Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hillside Estate Winery: one of the Naramata originals

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 Road.
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 the tower.
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 in Vancouver for almost 90 years. In their lifetime these beams have survived at least three warehouse fires.
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.

Hillside Muscat Ottonel 2015 ($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.

Hillside Gewürztraminer 2015 ($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.

Hillside Viognier Reserve 2014 ($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 Reserve 2014 ($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 2012 ($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 2012 ($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 flavours. 90.

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 ($29.99 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.

Hillside Cabernet Franc 2012 ($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. 90.

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 Gjoa’s Vineyard ($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 Dickinson Vineyard ($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.


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