It never ceases to amaze me that the display shelf at Desert Hills (DH) doesn’t collapse from the combined weight of all their medals. I attribute it to the same solid craftsmanship that’s helped double the size of production for this boutique winery.

Winemaker George Phiniotis has gradually taken over winemaking from his father, Elias Phiniotis, PhD, for the Toor family. Culling over 35 years’ worth of wine-making experience from his father, in addition to his own time at Domaine de Chaberton, enables him produce the outstanding wines DH is well-known for.

“The best grapes in BC are the ones right outside this window,” states Phiniotis, pointing to the vineyard beside the wine shop, a phrase any winemaker would delight in saying. The incredible grape growing conditions at DH’s Black Sage Bench vineyard play an integral role in the wines’ quality but great attention to the craft, like precision blending and patient cellaring is equally important. Details like these are what have garnered the winery two Lieutenant General Governor of Canada Awards – one of the most prestigious accolades in the country.

2011 Gewürztraminer (tank sample) $22.90

Very expressive, with lots of fruit (lychee, citrus, pomegranate) and hints of floral. Perfect with many spicier cuisines, especially the flavours of Asia and India.

2008 Cabernet-Merlot $24.90

Firm tannins, with aromas of dark chocolate and berry, and rich, jammy flavours of plum, blackberry, cranberry and cassis. Try with charcuterie, roasts and tourtière.

Syrah $34.90

Rich, jammy, fruity, dark – with a lovely hint of spice on the finish. A robust red well suited to prime rib, game meats and strong cheeses. 

2007 Mirage $34.90

DH’s flagship wine, Mirage is a full-bodied blend of 11 component wines. “It’s the hardest blend to put together,” states Phiniotis. The various elements hit different parts of your taste-buds at different times, resulting in what the Winemaker describes as an “adventure for your palate.” Complex, with elements of leather, cigar box and a hint of clove.

The Ambassador $24.90 (200ml), $49.90 (500ml)

This Cabernet-Merlot Port-style dessert wine is Phiniotis’ baby. Aged 4 years in 100% French Oak, it exhibits a melt-in-your-mouth consistency, ripe with aromas and flavours of butterscotch, vanilla spice, and cassis.

~ Sarah Willard