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In Charles L. Sullivan's new book Zinfandel ~ A History of a Grape and its Wine, William McPherson Hill, founder and namesake of Old Hill Ranch, is credited as making California's first really famous Zinfandel. On May 20, 1870, the Alta California claimed that Hill's Zinfandel "would take the first at a National Exposition." Then, in December of 1871, the Pacific Rural Press reported the following:

"We sampled a bottle of wine from the cellar of Wm. McPherson Hill made from the Zinfandel grape, a new variety that is growing in favor with winemakers. The wine was pronounced by the gentlemen who tasted it to be superior to any they had seen in the state."

William McPherson Hill founded Old Hill Ranch in 1851.  Hill was the first grower in Sonoma to plant non-mission grape varieties which he imported from Peru (the Peruvian varieties were likely of Spanish origin.)  As early as 1855, when Hill and General Vallejo owned the most extensive vineyards in Sonoma County, Hill is thought to have already planted Zinfandel.  In 1889, Hill sold much of his land but kept two parcels, the south-east corner 60-acre portion, which is now Old Hill Ranch, and a 100-acre parcel on Sonoma Mountain which his son sold to Jack London in 1903.  Upon Hill's death in 1897, the land was passed on to his son Robert Potter Hill, who farmed the ranch until his demise in 1940.

Years later....

Otto and Anne Teller purchased Old Hill Ranch in 1981.  The previous owners had not set foot on the property since their house, the original Hill House, had burned down several years earlier.  The overgrown vineyard was barely visible beneath the black berry vines and poison oak.  A U.C. Davis farm advisor took one look and strongly recommended ripping up the vineyard and starting fresh.  This was not the answer that Otto was seeking, so he turned to one of the few winemakers in the area who understood the value of old vines, Joel Peterson at Ravenswood Winery.  Joel recommended selling the fruit to Ravenswood, and so Otto began the long process of bringing the vineyard back to health. In 1983, Ravenswood began their vineyard designate Old Hill Ranch Zinfandel, just as the vineyard was turning 100 years old.




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