The Hilt champions pinot noir and chardonnay from the climate margins of California's coastal winegrowing regions—Santa Barbara County's Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley AVA's prominent among them.The philosophy of "growing in the margins" propels winegrowers to employ practices that enable grapes to show full transparency of site—key to The Hilt's philosophy. Within this framework, The Hilt ferments two distinct styles of wine-The Old Guard and The Vanguard. The former relies on elegant clonal selections planted on poorer soils along with minimalist cellar methods to produce a wine with minerality and structure at its fore. The latter is sourced from more robust clones planted on slightly richer soils revealing a wine with balance, power and fruit driven qualities.
As hinted at in the name, The Hilt goes "all the way" in its quest for expression and quality; nothing is held back in terms of effort.
There are three things critical to the understanding of transparent varieties such as chardonnay and pinot noir: an understanding of terroir (dirt/climate foremost among them), an attuned sense of stylistic intention and deft touch in the cellar.
Armed with a degree in Soil Science from the University of Vermont, The Hilt's winemaker, Matt Dees' approach is grounded in the vineyard first and foremost. His attention to the subtle differences found between chardonnay and pinot noir due to clonal selections and site informs the sides of The Hilt's philosophy. And last but not least, Matt's fine hand with the wines in the cellar allows the precise expression of both Old Guard characteristics and Vanguard elements to emerge.
When Matt's not exploring this duality in chardonnay and pinot noir, he can be found making the wines for its sister winery—Jonata.