When I was invited to taste the Mission Hill portfolio, I couldn’t help but think about the bargain bin at the local liquor store. What else exists between their innocuous stock wines and Oculus? The Shangri-La hosted a complete tasting that effectively changed my perception of this long standing vineyard and winery in the Okanagan.
Okay, here we go!
All of the Mission Hill whites showed wonderful characteristics, and as the food lover that I am, I couldn’t help but daydream about the tasty pairings the wines invoked, even though the centre table in the Conway Room was completely overflowing with the usual wine tasting accompaniments – cheese, bread, fruit and more cheese.
Five Vineyards Pinot Grigio 2008 – unoaked, crisp and bone dry. Its tasting note of tropical fruit made me instantly salivate for a ceviche or tartare… LDB Retail $15.99
Reserve Riesling 2007 – quite a big bouquet on this guy; peaches, big citrus rind. On the palate, it’s not exactly like licking a limestone rock formation, but there’s definitely a pleasant minerality to go along with the stone fruits, medium + acidity, medium body and moderate finish. DB Bistro’s “choucroute” was what I really wanted with this wine, but alas I had a nice sharp hard cheese instead. LDB Retail $18.99
Select Lot Collection Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon 2006 – ideally I would’ve love this wine to be a touch colder, but its character shone through nonetheless. The nose and palate were quite similar, and quite pronounced – tropical fruit notes, but more emphasis erupted in tangerine, honey, and lime. The body was slightly heavier then I was expecting, what a nice treat! Although I am a sucker for the Sumac Ridge Black Sage blend of the same grapes, I really enjoyed the Mission Hill, although the price is a bit higher. LDB Retail $26.99
Select Lot Collection Chardonnay 2006 – lovely. So this wine combines those fresh characteristics we come to expect from a well made Okanagan Chardonnay – the american and french oak treatment lends some toasty vanilla, spice and rich butteriness, without overpowering the youthful fruit character, and a pronounced body. Similar to the Perpetua I tried directly afterwards, the “sur lie” method gives that rich yeasty character, boosting the body and flavour profile. Damn, this is a tasty wine. LDB Retail $26.99
Legacy Series “Perpetua” Chardonnay 2007 – “My abosute favourite of all the BC Chardonnays….” pipes in Judith Lane, and as you’ll find out now, I couldn’t agree more. I’d like to slap a enthusiastic thumbs up next to this one. A blend of three chardonnay clones, this wine is the pinnacle of white wine production at Mission Hill; orange blossoms, citrus and ripe pears on the nose, meet a brilliant french oak, “sur lie” and slightly oxidative character – nuts, and mineral – both on the nose and palate . It’s refreshing to know that this wine has gone through a thoughtful barrel fermentation that doesn’t completely kill the wine’s fresh youthful vitality. Only 150 cases available, in 6 packs. This wine hit retail on October 15. LDB Retail $35.99
Five Vineyards Pinot Noir 2007 – beautiful ruby colour, smooth tannins and bright, juicy red cherries. This is the perfect everyday Pinot Noir for those that cannot get through the day without a wee splash. LDB Retail $16.99
Reserve Pinot Noir 2007 – with a smooth palate and tannins, this wine displays the textbook pinot noir tasting note with it’s warm spices, like cloves, and cinnamon, plus that tantalizing sour cherry, ripe plums, earthy mushroom and bell pepper. LDB Retail $21.99Reserve Shiraz 2007 – deep purple (the colour not the band), super rich and earthy; this “in your face” black fruit, and wintery sweet-spice profile gives us a huge aroma, fantastically round tannins, with a hint of fresh green leaves. LDB $21.99 Retail
Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 – dark fruit, black currants, robust dark chocolate; great value for a well made BC Cab. Unfortunately it’s unavailable as of yet in the marketplace for retail sales.
MH Select Lot Collection Syrah 2006 – a nice step up from the Reserve Shiraz – bigger fruit, mouth-watering acidity, rich colour, and hot alcohol. Plums, deep toast, chocolate and berries – I’m in love. This wine can age a little, but it’ll be a great glass now. LDB $36.99 Retail
Select Lot Collection Merlot 2005 – again, the quality in the Select Lot Collection (SLC) wines are outstanding. This Merlot mimicks the tasting note I always seek in a sophisticated merlot – dark fruits, spicy oak, vanilla, dried herbs, full body, round tannins, long finish, medium acidity – just really, really pleasant. LDB $34.99 Retail
Legacy Series “Quatrain” 2006 – the name comes from “quatrain” meaning a four lined poem or stanza, so this wine is simply a blend of four grapes, syrah dominated, with an equally large portion of merlot, and minor additions of cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon. This is the second vintage of this wine, the grapes having been hand selected from the best blocks in Mission Hill’s estates in Oliver and Osoyoos. Of course, this juicy red will age beautifully for a while, but sampling its potential now was a treat. Black cherries, black currants – just dark and super ripe in general. Mouth drying tannins and high acidity suggest its need for time, but that’s ok. We can wait. LDB $45.00 RetailLegacy Series “Compendium” 2006 – this is one of the hallmarks of the care and craftsmanship taken during Mission Hill’s viticulture and wine-making process – like the “Quatrain”, the grapes are hand selected, and hand sorted from the best blocks in Oliver and Osoyoos. Merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdot create this “Compendium” or collection. French oak fermenters, extended maceration, separate maturation, 100% French oak barrels for 13 months. It’s rich, it’s an excellent example of Bordeaux-style, but it needs a little time. LDB $40.00 Retail“Oculus” 2006 – the harvest for these grapes has just come to an end – specially designated vineyard areas are set aside specifically for this big wine, which possesses an equally enormous reputation. This is the Mission Hill signature Bordeaux-inspired blend – merlot dominates, cabernet sauvignon in the supporting role, with additions of cabernet franc and petit verdot. The grapes go through a “gravity filled” french oak fermentation, followed by separate maturation in French oak barrels for almost 15 months. Black cherry, dark chocolate, vanilla bean, warm spices, blackberries and dark plums, Super rich. Super complex. Super duper. You’ll have to give her time though… naturally. Specialty stores always carry this wine, so need not to worry. However this is a signature big BC red, and most fine restaurants will carry it, especially an earlier vintage that’s a little bit more “ready to drink” then the current vintage release. LDB $70.00 Retail If you fancy a magnum, they’ve got those too – ready at the LDB for $175.00 in its own wooden sarcophagus.The end of the tasting tour landed me with the Reserve Riesling Icewine 2008; luscious, rich, tart, high acid, citrus, orange blossoms, and an appreciated hint of nuttiness. This comes with a high price tag, but it’s gosh darn delicious. I may have sat with half a pound of blue cheese in the corner with this wine…. Mark Anthony reps wouldn’t stop staring at me, but I suspect they understood my actions… LDB $59.99 Retail
We came, we saw, we conquered… Mission Hill.
For more information on Mission Hill wines, please visit www.missionhillwinery.com or contact the Mark Anthony Group Inc. in Vancouver at 604.263.9994.