Revisiting The Story Of Heart Hill

The heart-shaped grove of trees at the center of heart hill vineyard on a cloudy day.

An icon since the mid-1950s, Heart Hill has stayed con­stant as the rest of Paso Rob­les has rapid­ly changed. The Nin­er fam­i­ly pur­chased the prop­er­ty in 2003 but the land has roots back to the ear­ly 1900s when cat­tle roamed the hill­sides and whiskey was pre­ferred to wine every­where except for church. But to tru­ly tell the sto­ry of Heart Hill we first have to tell the sto­ry of the two broth­ers who cre­at­ed it.


Ear­ly 1900’s — Book­er Broth­ers were adopt­ed by Ms. Booker
Late 1930’s — broth­ers grad­u­at­ed from Tem­ple­ton High School
1956⁄58 — Heart Hill was created
1990 — Dick Book­er passed away
2000 — Claude Book­er passed away
2003 — the Nin­er Fam­i­ly purchased
2007 — the first grapevines were planted

this time­line was pieced togeth­er from sto­ries and con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple who knew the broth­ers. if you have infor­ma­tion to add to this time­line we would love to hear from you!


What is now Heart Hill Vine­yard was orig­i­nal­ly part of a large cat­tle ranch owned by Claude and Dick Book­er. Total acreage isn’t known as the broth­ers con­tin­u­al­ly pur­chased prop­er­ties through­out their life but is esti­mat­ed to stretch between 800 – 1,200 acres.

The two broth­ers were orphans from the Cen­tral Val­ley before being adopt­ed by Ms. Book­er who had owned the land for decades pri­or. The two grad­u­at­ed from Tem­ple­ton High School in the late 1930s and spent their lives as bach­e­lors on the land. Claude was draft­ed into World War II but returned to the ranch after where he devot­ed him­self to the ranch, the com­mu­ni­ty and the Tem­ple­ton Men’s soft­ball team (leg­end has it he was an all-star catcher).

The Book­ers were a pair of hard­work­ing, hum­ble & car­ing broth­ers who would dis­like being labeled as any of those things.

The Booker’s ranch was sur­round­ed by oth­er farm­ers and they were apt to bale hay for an injured friend with­out being asked and with­out expec­ta­tion of praise. To them it was just the right thing to do. As tena­cious as they were help­ful, this means they were also just as like­ly to perch on a hill­side and sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly snipe every mel­on in a cranky neighbor’s water­mel­on patch after he denied them access through a gate they had been using for years. To them it was just the right thing to do.

They were pil­lars in the com­mu­ni­ty and donat­ed build­ings, cre­at­ed schol­ar­ships & more to the Tem­ple­ton schools.

After they died, Dick in 1990 and Claude in 2000, they left their entire estate to char­i­ty. The sale of their land and all their hold­ings (includ­ing the Niner’s pur­chase of Heart Hill) went into a trust to ben­e­fit an orphan­age, the Sal­va­tion Army & the Amer­i­can Heart Asso­ci­a­tion among others.

The sto­ries about the Book­er Broth­ers could fill a book but the bot­tom line is that they were farm­ers at heart. They worked the land they died on and spent their days togeth­er farm­ing bar­ley, oats & alfal­fa along with rais­ing chick­ens & cat­tle and lend­ing a help­ing hand to any­one who need­ed it but didn’t ask.

A photo of the heart-shaped tree grove at heart hill before any vines had been planted

Some­time in the late 1950s Claude, Dick & their friend Edgar Wiebe) hiked up on a hill and noticed an oak grove that almost looked like a heart. Brush­ing aside their hard farmer exte­ri­ors they decid­ed to notch out just the top of the grove to make it real­ly resem­ble a heart. In true Book­er fash­ion, this was accom­plished with a pair of binoc­u­lars, lots of hik­ing & a trac­tor. You can find an arti­cle detail­ing the event from Edgar’s mem­o­ry in this 2004 interview.

The heart has retained its sig­na­ture shape ever since with­out any help from us. To our knowl­edge, it only received the first round of trimming

As a com­pa­ny, we aspire to be as hard­work­ing, hum­ble & car­ing as those who tread the land before us. Although the Book­er Broth­ers no doubt would have rolled their eyes at farm­ing wine grapes instead of bar­ley they set an exam­ple of what pas­sion looks like by devot­ing their life to their land, their ani­mals & their com­mu­ni­ty. Just like the Broth­ers, we own the land we farm and have a vest­ed inter­est in its health & preser­va­tion; we’re not in this for the short run and the Heart will stay con­stant as things con­tin­ue to change.

Thank you to Jon & Jaci wood for these sto­ries – they are long-time res­i­dents & farm­ers on the west side of Paso Rob­les who expe­ri­enced the broth­er’s tenac­i­ty & gen­eros­i­ty first­hand. we under­stand that a lot of sto­ries sur­round the book­er broth­ers, please email us at kbruce@​ninerwine.​com if you have addi­tion­al sto­ries or cor­rec­tions to what is here


Karen Fos­ter- Wells, the artist
print­ed in 2004
“(Claude) plant­ed corn & toma­toes which he didn’t e, but like (sic) to give them to his friends. I hung around him and liked to help him so I could learn to be more like him: always think­ing of oth­ers more than him­self and he was wit­ty! […] He tip-toed out to see his gar­den in his socks a few evenings before he died, just to watch the corn come up” read the rest »

Image of the Booker's Valentine painting by Karen Foster-Wells

SLO Coun­ty Mag­a­zine
print­ed in 2004
“(The Book­ers) were decent peo­ple, the kind one talks about when spin­ning tales of the pio­neers & their bright, hap­py spir­its & their extra­or­di­nar­i­ly hard-work­ing ways” read the rest »


Article heading clipping from the Dan Richard's SLO County Magazine story about The Heart on the Hill.