Claire Hill Mourvèdre

Perhaps it’s a bit childish, but I love the holidays.

It’s not the “pumpkin spice latte” or “ugly Christmas sweater” side of it all that widens my smile, it’s the sight of Christmas lights in the windows, the scent of pine trees and warm apple cider, and the warmth of a crackling fire keeping you toasty well into the night.

It’s all so deliciously comforting, but also lively. There’s an energy about the holidays that challenges the grumpiest of scrooges into joining the fun.

And it’s that very spirit of comfort and cheer that’s captured in this delicious bottle of Mourvèdre, made by one of my dear friends, Claire Hill. If there was a wine that could embody a chorus of carolers, this would be it. It’s a lighter style Mourvèdre, with a smooth texture and fine tannins, and a beautiful bouquet of cherry, plum, spices, and bramble on the palate. It’s delicious with a subtle chill for sipping on its own, but would also pair perfectly with:

~ Slow roasted chicken with buttery tomatoes
~ Oven risotto with crispy roasted mushrooms
~ Pork chops with fig and grape agrodolce
~ Coriander crusted duck breast

Curious to learn more?


Happy accidents.

It’s tempting to try and control - or at the very least predict - the outcome of our work. We set out with an idea, like a painter in front of a blank canvas, and we get to work to transform the image in our mind into something real and tangible to show to the world.

Take for example the chicken in the picture at the top of this page. I thought that Alison Roman’s roast chicken with buttered tomatoes would be the perfect pairing for my friend Claire Hill’s stunning Mourvèdre. What I didn’t plan on was that I would accidentally roast it upside down. (If you remember, I have a newborn at home and haven’t slept in months.) But you know what, it turned out better than ever! The breasts were slow roasting in garlicky, tomatoey goodness the entire time, making them the most tender and melt-in-your-mouth bites you could imagine.

I called Claire to admit my mistake and we had a great laugh because you know what, her Mourvèdre was a happy accident as well. She set out to make a Bandol style rosé initially. She knew exactly how she wanted it to look, smell, and taste, and then… the vineyard had a different plan. When she tasted the grapes at harvest, the acidity level just wasn’t there to make the style of wine she’d envisioned, so she did what a great winemaker should do - she made the wine those grapes were meant to become. Another producer would have simply added tartaric acid and carried on according to plan, but according to Claire, “that would force it into an unnatural direction.”

So many winemakers today have a particular style of wine they are trying to emulate. Perhaps they’re trying to model the wine of a mentor. Maybe they are trying to emulate a style that garners high points and high price tags. Either way, it’s not authentic to the terroir - the soil, the climate, and the conditions that make each and every harvest unique. The job of a great winemaker is to simply nurture a wine into becoming its best self - in that way, it’s more like parenting a child than designing a building.


“The reason I want to make wine is that while working in restaurants and living in France I had these beautiful bottles and had profound moving experiences with wine and I thought, I want to make something that is a fraction as beautiful as this.”


And while Claire is still relatively new to the wine world, she’s clearly turning heads with her impressive debut vintage. One of San Francisco’s most beloved sommeliers, Vinny Eng, formerly at Tartine Manufactury, is another early supporter of Claire’s wines. In a recent interview for Food & Wine he described her Mourvèdre as “the most delicious thing” and crowned her part of the “future of California.”

Born and raised in San Francisco, Claire was bitten by the wine bug after college. She’s worked harvests with Rhys and Unti, as well as with Eric Texier in the Rhone (the latter two you’ll remember from previous EP wine collections).

Vinny was right, Claire is a shining star in the new generation of talented winemakers hitting the market. After completing her first vintage and admittedly hating one of the wines she’d made because it simply wasn’t what she set out to make, she’s committed to letting each vineyard she works with lead the way towards the perfect wine.


“Going into things with a particular plan of what you want to get out of it never works.”


Keep your eye out for Claire’s wines in the future. There’s no “Claire style” to define her wines, but rather a chocolate box full of treats to discover with each new vineyard she works with. The next vintage will include a Zinfandel “with insane acid from Grass Valley,” a barrel-fermented Chardonnay from Scotts Valley, and luckily for us, another go with the old-vine Mourvèdre from the Del Barba vineyard. Oh, and did I mention that this project is a one-woman show? She’s stomping the grapes, “manning” the tanks, and labeling the bottles - all with a smile.