I had wanted to visit Hillside Winery for a while – not only is their Reserve Pinot Gris one of my absolute favourite wines of all time, but their celebrated restaurant is award winning. We popped in for a visit in early July, and I ended up becoming a wine club member, because well, there is no such thing as too much wine.
Shelann Sleegers runs their tasting room. An all-out pro with visitors, she really knows her way around wine. I started off with the regular tasting featuring their Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Merlot/Malbec, Cab Franc, and a Rosé.
But then Shelann turned on some serious charm and brought me the ‘Terroir Tasting’ with thoughtful, but simple food pairings. This was a turning point – the first wine of the tasting was my beloved 2017 Reserve Pinot Gris coupled with an aged Canadian cheddar.
This is literally the wine that brought me to Hillside. I think my first bottles were perhaps two years ago, and since I have enjoyed at least a case of it – I thought maybe I should not only become a wine club member, but perhaps I should also tell you about it. You can’t get any more until this fall though when the 2018 will be available – it has since sold out.
Held on the skins for 4 hours, this wine is gasp-worthy beautiful with its pretty onion skin tone. The fruit was from a super ripe block at the south boundary of the Naramata Bench sub-GI, just above Penticton Creek and winemaker Kathy Malone says, “I felt the nice tropical/tamarillo tree fruit flavours would shine in this Reserve style wine with its partial fermentation in (Hungarian) Tokaj oak barrels.”
With its fruity nose of peach and blossom, the palate has generous servings of more stone fruit and white flower, all nestled in some great body. There is also a perfectly refreshing acidity which enables its food friendliness. It is absolutely divine with almost every kind of dish – from pork chops, and risotto, to chicken, cheese and salad.
I often wonder how a winemaker decides the amount of time to hold white grapes on their skins and Kathy provided some great detail. “Skin contact is tricky and the time frame really varies from year to year as the effect is greatly impacted by things like sun exposure through the growing season, fruit ripeness, temperature of fruit at harvest… 2017 was a hot growing year, so the skin contact was shorter than in some cooler years, which might be up to 8 hours… Often I make the decision while working at the sorting table which gives me the opportunity to really assess the fruit and what treatment would best capture its essence.”
The Terroir Tasting continued with three distinct Merlots – Hidden Valley 2012, Dickinson 2012, and Gjoa 2012 – each a study in the distinct terroirs of the Naramata Bench and paired separately with almonds, a mild blueberry pepperoni and a salted hazelnut. The final wine in the Terroir series was the mertitage blend 2013 Mosaic.