Opening for the 2023 Season on Wednesday, March 15th
11am-5pm, Wednesday-Sunday through Mid-June
Mid-June to End of Season: 11am–6pm, 7 days a week
Winemaker – Kathy Malone
President/General Manager – Duncan McCowan
DTC & Marketing Manager – Lauren Selfridge
Executive Chef — Evan Robertson
In the early 1900s this site was owned by the Riddle family who operated an apricot orchard. Their property stretched about 100 yards north to what is now Riddle Road; the original farmhouse stood on what is now the site of our tasting room. The cherry trees, which were on the Riddles’ front lawn, were planted in 1926.
In 1979, the property was purchased by Bohumir and Vera Klokocka who had recently immigrated to the Okanagan Valley from Czechoslovakia. Vera had a dream. In her mind’s eye she saw the sloping land carpeted by orderly rows of grapes – grapes that she would turn into luscious wines, even though she had no experience at either growing grapes or fermenting them. In 1984 she and Bohumir pulled out the apricot trees and planted 3.5 acres of vineyards. The last surviving apricot tree from the Riddles’ orchard remains on the bank just below the Kettle Valley Railway (on the northeast side of the building). The grapevines thrived in the gravelly soil and warm Okanagan sunshine and Vera’s dream took shape.
In 1989 Hillside, together with Lang Vineyards and Wild Goose, lobbied the Provincial Government to bring about the Farmgate Winery Policy that was instrumental in changing the B.C. Wine Industry. The new policy allowed small vineyards of five acres or less to not only produce wine but also to sell it directly from their premises.
Building & Grounds
Hillside is well-known for its award-winning wine and delicious Bistro, but many people also come to see the outstanding architecture of the winery and the beautiful landscaping that surrounds it.
Hillside was the first winery designed by architect Robert MacKenzie back in 1997; he later designed others including Burrowing Owl, Red Rooster, Cedar Creek and Nk’mip. It took 2.5 years to build the current winery building which now dominates the view along Naramata Road.
The building’s style is taken from a gristmill design. Not only is the 72 foot tower architecturally stunning, but it is also functional. It acts as a ventilation shaft that helps to cool the winery cellar in the hot summer months. The tower and the cellar are connected by a door at their base and by opening the door we can circulate the warm air up and out of the cellar through the tower.
Hillside is a timber-frame building with all of its 85,000 board feet of white pine originating from a single stand in northern Saskatchewan (the lumber was milled in a specialty mill just outside of Prince Albert.). The four dark Douglas fir beams that hold up the roof and Upper Patio of our Bistro are the only B.C. lumber in the winery; they were logged off Vancouver Island in the late 1800s and previously supported the roof of the Acklands Hardware Warehouse on Granville Island in Vancouver for almost 90 years. In their lifetime these beams have survived at least three warehouse fires.
During the construction of the new building many round rocks were excavated from the hillside. Instead of removing the rocks we chose to use them in Hillside’s building and landscaping. We created a sturdy 22 foot high by 3 foot thick wall in our cellar which keeps it at the optimum temperature for making wine year-round. The excavated rocks were also used to build a graceful and impressive arch at the base of our tower topped by Amphictyonis, the Greek goddess of wine, health and longevity (known as Meditrina by the Romans). Her male counterpart Dionysus (Bacchus in Rome), the god of wine and cheer, surveys our Bistro from his home there between the wine racks.
Hillside’s gardens are also a distinctive feature of the winery. Karin Parkin, Hillside’s long-time groundskeeper, is always hard at work making sure that her gardens are beautiful. Boasting over a hundred plant species, Hillside’s gardens have all been designed by Karin’s loving hands. Nearly a decade ago Karin undertook the daunting task of converting the old wild English garden and expansive lawns into the beautiful display gardens you see today. Her meticulous work ensures that visitors are greeted from spring through autumn with a grandiose showing of continuous blooms. Karin overwinters many of her favourite plants in pots upstairs on Hillside’s third floor (in our 3000 square foot staff room that doubles as a board room and private tasting area.)
Grow the best quality fruit possible, pick at optimum physiological ripeness, ferment cool, and intervene with nature only when necessary…simple, elegant. Simple, elegant, yes, but easy? Definitely not. The temptation to constantly “fiddle” and “improve upon” Mother Nature is really more about manufacturing. Natural, beautiful wine is not manufactured—rather, it is carefully guided through natural phases to become the glorious essence of the effects of sun and soil on specific grape varieties.
It is our belief that great wines start in the vineyard, and to this end, we use only the best quality fruit available from our twenty acres of grapes densely planted on hillside terraces surrounding the winery. We also have partnerships with select vineyards along the Naramata Bench.
It has been our commitment since our inception to produce hand-crafted, naturally fruit-forward, well-balanced wines that represent the true character of the grapes. Our uniquely designed winery allows us to ferment and age the wine in many small batches to maintain the varietal character and integrity of each grape type and vineyard.
Cool temperature fermentations for the whites using state of the art steel fermentors allows us to produce intensely aromatic and flavourful wines that captivate the senses. More traditional techniques are applied to the reds involving open top fermentors, French and American oak barrels, and a very hands-on winemaking team, resulting in rich, classic style wines that have consistently won accolades from both consumers and wine judges alike.
“Hillside made a brilliant tactical decision to focus on Naramata fruit about 7 or 8 years, long before anyone in the Okanagan was seriously talking about sub-regions.” – Anthony Gismondi
Review on our 2018 Hidden Valley Vineyard Merlot: “This is first-class merlot from start to finish. The nose is so fragrant and inviting, drawing you toward the glass with its savoury red fruit and mineral notes. It presents layers of flavours shared equally in black and red fruit on the palate. It is warm, rich, and plummy with glossy satin tannins on the long, rich palate, seasoned with tobacco and mint—more Euro than New World, or maybe just mid-valley Naramata Bench. Stock up; the price is right, and this will age effortlessly.” — 92 Points, Anthony Gismondi
Review on our 2018 Cabernet Franc: “The Hillside Heritage Series Cabernet Franc has it all together in 2018, beginning with a knockout bouquet that feints franc, St. Emilion, and Naramata in a manner that is almost disarming. Elegance and power are a lovely combination, and this wine has it in spades. Look for a mix of cherries, black raspberries, and the perfect tension of tannins and acidity that seem to assimilate each other in the finish. This is a winner: elegant, graceful, charming and ready to drink.” – 91 Points, Anthony Gismondi