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HEITZ CELLAR OWNER BUYS STONY HILL

Gaylon Lawrence, the owner of Heitz, and Carlton McCoy MS, Heitz’s CEO, acquired the Spring Mountain property in late December last year for an undisclosed sum.

This is not the first Napa property the pair have acquired recently, having bought Burgess Cellars in September and Haynes Vineyard in 2019. Lawrence bought Heitz Cellar in 2018.

The pair have also appointed Jaimee Motley as winemaker and Laurie Taboulet as estate director and announced plans to convert the property to biodynamics as they have with the other estates.

Stony Hill was founded by Fred and Eleanor McCrea in 1943, originally as a holiday home before the couple decided to turn it into a vineyard and winery. 

Originally planted solely with white varieties after their love of white Burgundy, the first wines were released in 1952 and were an instant success.

The McCreas bolstered their plantings of Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Blanc with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah and the property quickly became one of the valley’s benchmark names.

Although the McCrea family remained involved with the winery until 2018, in that year the owners of Long Meadow Ranch, the Hall family, took a majority stake in the estate.

McCoy commented: “A great wine in its purist form is an expression of the intimate relationship between a passionate vigneron and the unique and exceptional terroir that they have been blessed to oversee. I have admired Jaimee’s wines created under various brands. These wines at times have verged on ethereal and have made it clear to me the potential in Napa that we have yet to fulfill. 

“There are butterflies in my stomach to imagine the wines that will result from her connection with the vines of Stony Hill. I have full faith in Jaimee and Laurie’s ability to continue the legacy of this estate that was started by the McCrea family so long ago.”

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History

Stony Hill is a boutique, family-owned winery, rooted in its original vision of creating great wines in small lots from our own hillside vineyards. Today our forty acres of vines produce on average 3,500 cases of wine per year. Our winemaking style is distinctly non-interventionist, allowing the intensely flavored fruit from our rocky, hillside soils to determine the character of the wine. Known primarily for our Chardonnay, we describe it as fruity, non-oaky and non-malolactic in style and see it as a particularly good match with food. We sell our wines primarily to customers on our mailing list and in our wine club, and to fine restaurants in major metropolitan areas throughout the US.

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Winemaking

The McCreas have been proprietors of Stony Hill since the summer of 1943 when Eleanor and Fred McCrea purchased the property. They were the visionaries who created a beautiful wine estate out of an old goat ranch and in so doing were pioneers in the rebirth of the Napa Valley wine industry following Prohibition and World War II. Peter, Fred and Eleanor’s son, grew up working in the vineyard and winery as a teenager, and he shares his parents’ sense of pride in the property and the wines. Willinda immersed herself in the industry starting in 1989, and when Eleanor died in 1991 she became a proprietor along with Peter. Today their daughter, Sarah has joined the business as Director of Sales and Marketing, insuring continuity between the second and third generations of McCreas. Peter and Willinda's son Frederick and his wife Courtney, while working in finance in San Francisco, are active participants on the board of directors.

Mike Chelini arrived at Stony Hill in 1971 with his wife, Kathy, first as vineyard foreman, and then as winemaker. Mike worked closely with Fred until his death in 1977, at which time Mike assumed full responsibility for both vineyard and winery operations. In his thirty-five years at Stony Hill Mike has established a reputation as one of the finest winemakers in the Napa Valley. He and his wife, Kathy, have raised their three children on the ranch.

Stony Hill’s six full-time, year-round vineyard employees come from three large families in El Llano, Michoacan, Mexico. Alejandro Salomon, vineyard foreman, found his way up to Stony Hill in 1982 making him a long-time veteran of ranch life. Following in 1988 were Jose Ayala, commonly known as Pancho Jr., and brothers Jose and Alejo Rodriguezl. Juan Salomon, Alejandro’s brother, joined the crew in 1993, and the latest addition to our team of six, in April, 2007 is Alejo Rodriguez-Salomon, Alejo Rodriguez’ son, born and educated here in California.

Courtney Murray-Cortez is Stony Hill's Director of Business Operations, joining the Stony Hill team in 2009. Born and raised in the Napa Valley, she’s had extensive experience in the wine industry. Spending a majority of her career traveling, she now works closer to home where she resides with her husband and their two small children.

These are the people we are indebted to for growing the Stony Hill grapes, making the lovely wines and keeping our customers happy, satisfied and coming back for more.

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Inside information

When Fred and Eleanor McCrea fell in love with and bought a 160-acre goat ranch on the northeast slope of Spring Mountain in 1943, little did they envision a “Stony Hill Vineyard…visitors by appointment only” sign at the bend in the road. Yet sixty years later, the sign hangs there as a testament to their passionate dedication to producing the quality wines that Stony Hill still proudly offers.

The property sits on the western slope of the Napa Valley between Richie Creek to the north and Lyman Creek to the south. Moderating climatic influences such as northeast-facing slopes and an elevation between 700 and 1200 feet above the valley floor make this mild microclimate an ideal location for growing premium Chardonnay grapes.

Vineyard planting began in 1947, when the McCreas located a used tractor to purchase and people to clear and cultivate the land. They wanted to plant Chardonnay exclusively, because they loved the white wine of Burgundy and believed that Stony Hill offered the potential for growing fine quality white Burgundy grapes. At least they wanted to experiment. But the University of California viticulturists encouraged them to diversify for several reasons. Only 200 acres of Chardonnay grapes were planted in California at that time. It was a shy-bearing grape, disease-prone, and not well-known to the wine-drinking public. They suggested planting Pinot Blanc and White Riesling. Instead, Eleanor and Fred followed their own intuition and planted most of their vineyards to Chardonnay. The makeup of the vineyards today reflects their determination, with twenty-five acres of Chardonnay, ten acres of White Riesling, three acres of Gewurztraminer, and one acre of Semillon.

1952 Fred and Eleanor completed a small winery on the property and produced their first vintage of Chardonnay. After allowing the wine to age for two years, they began marketing Stony Hill Chardonnay through a personal letter to Bay Area friends to an encouragingly positive response. Fifty-four years later this annual September mailer is still Stony Hill's primary mode of marketing, albeit less than half now are sent via the postal service as more and more customers opt for email newsletters. Stony Hill wines are also available at select restaurants in the Napa Valley, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other metropolitan areas across the United States.

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 Stony Hill  has news

HEITZ CELLAR OWNER BUYS STONY HILL Gaylon Lawrence, the owner of Heitz, and Carlton McCoy MS, Hei  more ...

3m 25d ago

 Jeannie Cho Lee MW, Wine Writer (South Korea)  tasted  3 wines  from  Stony Hill . In a tasting of  17 wines 

1968 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon Cask H12, This bottle took about an hour to come around. At first, the flavours were closed with only hints of dried fruits and smokey notes. After over an hour, the wine started to open up in the glass offering an array of lovely bottled aged flavours – black truffle, autumn leaves, dried violets and leather. Impressive wine, not just because of its age, but because it improved rather than fell apart in the glass over 3 hours. (91)

1y 2m ago

 Rusty Gaffney, MD, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Stony Hill . In a tasting of  21 wines 

2013 Rhys Vineyards Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay / 13.5% alc., $69. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Gorgeous and intoxicating aromas of lemon, pineapple, yellow peach and crushed chalk. Equally sensational on the palate with a perfect marriage of luscious lemon cake, pineapple and pear flavors with uplifting acidity. A hint of complimentary nutty, vanillin oak adds to the appeal of this laser focused wine. The finish is incredibly long and refreshingly racy. I was so taken by this wine, that I stopped tasting other wines on this day and had a generous glass with lunch. A delicious, edgy wine without rival. (BTW, I did not see the glowing reviews of this wine by other notable wine critics before tasting this wine)Score: 99.

1y 9m ago

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