Vineyards & Rhone Winemaking

The Vineyards

The vineyards are planted exclusively to varieties originally from the Rhone Valley at 2700 feet in the Sierra Foothills’ El Dorado Wine Country.

The first vineyard, fifteen acres of Syrah, was planted in 1998. The vines are trained on a quadrilateral trellising system to obtain maximum fruit quality by limiting vigor and maximizing light penetration. The vines line steeply terraced slopes with 360 degrees of exposure due to the circular lay of the land. The first crop was harvested in October of 2000. Beginning in 2006, parts of this vineyard have been grafted over to other varieties so that the winery can fully utilize all of the production. Counoise, Grenache Blanc, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Cinsaut, and Picpoul have all been added.

The second vineyard was planted in 2000 on the adjacent hill. Due to the family’s love of Rhone wines and the fact that Rhone grapes grow so well in El Dorado, they planted Counoise, Grenache, and Mourvedre (all red Rhones) and Roussanne and Viognier (Rhone whites). The reds are head trained to allow close spacing which will force the vines to compete for nutrients and result in maximum flavors. The whites are trained using Vertical Shoot Positioning for ideal sun exposure. This vineyard is laid out on steep terraces, like the Syrah, and is south-facing.

as it has been done in the Rhone Valley of France for centuries

Rhone Winemaking

Although the winery is in California, Holly’s Hill wines have a distinctive old world flair. Emphasis is placed on the fruit itself and interventions throughout the aging process are infrequent and minor. Only French oak is used and preferably neutral barrels without the vanilla, astringency and tannins of new barrels. Carrie and Josh also use larger volume casks as it has been done in the Rhone Valley of France for centuries. The wines are only racked if needed allowing for further concentrations of flavors to develop from the lees at the bottom of the barrels. White wines generally spend about six months in barrels and reds eleven months. Syrah on the other hand ages for up to two years before bottling. The Patriarche blend is the first wine put together each year getting only the best lots of estate fruit.

Sustainable Farming

Holly’s Hill Vineyards is a certified farm under the Fish Friendly Farming® program. Fish Friendly Farming® provides a third party certification that documents sustainable, environmentally-friendly land practices that benefit the farmer and the environment. We use organic pracitices and are herbicide free.

Fish Friendly Farming® is operated by The California Land Stewardship Institute. More info can be found at http://www.fishfriendlyfarming.org.

Planted at Holly’s Hill Vineyards

Rhone Varieties

Holly’s Hill is completely focused on producing Rhone varietal wines and blends. In fact, the estate vineyards are composed entirely of Rhone varieties including Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, and Counoise. The winery produces varietal wines, a dry Rosé, and red and white blends.

Grenache Blanc

The white version of Grenache Noir (think Pinot Blanc to Pinot Noir). It makes beautiful wines with nice mouth feel and distinct anise aromatics along with pleasant fruit. Grenache Blanc was grafted from Syrah at Holly's Hill to be used in the Patriarche Blanc blend. We like it for its low alcohol, high acidity and anise qualities.

Picpoul

The white version of Grenache Noir (think Pinot Blanc to Pinot Noir). It makes beautiful wines with nice mouth feel and distinct anise aromatics along with pleasant fruit. Grenache Blanc was grafted from Syrah at Holly's Hill to be used in the Patriarche Blanc blend. We like it for its low alcohol, high acidity and anise qualities.

Roussanne

Roussanne gets its name from the russet color the skins develop when the grapes ripen. It makes a wine with great fruit aromatics and minerality. One of the few white varieties that can age gracefully, Roussanne is often blended with Marsanne in the northern Rhone and many other Rhone varieties in the south. Roussanne goes into three different bottlings at Holly's Hill. It makes up the largest percentage of the Patriarche Blanc, is bottled on its own and is also made into a dessert styled Late Harvest Roussanne.

Roussanne

Roussanne gets its name from the russet color the skins develop when the grapes ripen. It makes a wine with great fruit aromatics and minerality. One of the few white varieties that can age gracefully, Roussanne is often blended with Marsanne in the northern Rhone and many other Rhone varieties in the south. Roussanne goes into three different bottlings at Holly's Hill. It makes up the largest percentage of the Patriarche Blanc, is bottled on its own and is also made into a dessert styled Late Harvest Roussanne.

Viognier

Strangely a very rare variety in France and yet a widely planted Rhone variety in California. It produces wines with rich tropical aromatics and distint floral qualities. Viognier is our best selling white variety. It is planted at the very bottom of the vineyards and is prone to spring frosts. A small amout is also blended in the white Patriarche Blanc.

Carignane

Carignane produces rich wines with great color and structure. At Holly's Hill, this is a recent addition to our winemaking. Look forward to the first releases coming out soon!

Grenache

Bright red fruits such as strawberries and cherries dominate the aromatics of this lighter red wine. It can be very round in the mouth however with firm tannins. Spices such as licorice and pretty aromas of lavendar and other flowers can also add to the finesse of this wine. The varietal bottling is our best selling wine. Grenache is bottled as both a red wine and a dry rosé wine. It also is blended with other Rhone varieties such as the Patriarche blend. Only a small volume of Grenache is used in this blend working much like spice in food to bring out the aromatics and complexities.

Cinsaut

Cinsaut is an ancient variety that produces large grapes resembling black olives and was once used as table fruit. It is delicious to eat right off the vine and also makes distinctive wines with red fruits and spice. At Holly's Hill, this is a recent addition to our winemaking. Look forward to the first releases coming out soon!

Mourvedre

Expect aromas of blueberries, blackberries and spice. Also of note are leathery, gamey qualities making Mourvedre very unique and interesting. Tannins can be medium to big and the mouthfeel is usually big and round. At Holly's Hill, Mourvedre is felt to be the best variety suited to the site at the vineyard. On its own, the Mourvedre is very dark (almost as dark as the Syrah) and displays varietal aromatics of fruit and earth. In addition to the estate planting. The estate Mourvedre is bottled on its own and also forms the foundation of the Patriarche (the winery's take on Chateauneuf du Pape). The Mourvedre Classique is a lighter, fruitier version.

Counoise

One of the lesser known Rhone varieties, Counoise produces wines of great texture and pure aromas of cherries and white pepper spice. The color is often slightly darker than Grenache with nice acidity. Rarely seen on its own, the variety hails from Chateauneuf du Pape where Chateau de Beaucastel uses more of it in its blends than do most wineries in that region. With the addition of more Counoise acreage, a varietal bottling has been added to the line up.

Petite Sirah

An often confusing variety to consumers as it is neither Syrah nor little as the name suggests. It's a cross of two varieties (Syrah and Peloursin) that makes huge wines with dark color, big tannins and nice jammy fruit. It is a true friend to the winemaker. Petite Sirah was grafted on Syrah vines here at Holly's Hill to be used for blending with lighter colored varieties like Grenache. However, it has become very popular bottled on its own.