By Sheean Hanlan
When a winery bears renowned architect Howard J. Backen’s name it’s bound to have a subtle elegance that lets the landscape do all the talking. Designed by Backen and Silvia Nobili of Backen and Gillam Architects, The Hilt’s new tasting room, The Barn at the Hilt Estate, debuted in July on its 3,600-acre Sta. Rita Hills estate.
Billionaire Stan Kroenke acquired the historic Rancho Salsipuedes in 2014 and charged The Hilt winemaker Matt Dees with farming the three vineyards on the property. The culmination of six years of planning and construction, the new hospitality space was built with reclaimed wood from the site’s original 1914 barn.
The Barn is a classic farmhouse that feels much older than it is. Its design reflects the land’s understated heritage and the property’s agriculture, which is influenced by the coastal winds and ancient marine soils of Santa Barbara County.
Once inside, the first thing to note about the tasting room is its dramatic cathedral ceiling. Exposed wooden trusses flanked by conical-shaped pendant lights extend along the walls, creating a sense of warmth and vastness. Celebrity interior designer Amber Lewis of Los Angeles’ Amber Interiors worked rustic charm into the communal living room by using a brown color palette punctuated by occasional bursts of color—a red stool, a forest green sofa, dried burnt-orange flowers—echoing the serenity of the vineyards. Beyond the vintage leather armchairs of the living room, the inviting dining area is equal parts cohesive and mismatched. It features a weathered dining table encircled by old wooden chairs and a distressed taupe rug.
In addition to the main gathering area, The Barn offers a professional kitchen, outdoor spaces, and two smaller themed tasting rooms inspired by The Hilt and its sister brand, Jonata, which is located on a nearby estate in the Ballard Canyon area of the Santa Ynez Valley. Artistic highlights of the rooms include works by Scottish contemporary artist Jack McConville and Los Angeles–based painter and photographer Gwen O’Neil.
Winemaker Dees refers to The Hilt’s wine as “refrigerated sunshine” due to the complex, lively flavors produced by the climate of the Central Coast. While The Hilt grows pinot noir and chardonnay, its bespoke tasting experiences also include Jonata’s range of Cabernet Francs, Cabernet Sauvignons, and Syrahs. Guests can also pour a glass of The Hilt’s experimental wines, such as Pét-Nat and Botrytis Chardonnay. Tastings from $50 per person, by appointment only; thehiltestate.com