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