From the same proprietors as Jonata, The Hilt was founded in 2008 as a separate winery focusing on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Santa Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley. In 2014, the Rancho Salsipuedes estate was purchased and a new, permanent home for The Hilt was found. Outside of Salsipuedes, The Hilt also sources old-vine fruit from the marled soils of Sanford and Benedict and the loamy sandy soils of Solomon Hills in the Santa Maria Valley.

Winemaker Matt Dees is very much in charge of the entire process, from vine to bottle. He's passionate about the rugged terrains and an enthusiast of the art of blending. As of 2014, he abolished the use of herbicides and pesticides in Rancho Salsipuedes and established his own farming parameters for the vineyards. 

REGION California
APPELLATION(S) Santa Barbara County, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Rita Hills

Tucked into the north facing slopes on the far south-western corner of the Sta Rita Hills overlooking the Santa Rosa Road, Rancho Salsipuedes is one of the most rugged and extreme viticultural areas in Santa Barbara County; so much so in fact, that its name translates to, “get the hell out if you can”. Within the 3700 acre estate one finds three vineyards comprising 190 acres of vines: Bentrock, Radian and Puerto del Mar, the latter of which is mostly outside of the Santa Rita Hills appellation. 

Bentrock is closer to the river, planted on heavier red-tinted calcareous soils with a high preponderance of iron, silica and clay, where you will find The Hilt’s 15 acres of Chardonnay as well as some Pinot Noir. The long rolling hills here, at 400-500 feet in elevation, are reminiscent of some of Burgundy’s most prized vineyard sites. 

Radian is a visually remarkable vineyard, its diverse topography spanning nearly 1000 feet of elevation, and is often described as being “more like a ski resort” than a vineyard. The upper blocks of Radian sit on the ridge that forms the southern boundary of the Sta Rita Hills. These blocks are referred to as the “moon blocks,” and are planted to Pinot Noir on pale white diatomaceous soils, so light that it’s common to sink up your knees when wading through the rows. Farther down the slope, the soil fades to black clay high in silica and converges to a dramatic center spanning several hundred feet of elevation forming what is called the “pinot bowl.” 

In the winery, Chardonnay is pressed and lightly browned before being barreled down for both primary and malolactic in 228 liter French oak barrels. All Hilt Chardonnays are aged on the lees but with no lees stirring. 

Pinot Noir fermentation is carried out in stainless steel with some degree of stem inclusion depending on which wine. The wines are never racked and returned during elevage and total free so2 at bottling is kept very low, only 25ppm.