(Originally published in Enjoy Magazine, April 2010)
If the 2,500-acre ranch at Seven Hills Land & Cattle Company truly is “a kitchen of six square miles,” as owner Reverge Anselmo describes, it is a most stunning galley. For Anselmo, that the land feeds the animals and grapevines, which in turn feed the people, is hallowed.
Blanketing the Inwood Valley, the ranch boasts 250 head of cattle and a flock of sheep trained to graze the vineyard without nibbling a single precious grape. Having sheep ‘work’ the vineyard keeps tractors and pesticides to a minimum, which helps make the wine worthy of its many awards. The grapes are harvested by hand and produce enough wine to satiate Anselmo, his wife, Chicken, and Anselmo Vineyards’ many loyal fans.
The tasting room, which transforms into a weekend restaurant, is in the century old ranch house. The worn pine floors offset a sparkling quartz countertop and stained glass window, and the bar is black walnut planed from a Seven Hills tree. Everything about the building strikes an impressive balance between chic sophistication and earthy authenticity. Outside, a raucous fig tree spirals out of the center of the terrace, where guests and birds can enjoy its fruits. Every aspect of the property is embraced and added to the overall experience.
“Land is destiny,” Anselmo believes. “What land is, what it does, the way it relates to other features in the landscape is the destiny of the people of that land.”
In 2005, Anselmo was living in Los Angeles without a project and with a very unhappy horse. “I had nothing to do except get my horse out and find us both a job, so I looked for green grass in California in the month of July.” Anselmo discovered the Inwood property, and, encouraged by the copious water (there are even several waterfalls), declared it home.
He hadn’t sought property for winemaking, but there were already 10 acres of vines. “I had made wine as a kid with my father, so I knew how. I would’ve put [the vineyard] back into pasture and bulldozed the grapes, but knew my father- from the grave- wouldn’t let me. The only possibility was to take it all the way into the bottle; the situation forced my hand.” The land clearly knew what it was capable of, and directed its new inhabitant thusly.
The Anselmos added five acres of grapes and now cultivate Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc and Malbec vines. The winery opened in December 2008 and has propagated growing, devoted support.
“People wear us out being complimentary,” Anselmo says. “The following has become increasingly loyal.”
Chicken agrees: “repeat customers increase almost every weekend. We hear, ‘oh so-and-so brought me here last week and I want to be the first to bring my sister.’ That’s helped build the customer base and some come every weekend.”
As popularity grew, Reverge began cooking his family’s recipes in the winery’s kitchen. Word spread and calls began pouring in with customers inquiring about dining opportunities. In response to the demand, the Anselmos sought a chef compatible to their high culinary standards and unique location. Mutual friends introduced them to Chef Jon Stadille, who cooked for a party and impressed their palates. Stadille, a chef for 30 years, excited the Italian Reverge with regional Sicilian cuisine. They discovered common ground and a relationship was born.
“Reverge is the passion; he’s a silent partner in the kitchen. I’m the instrument he plays, based on my expertise, and he doesn’t have to tune me up. I know what he is and what he wants.”
Their reciprocity is evident in the quality of the food. Since inviting Stadille to provide dining, it’s a rare weekend without a pleasantly full house. Fortunately, those waiting for tables can explore the stables and vineyards while sipping wine, accompanied by friendly ranch dogs.
For Stadille, a winery is the best possible place to chef. “It’s fantastic: wine is food and food is wine. They go hand in hand.” The menu varies slightly from week to week; it regularly features Seven Hills beef or lamb and is always uncompromisingly excellent. Local farmers provide much of the produce and everything is used fresh. Stadille is wary of entrees requiring more than six ingredients, explaining that, “it’s nice to keep things simple and be completely satisfied with what you’ve done.”
The beauty of the Anselmo Vineyards/Seven Hills experience truly cannot be overstated. The land is impeccably cared for, the facilities flawlessly inviting, the staff talented and friendly, and the wine and dining unlike anything else for 200 miles. It’s very much worth the 20-minute drive up Highway 44 to achieve a sense of place, a feeling of serenity and overall satisfaction. As Stadille sees it, “if you have a Sunday afternoon and you want to come, relax and drink some wine, this is the place.”
The Anselmos stay involved in the community that has enthusiastically embraced them. Anselmo, a pilot, shares his helicopters with the Shasta County Sheriff’s Department, assisting in law enforcement efforts. The winery has hosted parties for everyone from the symphony to the Rotary Club and continuously helps guests celebrate birthdays, retirements, anniversaries, weddings, and life in general.
In addition to producing beef, lamb, hay, lavender, honey, wool, wine and dining, Seven Hills offers horseback riding by appointment. Riders can tour the ranch and get a sense of the land that has bewitched so many.
Six miles of a working cattle ranch, winery, restaurant and future plans for expansion may sound like a daunting lifestyle for one couple and their dozen helpers, but as Anselmo sees it, “people enjoy beauty and beauty is easy to share.” Especially, it seems, when it’s predestined.
Seven Hills Land & Cattle Company/Anselmo Vineyards
28740 Inwood Road, Inwood