Thursday, February 7, 2019

Gold Hill Wines at 2019 Vancouver International Wine Festival

Photo: Gold Hill Winery

It is good to see Gold Hill Winery among the Okanagan wineries at the Vancouver International Wine Festival later this month.

This winery, located beside the highway north of Osoyoos, deserves a higher profile than it has, considering how good the wines are. There is a house style here: every wine is bursting with flavour. The red wines frequently have 15% alcohol (sometimes 16%) but seldom are “hot” because the fleshiness and the flavour more than carry the alcohol.

These are bold ripe wines because the winery’s owners, Gurbachan and Sant Gill, deliberately grow grapes to achieve that objective.

Last October 26, I tasted most of the wines with Gurbachan. He still had some grapes on the vine at a time when most of his peers had picked their fruit.

“My winemaker says the grapes are ready to pick,” he told me. “I still wait because I think the grapes need more flavour. I will start picking tomorrow. There is a good heavy flavour.”

For some background, here is the profile that appeared in the most recent John Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide.

Gold Hill Winery arrived on the scene with a bang, winning a Lieutenant Governor’s Award with a 2009 Cabernet Franc, one of the four wines with which it debuted. Numerous awards have followed, a credit to how well brothers Sant and Gurbachan Gill farm their 26 hectares (65 acres) of grapes.

Theirs is the classic immigrant success story. Sant, born in India in 1958, arrived in the Okanagan in 1984 with $6. 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 a decade of work in vineyards owned by Kal Gidda, one of the [former] principals at Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery. They became so adept at viticulture that they farm not just their own land today but take contracts to plant and manage vineyards for others.

The gold-hued adobe style winery, visible on the access road just beside the highway, is on an orchard that the brothers have owned since 1995 and which they converted to grapes in 2007. The award-winning Cabernet Franc came from that vineyard’s first harvest.  It is a variety in which Gold Hill now specializes. However, the brothers are growing all of the mainstream varietals, including Merlot, 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. They have developed a high-elevation vineyard on the mountainside above the winery, planting Tempranillo and Sauvignon Blanc, among other varieties.

The winemaker for Gold Hill is consultant Philip Soo. Formerly a winemaker with Andrew Peller Ltd. in Port Moody, Phil since 2006 has become of the Okanagan’s busiest consultants with a client list that includes Dirty Laundry, Noble Ridge and Cassini Cellars. He crafts wines that are distinctive for each client, reflecting both individual vineyards and client preferences. The Gill brothers see him as a mentor. “Phil is a really nice guy,” Sant says. “He explains lots of things to me when he comes here.”

The Gill brothers sell most [75%] of their grapes to other wineries, currently producing about 2,500 cases at Gold Hill. The target is to cap Gold Hill at 5,000 cases a year.

Since that was published in 2014, Gold Hill has won a second Lieutenant Governor’s Award, along with numerous other awards.

The portfolio is relatively small, compared with most Okanagan wineries. The quality, however, is top notch.

Here are notes on the wines that I tasted with Gurbachan. Most will be available at their wine festival table and for purchase in the onsite wine store.

Gold Hill Charisma White 2017 ($17.99). This is a blend of Gewürztraminer, Viognier, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc. It is an appealing dry white, with spice aromas and flavours mingled with pear and quince. 91.

Gold Hill Merlot 2014 ($34.99). This is a powerful wine, with intense aromas and flavours of plum, black currant, blackberry and chocolate. The alcohol is 16.1% but that is nicely balanced by fullness of the body and flavour. The wine was aged in oak for 18 months, which helped polish the long, ripe tannins. 94.

Gold Hill Cabernet Franc 2014 ($34.99). This was also aged 18 months in French oak. And the alcohol is 15.4%. The wine is bold and rich, with aromas of raspberry, blackberry, cherry and cassis. There are layers of brambly fruit on the palate, with pepper and spice on the lingering finish. 92.

Gold Hill Syrah 2014 ($34.99). This wine was aged 18 months in French oak. The alcohol is 15.6% - but the wine once again is rich in texture, with notes of black cherry, plum and pepper in both the aroma and the flavour. There are earthy and meaty flavour notes as well. The finish is long. 92.

Gold Hill Meritage Family Reserve 2013 ($49). There are three Bordeaux varietals in this blend, which has 15.2% alcohol. The wine is at the peak of its maturity, but has the structure to live another five years in the cellar. It begins with aromas black cherry, plum, cassis and chocolate, all of which is echoed on the palate. The silky tannins add to the elegance and long finish of the wine. 93.

Gold Hill Grand Vin 2014 ($64.99). The blend is Merlot 33.4%, Cabernet Franc 22.2%, Cabernet Sauvignon 22.2% and Malbec 22.2%. The alcohol is a robust 15.9%, once again signalling that this is a full-flavoured red. It has aromas of spice, black currants and cherries, leading to flavours of black cherry, black currant, chocolate and vanilla. 94.


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