Enjoy One of Landmark’s Finest from the Comfort of Your Home
by Jeffrey Gould
High-quality winegrowing is no day at the beach, even if the soil at Hilliard Bruce Vineyard might have you fooled. When Mike Testa of Coastal Vineyard Care Associates first showed the property to winemaker Greg Stach and me, we were immediately struck by the sandy hills and unique geography of the site. Nestled in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, the vineyard rests upon a sprawl of ancient sand dunes and rolling hills dotted with trees and horse stables where owners John Hilliard and Christine Bruce breed Arabian horses. Walking the property, with the sandy soil underfoot and a steady sea breeze blowing in from the Pacific, you can literally feel the sense of place that makes each vintage of Hilliard Bruce Chardonnay so exceptional.
The vineyard—where John and Christine have been growing pinot noir and chardonnay since 2004—is exposed to a maritime influence resulting from its unique east-west orientation and the transverse mountain range in which it lies. This geography is critical for a couple of reasons. First, the continuous, cool ocean breeze keeps the vines from becoming overly vigorous, which results in a longer growing season that gives the grapes a nice balance of sugar and acidity. Second, as Landmark’s southernmost source of chardonnay, even those long, cool growing seasons don’t translate into overly harsh winters. These relatively warmer Central Coast winters are part of what gives the grapes a certain tropicality befitting of the sandy hills they’re surrounded by.
Those sandy hills play a crucial role in the intricate flavor profile of our Chardonnay. The well-drained, low-fertility soil results in a smaller overall canopy, which adds complexity to the wine. Further adding to that complexity are the multiple vineyard blocks we source from—chardonnay Dijon clones 76 and 96 are planted across three different blocks, giving us a collage of terroirs that result in the kind of well-rounded Chardonnay we pride ourselves on.
When Greg and I got our first glimpse of the stunning landscape and beachy climate at Hilliard Bruce, we knew we had found something extraordinary. It was a well-farmed site with exceptional growing opportunities, and we loved the idea of trying the fruit for a year. That initial visit was back in 2013 and I think it’s safe to say we never looked back. Contact the Wine Society at [email protected] or visit landmarkwine.com to get a bottle of Hilliard Bruce Chardonnay shipped to your home so you can taste for yourself what makes this site so incredible. Cheers!