Photo: Hillside Estate Winery
Hillside Estate Winery, which opened in 1990, the same year
as Lang Vineyards, is one of the two original wineries on the Naramata Bench.
Hillside’s first wine shop was part of a modest farm
bungalow. Some element of that is still incorporated in the current structure,
now one of the most in-your-face wineries on Naramata Road.
There is an interesting story about the current building on
the winery’s website. To save you a bit of time, I am reproducing it here:
Hillside was the first winery designed by architect Robert Mackenzie
back in 1997; he later designed others including Burrowing Owl, Red Rooster,
Cedar Creek and Nk’mip. It took 2.5 years to build the current winery building
which now dominates the view along Naramata
The building’s style is taken from a gristmill design. Not only is the
72-foot tower architecturally stunning, but it is also functional. It acts as a
ventilation shaft that helps to cool the winery cellar in the hot summer
months. The tower and the cellar are connected by a door at their base and by
opening the door we can circulate the warm air up and out of the cellar through
Hillside is a timber-frame building with all of its 85,000 board feet of
white pine originating from a single stand in northern Saskatchewan
(the lumber was milled in a specialty mill just outside of Prince Albert.). The four dark Douglas fir
beams that hold up the roof and Upper Patio of our Bistro are the only B.C.
lumber in the winery; they were logged off Vancouver Island in the late 1800s
and previously supported the roof of the Acklands Hardware Warehouse on Granville Island
for almost 90 years. In their lifetime these beams have survived at least three
During the construction of the new building many round rocks were
excavated from the hillside. Instead of removing the rocks we chose to use them
in Hillside’s building and landscaping. We
created a sturdy 22-foot high by 3-foot thick wall in our cellar which keeps it
at the optimum temperature for making wine year-round. The excavated rocks were
also used to build a graceful and impressive arch at the base of our tower
topped by Amphictyonis, the Greek goddess of wine, health and longevity (known
as Meditrina by the Romans). Her male counterpart Dionysus (Bacchus in Rome), the god of wine
and cheer, surveys our Bistro from his home there between the wine racks.
The winemaker in charge of this cellar is Kathy Malone (left). Born
in New York, she has chemistry degree from the University of Victoria. She came
to Hillside in 2008 after a long career at Mission Hill Family Estate Winery.
She has put her stamp on Hillside, making wines of
refinement and predominantly with grapes from Naramata Bench vineyards owned or
contracted by Hillside.
Here are notes on current releases.
($24.99). This delicately floral and spicy wine is arguably
Hillside’s signature white. The fruit aromas and flavours range from tropical
to peach. An almost imperceptible few grams of residual sugar lift the aromas
and flesh out the texture. 90.
($21.99 for 1,243 cases). This is a dry and spicy wine
with good intensity on the palate. There are aromas and flavours of lychee and
grapefruit, with an herbal note on the finish. 91.
($23.99 for 227 cases). A complex wine was achieved with slow
fermentation in stainless steel for 80% and barrel fermentation in French for
20%. It begins with aromas of apricots and peaches, leading to flavours of
apricots. The texture is full and rich. 91.
Hillside Pinot Gris
($23.99 for 284 cases). Sixty-eight percent of this wine was
fermented in barrels that were two to four years old. The barrel portion was
left on the lees for four months, with stirring every two weeks to craft a rich
texture. The wine has remarkable aromas and flavours of pear and mango. 92.
Hillside Pinot Noir
($24.99 for 528 cases). This wine, with aromas and flavours of cherry
and strawberry, shows notable firmness in the texture, which bodes well for its
aging ability. 89.
Hillside Gamay Noir
($24.99 for 508 cases). This variety can rival Pinot Noir in a
portfolio; and it does so here. Give some credit to fruit from vines that were
planted in 1984. The wine is muscular and earthy, with spicy berry aromas and
Hillside Syrah 2013
($29.99 for 413 cases). There is a whiff of white pepper mingled with berry
aromas. On the palate, the dark fruit flavours are mixed with notes of pepper,
tobacco and coffee. 90.
Hillside Syrah 2014
for 900 cases). From a slightly warmer vintage, this wine has even more power
than the previous one. The aromas include black pepper, plum and vanilla,
leading to flavours reminiscent of deli meats. 91.
($24.99 for 505 cases). Here is a rare example of a wine that
includes non-Naramata fruit (28% from Black Sage Road). The wine has the
classic brambly aromas of the variety, leading to flavours of raspberry and
cherry. Twelve months of barrel-aging (18% new) polished the long ripe tannins.
Hillside Merlot 2012
Hidden Valley Vineyard
($24.99). This is one of three single vineyard
Merlots, made each year in small volume, to showcase the Naramata terroir. This
wine has aromas and flavours of black currants and black cherries, with a juicy
and concentrated texture. 91.
Hillside Merlot 2011
($24.99). This is a remarkably complex Merlot, especially
since 2011 was a cooler vintage. The flavours here certainly are ripe, with a
core of sweet cassis flavours and with polished tannins. 92.
Hillside Merlot 2011
($24.99). There are savoury flavours here, with bright
notes of red fruit and a hint of tobacco. The grower restricted production to
2.9 tons an acre, compared with 3.9 tons in each other vineyards, an achieved
fully ripe flavours with good concentration. 90.
Hillside Mosaic 2012
($39.99 for 398 cases). This is Hillside’s flagship red. The blend is 48%
Merlot, 20% Malbec, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit
Verdot. This is an elegant wine, aged sixteen months in French oak (36% new).
There are aromas and flavours of cassis and black cherry, with a hint of
chocolate and cedar on the finish. This wine has not yet been released. 93.