Friday, September 26, 2014

Gold Hill adds a Meritage

 Photo: Gold Hill Winery: you can't miss it

There is a house style emerging a Gold Hill, a winery that opened in 2011 not far north of Osoyoos.

The style is unapologetically big and ripe, with flavours that fill the mouth and have such a long finish that you need a stop watch to time it.

It is a style that can be achieved in the south Okanagan, especially in warm vintages like 2012, 2013 and 2014. Gurbachan and Sant Gill, the winery owners, have become adept at growing grapes since 1991, a few years after arriving in the Okanagan from India. They now own 65 acres of vineyard, most of it in the south Okanagan.

Gold Hill was launched in the 2009 vintage. That was another hot season and there was no shortage of ripe grapes for Phil Soo, the consulting winemaker. The Cabernet Franc from that vintage won a Lieutenant Governor’s Award of Excellence, helping to establish Gold Hill’s profile.

Of course, the gold-hued winery beside the highway also helps the profile with those wine tourists who turn in.

The current releases include the winery’s first Meritage. Aged 16 months in French oak, this wine aims to be Gold Hill’s entry into the ranks of producers of icon reds.

Those are the wines that consumers buy not just for Saturday’s barbecue but to lay down, and to accumulate several vintages with an eye to vertical tastings in the future. Wines like that signal a growing confidence consumers have in the rising quality of British Columbia wines.

The wines don’t have the longevity (yet) of collectible and expensive Bordeaux reds. However, the reasonably priced British Columbia red icons will age, on average, 10 years. The Gold Hill Meritage is a little softer and I would sample the bottles by their fifth year to see how they are developing. It is always better to drink a wine too young and too old.

Here are notes on the current releases.

Gold Hill Chardonnay 2013 ($20.90). This is a refreshing, unoaked Chardonnay, with appealing aromas of green apples and citrus. On the palate, there are flavours of apples and white peach. This delicious wine has a crisp finish. 90.

Gold Hill Viognier 2013 ($21.90). This is a big ripe Viognier with a rich texture and honeyed aromas and flavours of apricot and guava. The alcohol is a warming 14.9% but it is balanced by the abundant fruit on the palate. 90.

Gold Hill Rosé 2013 ($18.90). This dark-hued rosé is mostly Cabernet Franc, with a dash of Pinot Gris. The jewel-box colour comes from fermenting on the skins for two days, a technique that also turbocharged the cherry aromas and the cherry and black currant flavours. A touch of pepper on the finish wraps up this full-bodied rosé. I wonder if the wine is not too full-bodied for a rosé. Why ferment on the skins for two days? Did the winemaker forget to rack off earlier?  87.

Gold Hill Cabernet Merlot 2013 ($19.90) This has big ripe stewed black cherry and vanilla aromas. The wine is juicy on the palate with fig, cherry and blueberry flavours. 87

Gold Hill Pinot Noir 2012 ($24.90). The wine begins with aromas of cherry, raspberry and a touch of oak. On the palate, the flavours begin with spicy cherry; there is even a hint of white pepper. The texture is silky. 89.

Gold Hill  Cabernet Franc 2012 ($26.90). The wine begins with appealing aromas of toasty oak, blackberry and black currant. That leads to flavours of black cherry with a hint of ripe raspberry and pepper on the finish. The tannins are ripe and the finish is satisfying and persistent. 92.

Gold Hill Merlot 2012 ($24.90). Here is another boldly ripe wine (15%) but with long, silky tannins. It begins with aromas of cherry and blackberry. There are flavours of black cherry and vanilla with a hint of tobacco and chocolate on the finish. 90.

Gold Hill Syrah 2012 ($26.90). Dark in colour, this wine begins with classic deli meat aromas, along with spicy black cherry and plum. On the palate, there is a satisfying gob of cherry and plum enlivened by black pepper on the earthy finish. This is a deliciously ripe Okanagan Syrah, with a very long finish. 92.

Gold Hill Meritage Family Reserve 2012 ($34.90). This is 33.3% Merlot, 22.2% Malbec, 22.2% Cabernet Franc and 22.2% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine begins with perfumed aromas of cassis and blueberry (that’s the Malbec asserting itself). The wine needs to be decanted to let the berry flavours and the texture develop. 90.


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