A Wine Family

GAO Lin (right), founder of Silver Heights, with daughter Winemaker Emma Gao Yuan and grand-daughter “Little Emma”

First planted in 1999, Silver Heights is one of Ningxia’s earlier vineyards. The vines are 1,200 metres above sea level on the eastern slopes of Helan Mountain.

GAO Lin was ahead of his time when he sank Cabernet Sauvignon – sourced from France – into the arid soil. His vision did not stop there. The patriarch persuaded daughter Emma Gao Yuan to study oenology in Bordeaux.

In the course of her studies, Emma interned at Chateau Calon-Segur where she met winemaker Thierry Courtade. They married in 2003 and gave birth to a daughter, also named Emma.

In 2005, Emma Gao returned home as one of a few Chinese women to have earned a Diplôme National d’Oenologue from Bordeaux. Like father, like daughter. Pioneers both.

Silver Heights is one of China’s most sought-after wines and found on some of that country’s most prestigious wine lists.

I recently tasted two vintages of their Chardonnay. Both are well-made and fermented and aged in 75% new Burgundy barrels for 8 months. They would be even more fruit expressive if there were less new oak.

Silver Heights Family Reserve Chardonnay 2020 

Bright straw. Vanilla pod, melon, a hint of white peach, and lemon peel. Very textural and buttery, the buttonage – stirring of the lees – quite evident. Medium-plus bodied.

Silver Heights Family Reserve Chardonnay 2019 

Vanilla, a hint of flint, aka “struck match”, a tropical note including green pineapple, with a lemony zestiness on the finish. Lovely bite of freshness. Delicious leanness and tension. Medium-plus bodied.

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