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Learning about British Columbia’s evolving wine industry continues to fascinate me. Every visit to one of our wine regions uncovers a new gem.

On my last trip up to the Okanagan, I visited Hillside Winery located on the Naramata Bench and met with the talented and much respected winemaker, Kathy Malone. Malone has been with Hillside Winery since 2008 and has been crafting excellent wine in B.C. for 40 years. During the visit, she shared with me how delighted she is that the Naramata Bench is now a recognized sub-GI (geographic indication).

Malone states,

I feel like this has come back full circle for the founding couple of Hillside Winery, Bohumir and Vera Klokocka. Vera worked passionately lobbying the Provincial government to create a ‘Farmgate Winery Policy’. In 1989, Hillside was among the first B.C. wineries to be granted this policy. It changed the course of winemaking and selling in B.C. as it enabled vineyards of 5 acres and smaller to produce their own wines, but also sell the wines from their ‘farmgate’.

Sub-GIs are granted after much consideration. Factors such as climate, topography and soil type, surficial geology, and the resulting viticultural properties are how a sub-GI boundary is defined.  The sub-GIs are based on the scientific features of a region.

The Naramata Bench sub-GI has elevations that vary between 650-700m,  is located on a west-facing slope, there is approximately 1400 Growing Degree Days (GGD), the land is affected by the moderating effect of Okanagan Lake, and the soils composed of glaciolacustrine sediments from a glacial retreat.

The Naramata Bench is special and a place I return to time and time again.

Highlights of Hillside Winery Tasting:

  • Merlot ‘Gjoa’s Vineyard’ 2013 – Persistent flavours of mocha, plum with a hint of rosemary on the finish, this is a beautifully crafted wine.
  • Gamay Noir ‘Founder’s Block’ 2018 – Complex and beguiling, this Gamay is crafted like a Beaujolais Cru wine.
  • Pinot Gris ‘Reserve’ 2018 – This is one of my favourite Pinot Gris wines I have recently tasted. Alive with ripe tropical flavours of mango and pineapple and a decadent creamy texture.
  • Viognier ‘Reserve’ 2018 – Bright and voluptuous, there are delicate jasmine notes alongside lemon rind and apple blossom.
  • Sauvignon Blanc 2018 – Winemaker Kathy Malone calls this her ‘sweetheart’ grape and this is the first time she has made a Sauvignon Blanc at Hillside. Done in the French Sancerre style, this delicious wine is the first white wine under cork in ten years. Juicy and delicious.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Howe Vineyard’ 2015 – I have a thing with Cabernet Sauvignon when it is well-crafted, elegant and powerful. This beauty ticks all the boxes – cedar shavings, mocha, blackberry – to name a few.

Thank you to the incredible team at Hillside Winery. I am a fan.

Should you wish to visit Hillside Winery and taste their wines, please plan ahead and reserve your tasting spot.