The William Hill Estate Winery is by definition a family-owned winery. It is owned and operated by a family, the Gallo Family. But nothing at William Hill presents itself as one of those old and small family-owned wineries run by generations of family members. We are not saying this is bad thing, but when visitors come to the wine country and are looking for a family winery, my guess is that William Hill Estate winery is not what the tourist has in mind. The Gallo Family purchased this winery in 2007 from wine conglomerate, Beam Wine Estates. It looks, feels, and acts like a winery run by a giant corporation. It is the polar opposite of our previously reviewed family-owed winery, Hopper Creek Winery.
The William Hill tasting room is very impressive with beautiful displays of wine bottles, an exquisite tasting area, and a picture window view of their barrel room, containing 3500 sixty-gallon barrels. The grounds are equally impressive, with a spectacular view of the vineyards below. The garden and picnic area are groomed to perfection. The tasting staff is well trained and informed. When we asked about the 140 acres of estate vineyards, our server immediately showed us a poster board displaying a layout of where each varietal is grown on the estate.
Although tasting and touring is by appointment, the winery is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. If you happen to be in the area, I’m sure that you can pop in and taste some wine at any time. The tasting menu, stylishly designed, displays four different levels of tasting. There is also a special tour, called the William Hill Estate Experience that is $40 per person. Whatever tasting one chooses, the wines are served in separate Riedel glasses. This is a very nice touch and also enables one to do a side-by-side comparison when you’re tasting varietals from different vintages or a varietal made differently.
We liked all the wines we tasted. They all had quality and were obviously well made. Our two favorites were a soft Chardonnay aged briefly in oak, and a very tasty and earthy Cabernet Franc. The only down side, the price. These two wines were $20 and $40 respectively. For our price bracket, this is a little too much to pay. If you deduct the “made in Napa Valley” markup, these wines would be more likeable at $5 less in price. The William Hill wines are widely distributed across the United States and are found in fine wine shops and restaurants. I found the Chardonnay at BevMo for around $18.
The winery is located in an area that visitors to the Napa Valley are likely to miss. The area is called the Silverado Bench. To get to William Hill, get on the Silverado Trail at the very south end and then watch for Atlas Peak Road to the north. Drive up Atlas Peak Road and look for the signs leading to William Hill. Bring your picnic lunch so you can enjoy the grounds and the view. I rate the William Hill Picnic area on my top list of picnic views along with Rutherford Hill and Diamond Oaks wineries.
The Good: Very exquisite and informative tasting experience. Beautiful view & picnic area.
The Bad: Tasting fee of $10 for three wines, corporate feel to the winery.