With the bottling of our newly released wines, our focus shifts to barrel work on our 2022 vintage wine and our 2023 vintage wines.
Barrel work in the wine cellar is an important part of the wine-making process. To understand the method of aging wine in barrels, it helps to look at the work and science that goes into the selection and preparation of wine barrels before they are filled with wine. This includes crucial behind-the-scenes work that goes on in our cellar to make this all possible. At Gold Hill Winery, we use French oak wood barrels exclusively, and the barrels are heat treated or toasted at different rates to impact the final flavours and aromas of the wine aging in the barrel.
At Gold Hill Winery, barrel work includes blending the 2022 vintage wines into tank and then cleaning out settled lees and preparing the barrels for refill. The 2022 Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah and Grand Vin are blended by taste trials, and then returned to the clean and prepared barrels. The blended 2022 wine is given an additional 5 months in barrel before bottling in August. The new 2023 vintage wines need to be racked off coarse lees, the barrels cleaned and then the wines are returned to barrel to age for another 12 months before being blended.
Aging wine in barrels is an important part of the wine-making process at Gold Hill Winery. Barrel aging is the step between fermentation and bottling, when we mature the wine and allow the barrels to give it distinct flavors. Barrel aging also allows for the wines to be cellar-worthy and capable of improving over time. We allow this process to take place over 18 months (for our barrel-aged Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blend, aging in barrel is shorter, only 7-8 months).
Although it seems like not much is happening while the wines are aging in barrel, I have lots of responsibilities as a winemaker to monitor the barrels and the wine to make sure the aging process is going smoothly. Temperature and humidity need to be monitored, and the barrels must be ‘topped’ up or wine added to replace evaporation through the barrel. Over the time of aging, as much as 12 L of wine may be added to each barrel to keep the level ‘topped’ up.
Barrel work is my favourite activity – the beautiful aromas of maturing rich, luscious wines and the texture of the barrels, and the detailed hand work which brings focus to the winemaking process. Please feel free to stop in the next time you are at the winery, and you can pop in and catch some of the barrel work activities.
Spring has always been a time of new beginnings and fresh starts and this Spring has certainly delivered!
Earlier this May, I made the difficult decision to step down as GM and Winemaker of Bench 1775, and begin my own fresh start at Gold Hill Winery in Osoyoos. For me, it is a chance to reconnect with the winemaking I love best and a journey back to fundamentals, hands-on viticulture and single block winemaking. And although my time with the team at “Bench” will always bring me fond memories and pride in our success, for some time now I have felt the need to take off my various managerial hats and get back to farming and barrel work.
Enter Gold Hill Vineyards and Winery, owned by the Gill brothers, Gurbachan and Sant, who for almost 20 years, have supplied fruit to various projects I have been involved in. And during those 2 decades it became apparent that the fruit grown on their vineyards is arguably the best in British Columbia.
In fact, the majority of the premium tier program at Bench 1775 was based on fruit from the home farm. The same is true of many of the well-recognized Okanagan wineries. The Gill Brothers have earned their reputation as exceptional growers and trusted business associates in the wine industry, so it was hugely flattering to be invited to join them for the 2020 vintage. Their decision to keep most of the grapes from Gold Hill Vineyard and expand the Winery was too exciting to miss. I had to follow the fruit!
This Spring, the Gill family is also expanding their vineyard holdings, with a new vineyard in the prestigious Black Sage area, surrounded by some of the most iconic wineries in BC; Phantom Creek, Bartier Brothers, and Burrowing Owl.
Additionally, this spring, in the West Kelowna area, an older vineyard was completely replanted with new clones and rootstocks, to anticipate the demands of premium grape buyers and wine clientele.
More about these vineyard plantings in future diary posts.
In the cellar, new beginnings with the bottling and release of bright, and fresh 2019 whites.
We are very excited to be moving Gold Hill Winery into this new phase. Expect the wine program to become more focused on single vineyards, as we make changes to develop the wines to be purest and vivid expressions of each block. Among the changes coming to the vineyards will be focused viticultural practices, increased sustainability and regenerative agriculture methods with an eye to maximizing harmonious, balanced growth.
Keep checking back as we update you on our vineyard and cellar operations!