The Hilltop: A Must When Conducting Business in California

On Tuesday, September 16, 2014 the business meeting was over and it was time to enjoy an afternoon and evening on The Hilltop.

The Hilltop's resident sommelier Mike Wojo and his lovely chef de cuisine wife Mav hosted three repeat customers from the East Coast.

The only one missing - our great friend and colleague Clinton!  We'll get him here next time!

While we've been here before as a group, it must be said that we can never get enough grape and Mike can never seem to thin out the number of bottles that continue to grow inside the cellar.

I'm sure you've heard the saying "it's nothing I need but it's something I gotta have."

That's how we feel about our wine tastings on The Hilltop.  We are able to taste wines that we could never dream of in the course of our normal lives.

The wines below were properly pulled from the racks (some of the older ones got a little agitated when we turned them for inspection), decanted when needed, and tasted. You know, after being in the bottle for over 10 years, it just needs to be enjoyed!

In addition, we picked a couple of bottles to go to my favorite Italian restaurant, Casa Nostra, right here in the Highlands.

As always, we did our best to thin the cellar but when you're tasting ten bottles it doesn't put a dent in the thousands of bottles on the racks.

Don't be jealous, just sit back and enjoy the wine and sunset pictures HERE and please note the picture of our toast to our great friend HERE who couldn't make this trip - until next time!


  • 2012 Liquid Farm Chardonnay (Magnum)


  • 2001 Joseph Phelps Syrah, Napa Valley
  • 2003 Richard Partridge, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
  • 2004 Realm Napa Valley Red Wine, The Tempest
  • 2004 Quinta Tecedeiras Reserva
  • 2005 Araujo Syrah, Eisele Vineyard, Napa Valley
  • 2006 Copain Syrah, Mendocino County
  • 2006 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley
  • 2013 Sunset Hills Custom Blend, Virginia

For a slideshow of the evenings event go HERE.

Cellar Pruning: A Daunting Task But Someone Has To Do It!

During the week of July 11, 2014 we had two official functions at The Hilltop Winery, A Lawyer Visits The Hilltop and the 8th Annual West Institute Wine Reception and Dinner, click the links or scroll down to review those outings.

For those of you who have been to the cellar in the past, you know it could use a good thinning from time to time and when the outlaw from the East Coast comes to town he does his best to play that role.

The wines listed below were pulled throughout the week by the in-house Sommelier, Mike Wojo.  Most of these wines were pulled earlier in the week and put on the table for a quick "see something, pull something" mindset.

Please note the table in the middle of the cellar and the amount of wine selected for immediate tasting HERE.

While we tried our best this trip to clear the table, we can never keep up with the new wine that gets delivered each year.

I must also say we didn't have a bad bottle in the list below.  May your summer trip/s be enjoyable and may your path/s cross a bottle of white or red of your choosing.


  • 2009 Ramey Chardonnnay, Napa Valley
  • 2010 Aubert Chardonnay (multiple bottles)
  • 2011 Staglin Chardonnay, Rutherford, Napa Valley
  • 2012 Rombauer Vineyards Chardonnay, Carneros


  • 1984 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Hillside Select
  • 1988 Conn Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
  • 1990 St Francis Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County
  • 1992 Moraga Red Table Wine
  • 2000 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2001 Casanova di Neri, Tenuta Nuova
  • 2002 Araujo Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2002 Araujo Syrah
  • 2005 Hunnicut Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
  • 2006 Chateau Les Grans Marechaux
  • 2010 Chateau Haut-Surget Bordeaux

For a slideshow of the wines and random pictures of our week long stay at The Hilltop Winery go HERE.

8th Annual West Institute Wine Reception and Dinner

On Thursday, July 17, 2014 Mike and Mav hosted the Institute team at The Hilltop Winery for another great evening of fun and fellowship after a great week at Loyola Marymount University.

We mixed it up a bit this year and decided to stay on The Hilltop for a special pizza party using the relatively new wood fired oven in the backyard.  Our friend Edgardo, a specialist when it comes to making pizzas, was making everyone smile with his creations.

And of course, since we didn't make our annual trip to Sam's by the Beach to see our friend Sam and his wonderful staff for dinner, we brought Sam to The Hilltop Winery.  He provided us with a Caesar Salad, passed appetizers and a wonderful assortment of dessert items.

Now let's get to the good stuff!

Our very own faculty member and industry wine expert Brian Baker from Chateau Montelena Winery brought three Estate Bottled Cabs from the winery that The Hilltop Winery Sommelier, Mike Wojo, matched with three bottles of Bordeaux from his cellar.  Let the comparisons begin.

But before we get to that we obviously had to start with a few white's.  So sit back, don't get jealous and enjoy the ride we took on this beautiful Thursday evening with friends and family.


  • 2005 Puligny-Montrachet, Domaine Henri Boillot
  • 2010 Julien ColloVray, Saint-Veran
  • 2011 Aubert Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast
  • 2011 Staglin Chardonnay, Rutherford Estate


  • 1986 Chateau Olivier, Pessac-Leognan
  • 1989 Caymus Special Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
  • 1989 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
  • 2004 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (Magnum)
  • 2006 Chase Zinfandel, Napa Valley
  • 2009 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley
  • 2010 Pedestal Merlot, Columbia Valley

Special Cabernet Sauvignon vs Bordeaux Tasting

  • 1989 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Bottled
  • 1995 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Bottled
  • 2002 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Bottled

  • 1989 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe Bordeaux
  • 1995 Chateau Cantenac Brown, Margaux Bordeaux
  • 2002 Chateau Leoville Barton, Saint-Julien Bordeaux

As we all know, all good things must come to an end.  So as we packed up, said our goodbyes and took a couple of last minute photos, we got on the bus and returned to the hotel for our trip home in the morning.

Mike and Mav hopes that Brian, the Institute staff and volunteers had a great time at The Hilltop Winery.

A great evening wouldn't be complete unless we captured the memories to hold us over until next year.

Feel free to download any pictures from the entire evening HERE.

A Lawyer Visits The Hilltop

On Tuesday, July 15, 2014 The Hilltop Winery hosted a special tasting for one of Institute's favorite lawyers - and you know who you are, right?

We started in the early afternoon in the wine cellar!

We were allowed to compare a number of Cabernet Sauvignon's and then moved on to dinner at Sam's by the Beach to try the new pre-fixe dinner advertised in the local Pacific Palisades paper.

Before we left the cellar for Sam's, we lifted two magnums and they were the bomb!

After a perfect dinner with our friend Sam, we put the lawyer in the cab and told him to have a safe trip to the East Coast on the red-eye.

We retreated back to The Hilltop for a little clean-up, the wine of course. Tough life!

Here's the list of wines we tasted in the cellar before dinner at Sam's:

  • 1980 Silver Oak, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
  • 1986 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Estate Bottled
  • 1986 Caymus Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley Cuvee
  • 1986 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
  • 2005 Meursault, Henri Boillot

Here's the two magnums we took to Sam’s by the Beach:

  • 2006 Pedestal Merlot, Washington State
  • 2011 Liquid Farms Chardonnay, Santa Barbara

For a complete slide show of the evenings events go HERE.