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Copyright © 2015
Forkmedia LLC

by Fred McMillin
for March 31, 2000


Bill and Jill



The dominant figures in the evolution of the William Hill Winery ...

Jill Davis "Bill Hill turned the development and sale of vineyards and wineries into a rarely encountered art form." (California Wine Atlas, J. Halliday)

Jill Davis, Buena Vista Vice President-Winemaker, (pictured), is brought in to achieve the "goal of being the best." New-owner Allied Domecq provides her the tools, such as $2,500,000 worth of French oak barrels.

The Rest of the Story

Bill—William Hill was an agricultural investment adviser, not an enologist. Oklahoma born, Stanford educated (MBA), William Hill's research developed such a convincing story about the economic potential of hillside vineyards that he took his own advice. He bought what became the prestigious Diamond Mountain Ranch and after three years of development sold it to Sterling Vineyards. Similarly he bought, developed and sold another hillslide vineyard, Mt. Veeder, to the Hess Collection Winery. While such work continued, Bill also developed a large vineyard and winery above the Silverado Country Club named "Willian Hill." The first wines were produced in 1990, reviews were excellent, and so two years later he sold to Allied Domecq. That's where Jill comes in.

Jill—Lured away from Buena Vista, Jill happily found, that thanks to Bill's past work, she was working with "some of the finest fruit in the Napa Valley."

"Granite wrapped in velvet" is the way she describes her Reserve Cab, from their own "Silverado Bench" vineyard, as well as from those earlier Mt. Veeder vines...1996... $35.

The Reserve Chardonnay is also from Napa Valley grapes, grown way down south in the Carneros...1998...$22. To achieve top quality, Jill's producing only five wines, 2 Cabs, 2 Chardonnays and a Merlot. Also, she's reduced volume from Bill's 100,000 cases a year, since she's strictly a hands-on winemaker.


Napa hillsides Four years ago Wineday gave a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to the '93 RESERVE CAB. That year my panel also tasted one of the earliest Hills, the 1982 Reserve Cab. As I published in On San Francisco, it won Best of Tasting. William Hill knew what he was doing when he decided to start planting Cabernet vines on Napa hillsides back in 1974! (pictured).

Just the Facts

William Hill Winery
Owner—Allied Domecq
Winemaker—Jill Davis
Wines—Chardonay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot Owned Vineyards—125 acres in the Napa Valley
Contact—Office of George Rose, Director of Public Relations, (707) 433-8268, FAX (707) 433-3538
About Those Hillside Vineyards—William Hill's first exposure to European winemaking came when the U.S. Army was providing him room and board. Later he had time for more detailed examination, and came up with the right answer. His Napa-purchase criteria: cool climate, rocky soil and HIGH ELEVATIONS. Jill is grateful!


Watch for some striking photos of the winery. George Rose's work with the lense has twice brought him nominations for a Pulitzer Prize.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


This page created March 2000