The History of Heart Hill Vineyard

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 oats and alfal­fa were pre­ferred to Caber­net Sauvi­gnon. But to tru­ly tell the sto­ry of Heart Hill we first have to tell the sto­ry of the two broth­ers who cre­at­ed it: Claude and Dick Booker.



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. They 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 Brothers called the heart “Valentine Hill” and invited couples out to picnic on it on February 14th each year.

Heart Hill vineyard on a spring day with blue skies, clouds and bright green cover crop and grass.

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 ben­e­fit 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.


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 was created in the 1950s and has retained its signature shape ever since without any help from us. To our knowledge, it only received that 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 lives 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.

Did you know that we have a secret patio inside Heart Hill? There is a stone platform underneath the trees that we can use for special events. Enjoy a few images of last year’s “Heart Hill Vista Dinner” where we threw a cocktail party inside the heart before dinner!