Taste, Sip and Enjoy | Food, Wine and Travel

Hilliard Bruce Summer Soiree

Hilliard Bruce Summer Soiree

Last Sunday were lucky to attend the Summer Soiree at Hilliard Bruce Winery in the Santa Rita Hills.  The winery is owned by John Hilliard and Christine Bruce. The high point of the afternoon was a “sneak peek” at their new winery which is in the final stages of construction.  It will be cutting it close, but it will be ready for harvest this fall.

If  you are a passport holder for Wine and Fire, August 15th to 17th, be sure to include a visit to Hilliard Bruce on your Sunday winery open house schedule.  They will also be pouring at the Grand Tasting on Saturday evening at La Purisima Mission.

Lovely Kari Ballard, Director of Sales, was not only warm and welcoming, upon our arrival, but also busy confirming guest details.


In the shade of a rambling old oak, Ken and I had a 2011 Chardonnay and 2012 Chardonnay poured into our respective glasses.   It is always great fun to begin with a side by side pairing of absolutely delightful wines.  Toasts were made to the Soiree and new friendships.  In the center is Nolan Ballard, Kari’s husband.  He is also the associate Cellar Master for John at the winery.


Next, we added Rose’ of Pinot Noir into the mix.    It seems the wines had been color coordinated with the flowers from Christine’s garden, or was it vise versa?   What creativity!


Not only do grapes for wine grow on the property, but also sweet and juicy table grapes.  These were on our table as a result of Christine’s skill as a gardener.


The Chef’s Touch, a catering company owned by Kurt Alldredge, was busy putting together spectacular pizzas.  Again Christine’s garden contributed numerous items in the lunch:  all of the herbs used on the pizzas, the olives, fennel and fennel fronds in the salad.

One of our favorites was covered with Alto Adige speck, roasted green chilies and fresh mozzarella.


Pizzas were supplemented with arugula salad, marinated olives and lemon arancini that were snapped up as soon as they hit the plate.




As we munched and sipped, we had the pleasure of watching guests try their hand at bocce ball…….


while a horse stirred up some dust as he exercised.


By this time we had moved to the Pinot Noir wines.  The four wines we were able to compare were 2011 Earth, 2011 Sky, 2010 Sun and 2012 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir. All were enjoyable, but the one that jumped out, screaming, “drink more of me” was Sun. It was spectacular!  I was told by a table companion “Moon,” which is no longer available , was even better than Sun, in his opinion.  I can’t imagine how much better it could have been.  This gentleman and is wife had driven over 200 miles each way for this event. Obviously they are completely sold on Hilliard Bruce!

Another couple, Adnen and Lenora Marouani drove 150 miles, from Manhattan Beach. On April 27th, twelve members of the Santa Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance visited their store, Barsha Wines & Spirits Tasting Room.  Adnen and Lenora were thrilled with the wine they sipped!  Therefore, Adnen and Lenora, formerly chefs at Ceasar’s Palace in Las Vegas, wanted to taste more Hilliard Bruce and enjoy the Santa Rita Hills experience so they packed up the family for a Sunday outing.   Lenora and their adorable daughter, Pash, were wearing these smiles all afternoon.  If you live in their area and want Santa Rita Hills wine, you now know where to go.  (By the way, Adnen is in the second picture above with the dark glasses.)


It was time for the “sneak peek” as we followed John a short distance to the winery.


The dramatic surface we were facing was made from corten steel plates, naturally rusted to blend into the landscape.


As we walked around the corner, the glass exterior seemed to have absorbed the trees into the building.


LEED certified, this state of the art, gravity flow winery was extremely impressive from the outside as it was wrapped up by the natural vegetation and geography.


Once we were inside, looking out, we were quickly consumed by the view.  It was magnificent!



Tasting, dining space and a kitchen were still waiting to come together.


Natural light flooded in through solar tubes.


Barrels and equipment were ready for final placement and the appearance of grapes.

John eagerly discussed plans and answered questions from the guests.


Coming down from the second floor we could again see through the wall of glass. How carefull John and Christine have placed the walkways and buildings to preserve the natural environment!  What fun it will be to return and see the completion of this huge project!


As we prepared to leave, we wandered into a courtyard.  Seeing stalls at the far side we were curious what we might discover.


We found, while John and Christine have been giving birth to a winery, the horses have also been very busy.



Christine’s passion for horses is clearly evident to anyone approaching the home.


John and Christine have truly been inspired by the rolling hills and countless aspects of nature which surround them.


With their boundless energy, talent and creativity they have been able to develop their passions into a lifestyle which nourishes these wonderful aspects of their personalities. They are, without a doubt, blessed to realize the fulfillment of their dreams!

Do not miss the opportunity to visit Hilliard Bruce, meet Christine and John and see(and sip) their completed vision!

Check the following links for further information:

Hilliard Bruce Winery; Wine and Fire; The Chef’s Touch; Barsha Wines & Spirits Tasting Room



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One Comment

  1. I can not wait to visit this winery and taste their wines. Great photos Elizabeth. Cheers!

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