After graduating from Fresno State, Hilary Graves and her husband, Simon, knew they wanted to try their hands at growing grapes.
Farming runs in her family. Her parents grew lima beans and her grandparents were migrant workers. So in 1999, the couple moved to the Central Coast, and a few years later they bought a 150-acre ranch in Creston. They started growing wine grapes and became entrenched in the small farming community.
“Creston is really cool,” Graves said. “It’s really a place that is frozen in time.”
Graves, her husband and two daughters live on Camatta Hills vineyard, owned by Treasury Wine estates, but the locals know it as the Old 600, a well-known 600-acre plot. She is surrounded by farmers who grow everything from organic onions to hay. She also owns land nearby where her parents live.
You don’t have to look too far to find a good horse shoer or a quality leather maker here. There are also about eight to 10 wineries nearby, Graves estimates, including many on the Creston Wine Trail.
But as much as Graves likes the people she sees around town during the day, it’s what happens when the sun goes down that she loves the most.
“Probably the best thing is the night sky. You can see the Milky Way every night ... every star,” Graves said. “It’s quiet and there is lots of nature from bobcats to mountain lions and owls.”
While Simon Graves is director of vineyard operations at Treasury Wine Estates, Hilary Graves gave up winemaking after 12 years and now owns an agriculture consulting business, Mighty Nimble, and breeds the critically endangered heritage breed of Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs.
Graves also has become an active member of the community on water issues. She was involved in the formation of the Estrella-El Pomar-Creston water district and hopes to become a member of the board.
“I have been involved with water issues for a long time,” Graves said. “If we are going to continue to make a living farming, we need to manage our own groundwater instead of the county or state doing it on our behalf.”