Photo: Black Hills Wine Experience Centre
The latest releases from Black Hills Estate Winery show the touch of new management.
Black Hills was acquired in 2017 by Andrew Peller Ltd. That triggered the voluntary departure of winemaker Graham Pierce, who moved to Harry McWatter’s Time Winery in Penticton, after making 10 vintages at Black Hills.
At the beginning of this year, Ross Wise took over the Black Hills cellar. He had previously been the winemaker at Phantom Creek Estate Winery. Born in New Zealand, Ross has a winemaking degree from Charles Sturt University in Australia. Currently, he is close to completing his Master of Wine studies.
He came to Canada to join Flat Rock Cellars in Ontario in 2009. He left there in 2012 and, for the next four years, consulted with a number of Ontario wineries before joining Phantom Creek in September, 2016.
Phantom Creek, which is expected to release its first wines this spring, has not yet named his successor.
Another consequence of Peller ownership at Black Hills is an increased access to vineyards. Black Hills now has the opportunity to supplement the fruit from its estate vineyards.
Addendum, for example, includes fruit from Peller’s Sandhill Vineyard as well as from the two Black Hills estate vineyards, Sharp Rock and Double Black. All three are on Black Sage Road.
Currently, Black Hills has two vineyards close to each other on Black Sage Road. The Sharp Rock Vineyard, with 25.20 planted acres, was the original property planted in 1996 by the founding owners of Black Hills. The two largest blocks are Cabernet Sauvignon (9.75 acres) and Merlot (6.14 acres).
The Double Black Vineyard, which has almost 14 planted acres, was also developed in 1996. Black Hills managed it for a few years after the death of the original owner and then bought it in 2011. It is planted entirely to Bordeaux red varietals and Syrah.
Access to Peller vineyards gives Black Hills the opportunity to increase production. I don’t anticipate a sudden surge in Black Hills production but, given how strong the brand is, there is a logic in making at least some more wine.
The Pinot Noir just released is a first of Black Hills, which has largely been a Bordeaux red house. For this wine, grapes were sourced from Naramata Bench growers.
Addendum is a revived label. The label appeared previously on a trial wine when the winery was testing whether to begin aging Nota Bene in oak for an extra four to six months. Traditionally, Nota Bene was always barrel-aged for just 12 months. Graham Pierce argued he could make the wine more complex with more time in barrel – and he was right.
But the Addendum revival suggests there is nothing much wrong with the old Nota Bene formula. This wine has been aged just 12 months in barrel. It tastes pretty good.
Here are notes on the wines.
Black Hills Chardonnay 2017 ($29.90). This is the style of Chardonnay that will appeal to consumers who a fruit-forward, fresh wine with minimal oak. The wine was aged 10 months in French oak but only 15% was new. The wine begins with aromas of citrus, nectarine and pear with a touch of vanilla. The wine is rich on the palate, with flavours of guava and apple mingled with vanilla. 92.
Black Hills Pinot Noir 2017 ($39.90). This is the first Pinot Noir from Black Hills. The grapes are from vineyards on the Naramata Bench. The wine was aged 10 months in French oak (20% new). It begins with aromas of strawberry, raspberry and cherry which are echoed on the palate. There is a classic earthy/forest floor note on the finish. The wine is drinking well not but it deserves another three or so years in the bottle. 91.
Black Hills Addendum 2017 ($49.90). The blend is 80% Merlot, 10% each of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was aged 12 months in French oak (35% new). As this is Merlot-dominant, there are appealing aromas and flavours of blueberry and black cherry mingled with notes of vanilla and chocolate. The long ripe tannins and the juicy texture give the wine immediate accessibility, although more bottle age will add to the complexity. 92.