One of the lasting images from the devastating fires that ravaged the Napa Valley is the picture of the sign at the William Hill Estate Winery burning.

Located across Atlas Peak Road from the Silverado Resort, the pictures during the fire left the impression the fire destroyed the winery. Fortunately, the sign was one of the few things burned at William Hill.

It is still somewhat ominous to be sitting outside at the winery as the blackened hills above Silverado serve as a reminder to the tragedy in the area, but at the same time, the feeling of resiliency that permeates throughout the Napa Valley is prevalent at the winery.

Our host Raul was very accommodating and shared stories from the day of the fire. It was the night of Sunday, October 8 when the fires began. Raul recounted that the wind that day was bad enough that they had to replace their stemware wine glasses with non-stem glasses to keep them from blowing over.

Later that night the fires came.

Due to the incredible efforts of the first responders, the winery was saved.

As is the case with any visitor to the area, what once was taken for granted must now be enjoyed with the feeling of never knowing what’s happening next.

You have options when tasting at William Hill. There is very modern tasting bar inside, or there is the outside area that offers views of the surrounding area from the top of the hill where the winery sits.

We chose the outside and some comfortable Adirondack chairs. What made this experience even more so relaxing, is that the staff brings out all your tastings on a tray and leaves them with you along with a snack tray that includes almonds, cheese and dried fruit.

There are tasting notes with each of the samples and after answering any questions, the staff heads back inside, leaving you to enjoy your wine in the peace of nature that surrounds the property.

While at times it is entertaining to chat with employees at wineries, there is a time to embrace the natural surroundings in one of the most beautiful regions in country.

Such was the case at William Hill.

The wines we enjoyed started with a pair of Chardonnay’s – the 2014 Benchland Series and the 2015 Winemaker’s Series.

The Benchland is crafted from selected vineyard blocks from the Napa Valley vineyards. The full-bodied wine features a rich mouthfeel and a lingering finish.

The Winemaker’s Series comes from the Carneros region and is a limited production wine. There were only 305 cases of the wine produced of the wine that was aged in French Oak. Not usually a Chardonnay fan, I enjoyed this offering.

Our next tasting was of a 2014 Benchland Petit Verdot. The wine was rich and concentrated with blackberry and dark fruit aromas. At $55 a bottle, it is a solid value play for the region.


Out fourth and final tasting was a case of indeed saving the best for last.

The Benchmark Red Blend is what the winery refers to as the pinnacle of their portfolio and its easy to see why. The blend for this wine was 92 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 8 percent other Bordeaux varieties.

Aged in French oak, the velvety tasting wine has a long, silky finish.

In many ways, the William Hill Estates winery is symbolic of the entire region that was ravaged by the fires. It looked lost, but it survived and thrives again. Make a visit to the property and enjoy the vistas while also embracing the power of nature.

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By Dennis Miller