2023 harvest at Hillside Winery

Harvest Recap – December 2023

snpinktn a place to stay forever…

Hillside winery is located on the Naramata Bench, in Penticton.  Our fruit is all grown on the Naramata Bench, vines planted on the traditional lands of the Syilx people, who named this area snpinktn which meansa place to stay forever” or “the place where people live year-round”.  This special word describes the special qualities that I have come to learn are reflected in the Naramata Bench vineyards.

Our proximity to the lake allows us to grow fruits that would not survive the winters if they were planted even a short distance away.  This feature was brought home to us in 2023 after a severe cold event in December 2022.  On the night of the 21st the mercury dropped to minus 22 Celsius at the Penticton airport, while areas like Black Sage Road in Oliver, and Cawston in the Similkameen Valley reported lows down to minus 27.  As grapevines are understood to withstand temperatures down to -22 without damage, these differences are very significant.

Jumping ahead to budbreak in 2023, about a week late, at the start of May, these differences played out quite graphically (and geographically).  Vineyards in the Similkameen and South Okanagan reported between 50% and 100% bud damage and about the same for vine death.  Vineyards on the Naramata Bench showed no vine damage and an average of 25-35% bud damage.

Don’t get me wrong, the bud damage was very alarming to me, but after a few weeks of growth, I was able to return to the winery from our Hidden Valley Vineyard with—“I’ve got some bad news and some good news.  Bad news is—we won’t have any Syrah grapes this year. Good news???? We still have a Syrah vineyard!” happy dance.

As we came closer to harvest and I spent more and more time in our contracted vineyards, the pattern of bud damage reiterated how significant micro-climate is to grapevines.  Our growers with vineyards perched directly above the lake showed almost no damage—even in more cold-susceptible reds.  Vineyards whose exposure to the lake is blocked, by a hill or a stand of trees or a large building, showed significant damage. 

All this was front of mind this year as we started to sort each block by acknowledging that the grapes were grown on the ancestral lands of the Syilx people.

snpinktn the place to stay forever…

When I lived and worked in Kelowna, but frequently came to Penticton for work, I often got lost trying to find my way back home and interpreted this to mean “the place you can’t get out of”.  At the start of this year’s harvest, we had a massive rockslide on highway 97—our route to the north, and this interpretation again made good sense.

Every year I create a crush t-shirt for our vintage cellar crew (very small this year as we brought in our lowest tonnage yet).  Previous t-shirts have run the gamut from a serious nod to Naramata Bench achieving sub-GI status, to an homage to John Lennon’s Imagine “Give yeast a chance”. 

So for 2023 we have:

snpinktn harvest tshirt
Kathy Malone, Winemaker

Kathy Malone