Rick Hill of Labyrinth: Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe Featured Winemaker

September 30, 2019

A Labyrinth Led Rick Hill to Santa Barbara Wine Country

Growing up in New Zealand Rick Hill couldn’t possibly imagine the circumstances that would eventually lead to him becoming winemaker for his Labyrinth wines—he only knew that he wanted to be in the wine industry. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, there wasn’t a clear path into a wine career. Instead, Hill ended up in the milk industry, and then the juice industry, all the while with an eye toward going into wine. His work took him all over the world– from Australia to the Middle East– but it wasn’t until he completed his wine science degree in 1997 that he would get to California.Rick Hill Labyrinth winemaker in the vineyard

He was placed in Napa during his internship, which is a problem for a Pinot Noir fan. The winemaker he was working with offered to find him a placement more suitable to working with his preferred varietal. That’s how he came to Central Coast Wine Services, a small operation that, in a twist of fate, would introduce him to his winemaking career, as well as his future wife.

As an intern, Hill expected he’d move from California to Argentina, Italy, and other renown wine regions.

“The funny thing was I fell in love with Santa Barbara County, I fell in love with the people I was working with, I felt instantly trusted in being involved with their grapes,” he said.

Rick Hill of Labyrinth Lane Tanner was one of just a handful of Central Coast Wine Services clients. Later, she and Hill would marry, but not before she gave him his winemaking start. When Tanner injured her knee right before harvest, she enlisted Hill’s assistance offering him 2 tons of any fruit to which she had access.

I said, “‘That’s wonderful, what I’ll do is, I’ll take 2 tons of Bien Nacido.’ And that’s how my career started,” Hill said.

These days Hill produces Pinot Noir for his Labyrinth label that is meant to be fresh and bright, bold and enthusiastic. But he has also branched out into bigger reds like Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, and Tempranillo, and dabbled in a few whites as well.

Meet Rick! Check out our interview!

In this month’s featured winemaker video interview Hill details his path to becoming a winemaker, how small production makes his wine business agile, and he shares his thoughts on the growing Santa Barbara County cannabis industry.

Get to know Hill’s winemaking style this month at Los Olivos Café and Wine Merchant. Taste Labyrinth wines by the flight or purchase one of three featured bottles for a 20% discount throughout the month of October.

Stock up on Labyrinth wines today!

 

Featured Labyrinth Wines October Featured Winemaker at Los Olivos Wine Merchant Cafe

At the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe we focus on providing a true wine country experience. Much of our produce for the Café is organically grown at our Café farm in Los Olivos. And our award-winning wine selection of over 500 mostly local wines compliments our fresh wine country cuisine. As a hub for the local California Central Coast wine scene, we love getting to know our local winemakers and sharing their stories with you! We welcome you to check out more of our interviews and blogs here.

From textbooks to tasting: Aaron Walker of Pali Wine Co.

September 5, 2019

If all had gone according to his plan, Aaron Walker would be steeped in academia shaping the minds of the next generation. Instead, those warm, magical SoCal breezes changed his fate. Now, he’s influencing palates and educating wine aficionados about the virtues of California-style wines as winemaker for Pali Wine Co.

An easy-going Southern California native living the surfer lifestyle, Walker was planning on getting his teaching credential while studying at San Diego State University. Like many college students, Walker waited tables to pay the bills. It turns out the job suited him. He made several attempts at working in other industries, but he always went back to waiting tables.

A life-changing harvest

As fate would have it, his girlfriend (who is now his wife) steered him away from pursuing the culinary arts and opening a restaurant. She instead suggested that maybe her father’s Central Coast contacts might have some opportunities for him in the wine industry.

Aaron Walker at work at Pali

Walker spent part of 2016 working the harvest with Jenne Bonaccorsi of Bonaccorsi Wine Co., and instantly forgot about teaching, forgot about restaurants, and forged a career in wine. The hands-on physical work followed by the reward of seeing that work come to fruition gave him a deep sense of satisfaction.

Embracing the California winemaking style

By 2017 he was hired by Pali Wine Co., which turned out to be a great fit. Short for Pacific Palisades, which sits between Malibu and Santa Monica, Pali was established in 2015 bearing reference to the hometown of owners Tim Perr and Scott Knight. At the time, Pali’s winemaker was producing wines that didn’t accurately reflect the California wine style. Originally, the wines were big, rich, high in alcohol, and didn’t age well. Walker throttled that back a little bit, showcasing low-alcohol California wines that are big, yet approachable and can still age well. Pali especially favors Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills, an area that has become renowned for its ideal growing conditions for the varietal because of its moderate warmth tempered by coastal influences.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Aaron to hear his story and would love to share it with you. We invite you to pour a glass of wine and join us as we uncover his tale in our interview at the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe.

Walker shared with us an example of that California style with the new release of the 2018 PCH. Pali produced 600 cases of this dry, crisp, and refreshing wine, which highlights flavors of watermelon, lime zest, and sweet summertime stone fruits.

Aaron Walker of Pali Wine Co.The California influence is evident in the winery’s operating philosophy as well. Pali has five tasting rooms throughout the Central Coast and Southern California, where staff has created a brewery approach to the tasting room experience. This has helped Pali foster loyal “communities of wine club members,” and allows them to occasionally roll out experimental blends like the Zinfelder—a blend of Zinfandel and Dornfelder.

 

 

 

 

 

At the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe we focus on providing a true wine country experience. Much of our produce for the Café is organically grown at our Café farm in Los Olivos. And our award-winning wine selection of over 500 mostly local wines compliments our fresh wine country cuisine. As a hub for the local California Central Coast wine scene, we love getting to know our local winemakers and sharing their stories with you! We welcome you to check out more of our interviews and blogs here.

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