A visit to Hilliard Bruce Wine Estate in California

Who: John Hilliard and Christine Bruce
Where: Santa Barbara, California

Die sanften Weinberge der Santa Rita Hills

The mellow vineyards of the Santa Rita Hills and the Hilliard Bruce estate*

In Santa Barbara, California, 20 miles from the sea, lies the 250-hectare winery Hilliard Bruce, which is surrounded by the Santa Rita Hills. The big bronze gateway opens for appointed visitors only. Past many rosaries and herb gardens, the palm-lined driveway leads to the house of the couple John Hilliard and Christine Bruce, an in Tuscan-style built villa with adjacent horse stables. Since 2004, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are cultivated here – in fact, personally by John and Christine.


The rippling fountain and palm-lined paths welcome me

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A stylish mixture of fabrics and materials in the living room – Interior design by Christine Bruce

MyStylery: John, you led the domestic shipyards from Houston for ages, later engaging in the art scene. What caused a Texan tradesman to grow wine in California?
John Hilliard: I had a serious kidney disease, including two kidney transplantations and chemotherapies. I am a fighter, I survived, and I knew, that this was not everything my life had to offer. And as Christine and I had always been passionate gardeners, the idea of growing an own winery arose. At first the plan was Texas…

Antike Möbel in Kombination mit modernem Landhausstil

I love the antique furniture in a mix with modern country style

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The ancient door handles – now used as a decoration – come from France

MS: … not the classic area for winegrowing really…
JH: Exactly. When we came here for the first time, we instantly knew that this was the right place. We benefitted from the cool breeze of the pacific. The grapes can be cooled naturally over night and, by the way, are only harvested in the early morning hours and after sunset to keep the aroma of the grapes during the process.

 John Hilliard mit Pudelhündin Wig auf dem Sofa des Salons, der auch für Weinverkostungen genutzt wird.

John Hilliard with poodle Wig relaxing on the sofa in the living room, which is also used for wine tasting

MS: Christine and you, both of you are certificated gardeners and also created the parks and orchards. But isn’t winegrowing on a new level?
JH: Especially in a country, where everything is “organic”. We do not take stock in these biodynamical methods. We pit on sustainability and traditional agriculture.

John & Christine monkey pic

John and Christine infront of the painting “Monkey” by the American artist Donald Roller Wilson*

MS: What does that mean?
JH: We bear in mind the ecological principals, including organisms in their environment. Our winery is completely solar-powered. A specific aquifer waters the vines to save water. We comply the “SIP Certified Standards”, an independent control system, which is incentive for us. And we only grow 50 hectares of wine, so that we can keep the project small and the quality high.

Christine’s piano with a view into the rose garden

Christine Bruce sits down with us, grey-bluish paint on hands and check shirt.

CB: Sorry, I just had to paint a table for the kitchen.
JH: Christine has an incredible sense for interior. She arranged the house and the hall for the winetastings and chose colors and fabrics. The horse stables were also built to her specifications.

In dieser von xxx designten Halle (der auch schon für Bill Gates und Steve Jobs baute), wird der Wein produziert.

In this newly built hall the wine of Hilliard Bruce is produced

MS: Christine, you studied music and were a successful keyboard player in R&B bands. An unusual career for someone who is a horse breeder and vintner today.
CB: I grew up in the countryside and loved playing in the garden since I was a child. When I could not see anything at night, I took a lamp and placed it next to the patch. For me, there is nothing better than the smell of fresh mint, the living nature and to work with my hands.
JH: We are here now and happy. Our life motto comes from the german-american author Robert Green Ingersoll, which is also printed on all our wine labels: “Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so.”  BvH


The main entrance next to the horse stables

The oak barrels from France cost $ 1,200 a piece and after five years they have to be exchanged for new ones

Schwimmende Inseln - Floaring Islands - halten den See algenfrei.

Floating islands keep the lake algae-free


The beautiful tasting room is open by appointment only

Contact Hilliard Bruce:

2097 Vineyard View Lane,
Lompoc, CA 93438,
+1 305-979-2601


Photos marked* and featured pic by Jeremy Ball, www.bottlebranding.com

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