First Pick: Tilton Hill Vineyard

Tilton Hill Vineyard, owned by Benovia Winery, is perched high on a ridge at around 600 feet just a few miles away from the Pacific Ocean, above the town of Freestone, west of the town of Sebastopol.  Benovia planted the vineyard (11.7 acres) to Pinot Noir in 2009; the first single-vineyard wine from the site was in 2012.  Last night, two crews comprised of female pickers came through to pick Blocks 3 and 4 of the vineyard beginning at 1AM.  

Tilton Hill Vineyard is the coldest of Benovia's estate vineyards.  We can confirm this, as we live in a house on the vineyard and often need to wear a fleece during summer evenings.  The weather the last few days has been warm and fog free, and last night as the ladies started the pick, the weather was warm and clear.  At sunrise, the fog started rolling in.  There is no predicting the weather here.

I was thrilled to learn that the ladies would be picking the vineyard; I've been photographing them for several months through seasons of vineyard work.  I love shooting them; there is always infectious laughter in the vineyard.  I find myself laughing along, even though I don't speak Spanish.  I heard plenty of laughter last night, but they were much more serious than usual.

Benovia planted the vineyard at a very high-density, spacing vines 4 feet apart with five foot rows.  It requires special tractors that can pass through the rows, and lots and lots of handwork.  This attention to detail is what makes for high quality wine.

I know I'm biased, but I think this is one of the most special vineyard sites.  It is a place of great beauty and I love living here.  I love watching the sunrise; this morning, I was blessed to be between the vines and under the net as the sun came over the horizon.  Here is the day's first light: