PHILLIPS HILL WINERY
How Art Becomes Wine (pdf)
Phillips Hill Logo
Download for Trade & Media
Winemaker & Winemaking
A native Californian from San Francisco, Toby Hill was formally trained in the Arts. With a BFA from California College of the Arts, Toby attributes his artistic talent to the the Phillips side of the family. His intense study and mastery of composition in the abstract has been translated into the delicate balance of making wine. After a short stint in the New York art scene of the late 1980's and as a Architectural Colorist in San Francisco in the 90's, Toby's 1997 purchase of land in the Mendocino Ridge appellation overlooking the Anderson Valley led him to his new passion and personal re-invention in wine country.
His new artisitc endeavor began when a local winemaker decided not to begin a brand and offered Toby four barrels of an unfinished 2002 vintage of Pinot Noir from Oppenlander Vineyard in Comptche, Mendocino. What started as an opportunity to express his work on a wine label became a new artistic obsession for an expression not only on the bottle, but in the bottle as well - a transformation from the art of the visual to that of the sensory.
Toby's stylistic approach is free form; his philosophy is to be completely in touch with the grape to wine process. This appreciation transcends itself to the essence of how the wine develops and evolves within the layers of nature. The way a painter feels his way through a brush stroke - "don't paint the painting let the painting paint you."
Phillips Hill Pinot Noir has evolved into a more refined, down to earth and graceful old meets new world style. A more challenging quest for the taste of fruit without sweetness and with lower alcohols, it strives for elegance, finesse, energy and restrained ethereal power. The fruit is sourced from local vineyards close to Toby's home and winery. Here, he is able to spend ample time in the vineyard to closely monitor the grapes' growth and maturity. As for Toby's future and natural progression as a winemaker, he will be farming his soon to be established estate vineyard - a new opportunity to express the composition of the earth, the vine, the grape and the wine.
The Sustainable Vineyards in Mendocino County Wine Appellations:
Anderson Valley AVA, the farthest northern appellation in California, is located in the coastal region of Mendocino County within two hours of San Francisco, and offers an ideal climate for a Pinot Noir vineyard. Here the climate is tempered by cool marine air which travels 10-15 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean and the transverse appellation is a fog channel along the Navarro River. Temperatures can range with a wide diurnal affect, diverging up to 40-50 degrees. This unique combination and alchemy allows Pinot Noir vineyards to keep their acid development in line with sugar and flavor formation through a long, warm Indian summer. Phillips Hill porduces Pinot Noir from Cerise Vineyard, Gewurztraminer from Valley Foothills Vineyard since 2008, and Chardonnay from the Ridley Vineyard.
Mendocino Ridge AVA is in the coastal range mountain region adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. It is California’s first and only non-contiguous appellation with less than 90 acres planted. For a vineyard to qualify for the AVA, it must be planted at a minimum 1200 feet in altitude. Because of its hilly terrain, some lower elevations are not included, giving it the name “Island in the Sky.” Phillips Hill’s first vintage from Mendocino was from the Valenti Vineyard in 2009, located literally across the road from Phillips Hill Winery and future vineyard site. It is here that we can taste our future and see potential of Phillips Hill Vineyard.
Mendocino AVA is also in the coastal range and includes Comptche which will soon be its own AVA. Here lies the Oppenlander Vineyard located 10 miles from the ocean in Surprise Valley, and 5 miles northwest of Anderson Valley. It is the first of only four vineyards planted in this up and coming cool climate hamlet. The 18 acre vineyard, planted in 1998-1999, is where Phillips Hill produced the acclaimed first vintage harvested in 2002 which today remains its most sought after vineyard designate Pinot Noir with a blend of 4 different clones.
"Ah, the story of our discovery of Phillips Hill Pinot Noir (2004)... It was a recommendation actually, from a young lady at a lovely restaurant on the road just before Mendocino...I'll think of the name in a second. Maybe it was the setting, maybe it was the food, maybe the sensory input was just right, but we absolutely fell in love with that bottle of wine. We savored it, loved every drop of it, and kept the bottle for remembrance. Then, back at our B&B, we tried to find the vineyard. Called the number on the bottle, went to the website, but it seemed like this vineyard didn't exist. So, being the daring vacationers that we are, we set off to find it. No one at any winery along the way has heard of Oppenlander, and it was pretty much by accident that we even saw the sign on the road that marked the place. We ignored the warning signs leading up to the vineyard, but we kind of got a little spooked by the collection of rusting machinery that was strewn about the land. We didn't see anyone around, so we nodded to the vines and booked out of there."
- Lia Barnes, May 2007
"On my last trip to New York about a year and a half ago I visited Bar Americain in Manhattan and stumbled upon your Pinot Noir. I'm not a huge wine connoisseur but found it to be one of the most pleasurable wines I have ever experienced. When I inquired about the wine with Bobby Flay I was told to ask for Toby Hill and hopefully he might be able to help me purchase some."
- Luke Rodriguez, December 2006
"I have a friend that is a trained sommelier and is currently working as the bartender at Rubicon down here in SF. At a business dinner a couple months ago I asked him to chose our wine and he recommended the 2003 Oppenlander. All 6 of us at the table were completely blown away by it and more than a few of us came away thinking it was the best Pinot we had ever had."
- A devoted customer, August 2008