By Katie Truscott
This Spring, Indulge with Black Hills
The Black Sage Bench hosts a unique terroir like none other. Situated within what is often referred to as Canada’s only desert ecosystem, the ruggedly beautiful area sees scorching summer temperatures followed by cold, below-freezing winters. Wines produced from vines planted in this region yield flavourful grapes with balanced intensity. Now known as the hot pocket in Canada for growing sun-loving varieties, the area faces west, receiving warm evening sun resulting in more sunshine hours than Napa Valley. The Black Sage Bench is the perfect place for growing and ripening Bordeaux and Rhone varieties that are considered more “terroir-centric” than those grown any other place in Canada.
1996 to 2021
Black Hills Estate Winery sits in the heart of the bench. The winery’s roots began with the purchase of an abandoned vineyard on Black Sage Road near Oliver. In 1996, the land was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Chardonnay. These varieties thrive on the region’s famed sandy soils that heat up during the day and radiate heat to the vines at night.
In 1999 the first vintage of Black Hills’ signature blend, Nota Bene, was released, a modern take on a Bordeaux blend. Over 20 years, Nota Bene has climbed its way to acclaim, fame and cult status. Chardonnay and Syrah releases followed as the winery continued to grow and prosper. Since inception up until today, the team at Black Hills has consistently strived for both sustainability and quality in all they do, from farming all the way up to the final product.
The move to drip irrigation, as well as significant capital investment in winemaking equipment, contributed to the winery’s prosperity and growth. The opening of the impressive Wine Experience Centre in 2012 was also a landmark moment for both Black Hills and the Okanagan itself.
Stewards of the Land
The Black Hills team considers themselves honoured stewards of the land, respectfully harnessing the potential to produce world-class fruit. They have respect for the vineyard and the role that farming plays in the region’s biodiversity. The estate is committed to sustainability, eco-friendly farming, and ethical winemaking practices.
The vineyard is managed by hand and maintained manually. With many successful harvests under their belt, 2020 was a particularly standout growing season. In the words of Ross Wise, MW, Black Hills’ winemaker, this was “an outstanding harvest from start to finish. A warm and dry September helped to shape flavourful and textural whites and ripe and fully balanced reds. This is the best vintage I’ve been involved with in the Okanagan!”
This summer, Black Hills Estate Winery will celebrate their 10th season in the Wine Experience Centre. Since opening its doors, the team at Black Hills has hosted close to 200,000 wine aficionados from around the world.
While the years have passed, the mission stays the same: showcase some of Canada’s best wines while being immersed in the Black Sage Bench’s breathtaking vineyards. This spring, Black Hills will continue their endeavour to grow offerings, wine club perks, and membership. As they look back on in-person events in the past, the team at Black Hills looks forward to offering new online events this spring.
Black Hills Wine Club members enjoy VIP cabana wine experiences surrounded by palm trees and overlooking a tranquil water feature, just one of many benefits offered to this exclusive group.
One of the more enticing perks of membership is access to the member exclusive wine Carménère, a rare and lesser-known grape hailing from Bordeaux, France. Now grown primarily in South America, Carménère is a vibrant, peppery red wine with robust red fruit nuances and fine tannins. The vineyard team planted only 0.42 of an acre back in the early 2000s, which is one reason this elusive varietal is a Wine Club-exclusive wine.
As spring approaches, the Black Hills team looks forward to welcoming hundreds of wine lovers, offering guests unique experiences rich with history, opportunity and luxury.