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OUR STORY

Head winemaker Jeff Griffin and wife Claudia Griffin smiling with wine glasses in vineyard

Welcome to Griffin Hill! We're a very small winery and vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA.  Each year, we make about 300 cases of wine.  Our goal is to make wines that are interesting, food-friendly and inspiring.  This is accomplished by hand-tending the vines and a patient, low-tech winemaking style that allows the flavor of the exquisite fruit grown in these hills to shine through.  Our facility is located in one of the most famous, yet so small as to rarely get mentioned, wine-growing areas of the world.  The Santa Cruz Mountains rise up between Silicon Valley and the Pacific Ocean.  While we recognize that many (most?) of the hard-working people in Silicon Valley barely take note of these beautiful mountains, it's now our mission to bring the exquisite taste of the wines which represent and capture the flavor of these mountains to the people of Silicon Valley and Santa Cruz.

 

Michael Franti says "every flower got a right to be bloomin'."  We believe we can farm this land and still care for it.  We've learned that native plants and insects, when cared for, will naturally keep out insects that would harm our vines and they will outcompete invasive weed species.  We just don't need widespread spraying of insecticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers.  

 

In the photo, the new owners, Jeff and Claudia Griffin, back in April 2011, had just purchased our first vineyard. Our purchase grew out of Claudia’s non-stop interest in food-producing plants.  We began looking on the weekends for a small plot of land for a farm and orchard that would be our weekend getaway/project, but after some reflection, I told her that I wanted to try growing wine grapes.   Mostly a beer drinker, I had earlier “discovered” wine in an "aha" moment with a Duckhorn Merlot at a family dinner.   I know - Merlot, right?

Winemaker Background and Credits
Jeff has evolved into the Head Winemaker role, while Claudia, whose technical background is in chemistry got the team kicked off.   Jeff's winemaking education, while including some formal education at UC Davis, independent study,  and a lot of experimentation, has been largely the product of generous help and mentoring of other local winemakers we've met through the Viticultural Association of Santa Cruz Mountains, most notably, Marty Mathis of Kathryn Kennedy, Eric Baugher of Ridge Winery and John Schumacher of Hallcrest Winery.  Jeff also reads all of the books and industry publications he can get his hands on.  His philosophy starts with soil health and ends with lots of personal time with each vine and its fruit.   Meticulous management of the vine canopy allows all the flowers and grape clusters to receive sunlight to develop a moderate self-defense of the sun, which makes the grape skins maximize their anthocyanins and phenolics; which are the flavor precursors.  We have evolved as we got feedback from people tasting our wine and have fine-tuned our harvest decisions for a level of ripeness that balances the sugars, acids and tannins appropriate for each varietal.  Our practices in the winery reflect current research and what we've learned. We are devoted to natural small batch winemaking mantras of native yeasts, patience, gentle crush/press and simply guiding of the juice to become wine with the least intervention possible. Here, we've found winemaking is art more than science and our wines show it.
The Move
In the summer of 2021, we had the opportunity to acquire an historic farm up on the ridge, where the legendary vineyards of the Santa Cruz Mountains are, including Ridge, Rhys, David Bruce and Fogarty and we jumped on it. Jeff has long believed that this is where we need to be to grow the best wines. Other benefits of the site are the close proximity to Silicon Valley and the park-like beauty of the area. After we were under contract, we found an old sign in the barn and found that the farm had been known as Happy Valley Ranch back in the early 1900's (a good sign - pun?). Later that year we moved to the Happy Valley site and began planting the new vineyard of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

The Making of "the Griffin"

Graphics artist Michael Rowley of Vizcabulary worked with us to create our logo and label design.  We heard about Michael from our friend Len Lehmann at Portola WInery, where he had created a beautiful label.  Michael followed our lead and created a logo that exceeded our expectations and gave us a look that we're proud of.  Later, Michael showed us how he had created to logo using a combination of clay modelling and digital imaging - see photo.

Jeff Griffin standing behind barrels in front of Happy Valley sign
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Griffin Hill logo
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