A Father and Son Continue the Legacy Of a Legendary Vineyard and Historical Grape Clone
SONOMA (June 6, 2023)—Ned Hill is truly vested in his new 2021 Parmelee-Hill Syrah. Representing the very top tier of wines under La Prenda Wine’s Fifth Hill label, this Syrah is made exclusively using the historic and rare Durell clone of Syrah and is available for sale exclusively through the La Prenda tasting room in Sonoma. For 20 years Durell Syrah was generally considered to be the premier clone of Syrah in California. Ned’s father, Steve Hill, managed the first ever six-acre planting for Ed Durell in 1980. Grapes were sold to Kendall Jackson Winery and Edmonds St. John, both of whom produced vineyard designated Syrah from Durell Vineyard.
The original six-acre block of Durell Syrah was pulled in 1999, but not before Steve Hill took the last budwood from that original planting to field bud a 1.5 acre block at his own Parmelee-Hill Vineyard. La Prenda was able to purchase less than two tons from this tiny block of grapes, which represents the last planting of Syrah from the original Durrell clone grapes.
“The Durell clone Syrah was extremely popular in the eighties and nineties,” said Ned Hill. “It has history and followers even to this day. We want to acknowledge that heritage and honor my dad’s contribution to the Durell Syrah legacy.”
When Ed Durell bought the property in 1977 it was a cattle ranch. Steve Hill began developing vineyards on the property in 1980. About that time Kenwood Winery approached Steve asking if he would plant Syrah for them. Syrah was hard to find, but Steve found clean bud wood at a nursery in Napa and grafted it onto AXR-1 rootstock. Over time, they realized the clone they had was most likely Shiraz, instead of typical Syrah. Kenwood liked the grapes, but decided they didn’t fit into their wine program. Steve Edmunds and Jed Steele stepped in to purchase the Syrah and later Kendall Jackson. They all made Durell Vineyard designated Syrah.
“I had no experience with Syrah at that time,” admitted Hill. “The bunches were large, but open which reduced problems with bunch rot. They were big vines built to last and the wines made from those grapes were long-lasting as well, especially if picked while the grapes still had acid.”
Steve Edmunds, the owner of Edmunds St. John has vivid memories of making his first Durell Vineyard Syrah in 1986. “The grapes from that original block had a wonderful, unique smell from the very start of fermentation. It had smoke, black pepper and exotic fruit aromas. It was screaming with energy. The wines had lovely depth, full tannins, and great complexity. None of the other Syrah blocks had that special character.”
At one point a buyer who purchased cuttings from these original vines formally registered them as Durell clone. Ned Hill decided he had to make a special wine from these historic grapes. Ned explained, “My Dad managed the Durell Vineyard for 35 years and planted his own Parmelee-Hill Vineyard right next door. I worked on those vineyards my entire childhood and then 10 years of my professional career. They are special to me and historic to the California wine industry. I am honored to make wine from grapes derived from the original Durell clone Syrah.”
Ned Hill has spent most of his life working with grapes. He started working in the Durell vineyards at age nine and was driving tractor by 12. Upon graduating high school, he decided he wanted to work with his father and follow in his footsteps, so he went to Cal Poly SLO and got a degree in Fruit Science (the closest thing they had to viticulture at the time.) After graduation, he returned to Sonoma to work with his dad at Durell Vineyards and helping with the family’s Parmelee-Hill Vineyard. In 2008, along with his wife Erika, he struck out on his own starting La Prenda Vineyards Management, farming some of Wine Country’s premium vineyard sites.
By 2013, they had launched La Prenda Wines. Working with award winning winemaker Mike Cox, they developed a collection of high quality, reasonably priced wines while honoring their hometown and family history. Brands include 95476 (the zip code for their hometown of Sonoma), La Prenda, Happy Wife, Sonoma Collection, Sonoma Cellars, and Fifth Hill.
About La Prenda Wines
Founded in 2008 by Ned and Erika Hill, and named for the street Ned’s father grew up on, La Prenda Vineyards Management is now a fixture of Sonoma agriculture. La Prenda features sustainably farmed wines honoring Sonoma Valley grape farmers by managing over 30 properties in the Sonoma Valley, Carneros, Sonoma Mountain and Bennett Valley appellations that are certified Fish Friendly Farming. In 2013 La Prenda Wines was launched to the world and has continued to develop with the help of award-winning Winemaker, Michael Cox.
The La Prenda Tasting Room is located at 535 1st Street West (next to The Red Grape) where visitors can enjoy a 5-wine tasting flight while learning about the wines and grape growing in Sonoma Valley. Flights range from $20-$35/person with the opportunity for customization. La Prenda offers a wide variety of wines such as Sparkling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Bordeaux Blends, and even ciders. The tasting room is open Monday-Thursday 12-5pm and Friday-Sunday 11am-6pm. For groups of 6 or more, please call ahead for a reservation at (707) 938-7228. Visit www.laprendawines.com