Passport 2014: Gold Hill Vineyards

The bottles for the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay and the 2012 Barbera. Photo copyright 2014, David Locicero

The bottles for the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay and the 2012 Barbera. Photo copyright 2014, David Locicero

My tasting companion and I started our Passport 2014 at Gold Hill Vineyards. I like starting here for a couple of reasons. First, I think they are one of the first wineries you can get to as you drive up from the Bay Area. Second, the drive from Highway 50 to the winery is beautiful and gets my head in the right space for some mountain winery tasting. Third, I like their wines.

We have been patronizing Gold Hill Vineyards since we first discovered the region 8 years ago or so. The winery has everything that I think makes Gold Country wineries outstanding: great setting, good wine, lack of pretension, and friendly, down to earth people.

The founding wine maker, Hank Battjes, was a talented wine maker with a vision. Their sparkling wine is one of the best in California and he consistently made tasty, drinkable wines. He passed away a few years ago and I was concerned about what direction they might go.

This Passport I was able to meet the new wine maker, Chris Gott. We had a short conversation and I would like to have a longer conversation with him in less hectic surroundings. Most of the wines they were pouring were Hank’s handiwork. But the library tasting at Gold Hill was a barrel tasting of two 2012 wines, a Barbera and a Reserve Chardonnay, both of which are Chris’s wines.

I have always found Gold Hill’s wines to be good. If these two 2012’s are any indication, I think Gold Hill’s wines will be getting even better. I was very impressed with how balanced and polished these wines tasted in the barrel. The Chardonnay tasted of pear and starfruit with a vanilla/caramel finish. The Barbera had a big cherry nose and taste with a slight black pepper finish.

My only disappointment was that the winery wasn’t selling futures! I ended up purchasing their 2008 Meriticious (a red Bordeaux blend), their 2009 Cabernet Franc and their 2009 Petite Sirah. All the wines I bought are good for drinking now, and can probably be cellared for maybe another 4 or 5 years. Not that they’ll last that long. Ahem.


About dslocicero

David is an author and architect living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He writes about wine, food and travel. His first book is Pour Me Another: An Opinionated Guide to Gold Country Wines, now one of the highest rated books about California Wines.