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Hilliard Bruce Vineyards

Our Blog

Sonja Magdevski
July 26, 2018 | Sonja Magdevski

Considering All Aspects: People, Planet, and Prosperity

Shannon Gledhill of Coastal Vineyard care, inspecting the vineyard.

One morning each month I spend a few hours with our core vineyard team here at Hilliard Bruce discussing the important topics of the moment.  In the early spring it is bud break.  Mid-Spring brings flowering and (hopefully) warm temperatures.  Early summer is canopy growth and fruit set.  Mid-summer is crop estimates and vineyard health.  Late summer is veraison, when grapes begin to change color from bright green towards their final destiny.  On our July 17th meeting, one tiny section of Pinot Noir had just begun to blush – a very exciting time even for hardened industry insiders.  It marks a new beginning of the season as we count down toward harvest. 

During our last vineyard tour, Shannon Gledhill, pest management advisor and viticulturist for Coastal Vineyard Care Associates, spoke with me about our SIP program, as she is also responsible for implementing and maintaining our compliance.  She is an inspiration to be with as her knowledge, dedication and joy toward her work is irrepressible.  I was curious to understand why more vineyards in our area are not SIP certified, as she will often reference the program during the course of our meetings.  One of the main issues in understanding what SIP means is connecting simply and clearly to clients and consumers.  While “organic” is relatively understood by consumers, “biodynamic” practices are a bit cloudier, leaving SIP – a relatively new program on the agricultural scene within the last 20 years - at a disadvantage in communicating and marketing its message.  I have been to general SIP meetings in the past and I had no idea that we (meaning Shannon) had to document how often we clean our drip irrigation lines throughout the property. 

While organic and biodynamic farms can also be SIP certified, the standards and rigor of SIP go well beyond these programs.  While they all share interests in biodiversity and habitat, soil conservation and approved pesticide use, SIP also includes water and energy conservation, social responsibility and sound business practices.  SIP takes the whole farm system into consideration – plants, people and the environment. 

What is the goal of SIP Certification?

It is a way of documenting a vineyard’s dedication to sustainable farming.  It has parameters that need to be reached and metric goals associated with it, so it shows a farm’s commitment to the process. 

How many vineyards in Santa Barbara County are SIP Certified?

The beautiful thing is that John Hilliard was part of the pilot program ten years ago.  At the time there were only 8 vineyards involved in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties.  Locally John was one of 2.  Now the program is across California and Michigan and there are over 200 vineyards that are SIP certified. 

Why is there still only a small handful of SIP certified vineyards in in Santa Barbara County?

It is really intensive.  It takes multiple weeks to fill out the paperwork.  To document all of these steps is a huge commitment.  It is far more difficult to be SIP certified than organically certified.

Do you think it is beneficial program for a vineyard to be involved in and why?

That is a difficult question.  I don’t think the vineyards themselves are receiving any benefits even though it is an amazing program. 

Do you mean economic benefits?

Yes absolutely.  It is about communicating what the word sustainable actually means to our consumers, colleagues and vineyard clients.

What does sustainable mean?

It means dedication to the environment.  To the employees on the ranch.  To the longevity of the ranch itself.  The details that are covered are incredible.  It involves water quality, energy usage, fair treatment of employees, fair wages, insurance, health care, proper training, having good neighbor relations, making the best choices for not only your vineyard but understanding that your choices effect everything outside the property line - everything that you can imagine. 

Do you think vineyards that are not SIP certified are less responsible?

No, though if you have made that decision to be SIP Certified it makes you look at your farming practices more clearly and more in depth.  I think it makes people better farmers just going through the process.   Unless someone actually goes through the process, he or she may not think about these details. 

Are you saying that the process makes owners and farmers more mindful of everything they are doing overall for themselves and their neighbors?

Yes, that has been my experience.

Before you got involved with SIP at Hilliard Bruce what are some of the things that surprised you the most?

Probably the water usage.  The fact that you have to keep detailed records makes you way more aware.  For me it was the water usage, and honestly, we used less than I thought we did.

Would you encourage everyone to get involved in SIP certification?

I feel it is definitely the right way to farm.  It is just the economics of it all.  That is a really hard conversation to have. 

For the consumer then, SIP certification guarantees awareness, consciousness and mindfulness of every facet of farming and human endeavor on the ranch?

More than they would even understand.


For more information please check out the SIP website:

Time Posted: Jul 26, 2018 at 9:00 PM
Elena Salcido
June 3, 2018 | Elena Salcido

Walking through the Vineyard


If you have visited the winery recently, you probably met me in the tasting room. You can often find me there, pouring John & Christine's Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and talking about how all of our wines are produced on the estate: from grape to glass. 

Even though I've worked at Hilliard Bruce for almost a year and a half, it's not often that I make the trek out into the vineyard, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take a tour with Shannon Gledhill of Coastal Vineyard Care. As soon as we drove out of the winery parking lot and into the vineyard, I thought, "Why don't I get out here more often?!"

After taking the tour, I was reminded of how awe-inspiring the property is, and feel compelled to share with you a few of the most fascinating facts that I learned:

  • Hilliard Bruce teamed up with Sustainability in Practice (SIP) when it was a pilot program and became one of the very first SIP certified growers! Our 10 year anniversary with SIP was on May 17, 2018. 
  • We recycle the water used at the winery as part of our LEED Silver Certification. There is a tank under the road that gets pumped out and used for irrigating the landscape.
  • The property produces its own compost, which is a combination of: the remains of grapes after pressing (pomace), green matter, and horse manure from Christine's Arabian horses. It is made at our on-site aerated compost facility, which blows air through the pile instead of turning it. 
  • There are flowers planted throughout the vineyard to attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. While the insects aren't needed for pollination, as grapes are self-pollinating, they act as predators to some of the pests on grapes. 

...and that's just the beginning! There is always something new to learn, which is both daunting and exciting in equal measure. I drive past the vineyards at the front of the property almost every day, but it is another experience altogether to stand between the rows, learn about the agricultural side of winemaking, and look up close at what will -- in just a few short months -- become the 2018 vintage. 

I hope that you will join us in the vineyard and experience Hilliard Bruce for yourself, either by joining us on an upcoming vineyard tour or by making an appointment to come taste with us. It is our pleasure to host you!


Time Posted: Jun 3, 2018 at 9:00 AM