lot of fun to interview.
Which means that I’ve won the lottery, story-wise, as Hill last week agreed to let me “shadow” him for the next year, harvest to harvest.
I hope these series of stories will be as fun for you, gentle reader, as they are for me to turn out. My goal is to share a glimpse into the true life of a smaller-production winemaker, mud, sweat, tears and all.
But back to those new vintages:
Bottled in June, the 2014 a-non-ah-mus Viognier, sourced from Curtis Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, is elegant and displays vanilla and rose on the palate. Hill aged this wine in all stainless steel and allowed it to go through partial malolactic fermentation. It’s a beauty. Only 44 cases produced.
If his new viognier numbers just 44 cases, Hill’s 2014 a-non-ah-mus Grenache Blanc production is only slighter higher, at just 48 cases, also roughly two barrels’ worth. So I have five words for you: “Get. It. Before. It’s. Gone.”
I’m a fan of stellar Grenache Blanc, having cut my teeth on Kris Curran’s trail-blazing version of this Rhone grape varietal many years back. I think Hill’s 2014 comes closest to the distinction that Curran’s still showcases, vintage after vintage.
Hill is pleased at this, his first attempt. “I’m very happy with this style of grenache blanc,” he said.
The vineyard from which Hill sourced this wine is a small one across from Larner Vineyard in the Ballard Canyon AVA. Rancho Boa Vista grows only grenache, syrah and grenache blanc, Hill noted.
This wine displays one of the longest and prettiest finishes I’ve encountered in quite some time. When Hill offered me half a bottle to take home after our tasting, this wine was my choice.
Hill, who notes on his website how, years ago, he was “taken under the wing of a group of winemaking cicerones” when he lived in San Jose, relocated to the Central Coast to focus on wine and landed an internship at Babcock Winery in 2001.
He stayed there 10 years, he wrote, having “gained the knowledge that in the craft of winemaking, there is always more to learn.”
Hill founded his own label in 2007, and utilized Babcock’s equipment and space to produce his wines there through the 2010 vintage, he said.
The third wine we sampled is Hill’s 2014 Rosé of Syrah, of which there are 41 cases. I’ve enjoyed several vintages of this rosé, having first tried it at a Garagiste Festival, and am just as enamored with this new vintage.
To me, rosés are more than “summer” wines: They represent everything that’s wonderful about life — time with friends enjoying cheese and crackers before a great meal. Because of their natural higher acidities, Rosés also pair well with rich meals, such as those we eat at Thanksgiving.
Last in our lineup was Hills’s 2013 a-non-ah-mus Pinot Noir. It stands out for many reasons, not the least of which is the label: It’s white (all other a-non-ah-mus wines sport a black label), and there’s a twist on the name — it’s “Anonymous.” By a-non-ah-mus.
On his website, Hill writes: “Grapes sourced from a vineyard that must remain anonymous are in our first release of our white label.”
Hill was offered leftover pinot noir grapes from a prominent vineyard. How could he say no? He said yes, and produced this gorgeous pinot noir. My notes: “Fruity, lighter, sexy and pretty.”
The wine is clone 667, and Hill fermented it utilizing 15 percent whole clusters and aged in for 20 months in 25-percent new French oak barrels.
He made 76 cases of this pinot noir, and sells it for $29 per bottle.
So there you have it: Four new releases from Ron Hill of a-non-ah-mus wines. How long can Hill remain anonymous?
Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com