Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Gold Hill Winery's 2013 releases

Photo: Gold Hill Winery

Now open three years, Gold Hill Winery has developed a winemaking style that swings for the fences, aiming for wines that are full and generous.

Over and over again, the technical sheets for the individual wines disclose that the grapes were crushed and then given a prolonged cold soak before fermentation, sometimes with daily pump overs. This is a technique to extract the maximum colour, aroma and flavour. Many wineries do it but perhaps not as consistently as Gold Hill.

As well, after fermentation, the reds and some of the whites are aged in French oak for up to 18 months.

The currant releases often have labels with Roman numerals, indicating – I believe – the number of vintages of that variety that the winery has made. It is a curious idea but it makes for conversation.

The winery is owned by brothers Sant and Gurbachan Gill, immigrants from India.  Sant, who was born in 1958, came to the Okanagan in 1984. Younger brother Gurbachan, born in 1967, followed him in 1989, in the same year that Sant bought his first house in Osoyoos. After a few years of orchard work, the brothers in 1991 began working in vineyards owned by Kal Gidda, one of the principals at Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery. The experience they picked up during almost a decade with Kal and his brothers shaped the future for the Gill brothers. Today, they plant and manage vineyards for others as well as looking after their own extensive vineyards.

The highway-side winery is based on a farm that they bought in 1995. They continued to grow peaches, apricots and cherries there until they switched to grapes in 2007. In plantings since then, the brothers have put in the mainstream varieties – Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier and Gewürztraminer. They also own or lease smaller vineyards in Osoyoos, Okanagan Falls and Kaleden; the latter produces Pinot Noir for the winery.

Here are notes on the current releases, made by consulting winemaker Phil Soo.

Gold Hill Chardonnay 2011 ($20.90). Textbook example of unoaked Chardonnay, this begins with aromas of apples and peach, leading to flavours of apple, pear, lemon and lime. The brisk acidity gives this wine a tangy, refreshing finish. 90.

Gold Hill Gewürztraminer II 2012 ($18). The intensity of this wine – spicy orange peel aromas and flavours – is almost over the top. As a wine by the glass, this is a wine everybody will notice. From the aromas and flavours, I suspect that the skins got a long cold soak before fermentation. 90.

Gold Hill Pinot Gris II 2012 ($18). This wine’s delicate blush in the glass reflects a little bit of skin contact. That also accounts for the bold and juicy flavours of pear, ripe apple and nectarine, with a hint of citrus and mint. 90.

Gold Hill Viognier I 2012 ($21.90 for 180 cases). The 15.2% alcohol gives this wine a touch of warmth on the finish but that’s the price to pay for full-flavoured ripeness. Aromas of peaches and apricots jump from the glass, leading to flavours of peach and nectarine on the rich palate. 89.

Gold Hill Rosé II 2012 ($). This is a dark-hued and masculine rosé with a smoky aroma and flavours of plum and cherry. It is made primarily with Cabernet Franc with a touch of Pinot Gris. The colour and the intense flavours come from a long cold soak on the skins. 87.

Gold Hill Cabernet Franc II 2011 ($26.90 but sold out). The winery has made a name for itself with this variety after the debut release, from 2009, won a Lieutenant Governor’s Award. The winery skipped the 2010 vintage, which took place before the award, but did not repeat that error with 2011. This has the classic brambly and raspberry aromas and flavours of the variety. 88.

Gold Hill Merlot II 2011 ($24.90 for 258 cases). This wine’s rich aromas and flavours were enhanced by fairly daring winemaking. After the grapes were crushed, they were left to cold-soak for 10 days with a thrice-daily pump over before fermentation was begun. The result is a juicy and satisfying red, with notes of cherry, blackberry, blueberry and vanilla. Aged in French oak for 18 months, the wine has developed a polished texture. 90.

Gold Hill Pinot Noir I 2011 ($24.90 for 99 cases). There actually is 25% Merlot in this blend, a rather unusual treatment of Pinot Noir. It also submerges the personality of what was a light Pinot Noir to begin with. This wine is an easy quaffer with notes of raspberry on the nose and palate. 87.

 Gold Hill Syrah II 2011 ($26.90 for 135 cases). The wine begins with aromas of plum and black cherry. On the palate, there are flavours of black cherry, black currant, coffee and cola, with a rustic earthiness on the finish. 89.


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