Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mission Hill's current releases: strong as always


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Photo: Mission Hill winery and bell tower

Mission Hill Family Estate Winery is one of the two largest owners of vineyards in the Okanagan, with properties from Kelowna to Osoyoos.

This gives the winemaking team an enviable flavour palate to work with, with quality grapes that support a large and generally excellent portfolio.

The wines are released in four tiers, beginning with the entry level tier, which is called Five Vineyards. Affordably priced, these wines are widely available in government and private wine stores.

The Reserve tier wines are in much more limited distribution, but of sufficient volume that you might even find some in overseas markets.

A further step up, the Select Lot Collection wines are produced in small volume and are available primarily at the winery and in top end restaurants.

Current releases from these three tiers are reviewed here. The winery also has a fourth tier of ultra premium wines, called Legacy. At the very top of its wine pyramid is the flagship Bordeaux blend, Oculus. These wines have a different release cycle, spending more time in barrel and in bottle.

Here are the notes on the current wines.

Mission Hill Five Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($13.99). This wine has been one of the top-selling Okanagan Sauvignon Blancs for several years, and not just because of the appealing price. This is a crisp and refreshing white, with aromas and flavours of herbs and lime. 87

Mission Hill Five Vineyards Rosé 2010 ($14.99). The winery notes don’t say it but this wine likely is the result of bleeding juice from the three varieties in the blend (a classic French technique). The wine is 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Shiraz. It is a light, juicy rosé with aromas of cherries and raspberries and flavours of watermelon and wild strawberries. It is finished with just enough residual sugar (eight grams) to ensure it will be a crowd pleaser. 87.

Mission Hill Five Vineyards Cabernet Merlot 2008 ($16.99) A good red from the winery’s entry-level range, this wine has soft ripe tannins, appealing brambly berry flavours, with an underlying hint of mint. The winery put a lot of work into this wine. The blend is 47% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. The wine spent 13 ½ months in American and French oak. 87.

Mission Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2006 $N.A.) Here is an elegant and cerebral wine that reveals itself slowly with time in the decanter. It starts with mint and berry aromas, continuing to flavours of currants, plums, chocolate and tobacco, with a spicy note on the finish. This is no longer in the market. The point of reviewing it now is that, if you are lucky, you have some in the cellar. The current vintage is 2009 and if you give it five years as well, you will be well rewarded. 90.

Mission Hill Pinot Gris Reserve 2009 ($18.99). About seven per cent of the wine was fermented in French oak, giving a biscuity note to the pear and citrus aromas and adding flesh to the texture. On the palate, there are flavours of pear and apple. Almost dry on the finish, this wine is elegantly balanced. 90.

Mission Hill Pinot Noir Reserve 2009 ($24.99). In his 2004 book, North American Pinot Noir, author John Winthrop Haeger wrote that Mission Hill’s management “is at the point of trying to decide ‘whether to get really serious’ about pinot.” Too bad he is not around these days to taste the winery’s Pinot Noir. This wine, well priced for a Pinot, begins with a fine dark colour. It has aromas of cherries and raspberries, leading to flavours of cherry, red plum, spice and vanilla. It has a light backbone of tannin that, with decanting, begins to show the rich and silky texture of this varietal. 89.

Mission Hill Viognier Reserve 2009 ($18). This unoaked white – Mission Hill’s second vintage of Viognier – begins with aromas of herbs, citrus and apricot. It tastes of apricots and peaches, finishing dry but with an impression of honey that shows off the complexity of well-made Viognier. 90.

Mission Hill Select Lot Collection Merlot 2006 ($30) Kudos to Mission Hill for holding a red back almost five years before releasing it. Even at five years, the structure still was firm enough to hold the wine at its peak for another five years. Dark in colour and concentrated in texture, the wine begins with powerful black currant aromas, leading on to flavours of cassis and figs. The flavours are layered; as the wine sat in the glass over time, it revealed more and more layers. 92.

Mission Hill Select Lot Collection Sauvignon Blanc Sémillon 2008 ($21.99). This wine, which is 79% Sauvignon Blanc and 21% Sémillon, involved exceeding complex winemaking and should probably sell for more. A portion of the wine was fermented in and aged sur lies in new French oak. The result is a rather cerebral wine, with aromas of oak, butter and citrus, with buttery tangerine and pineapple flavours and a rich texture. This is a wine I might pair with a good Cuban cigar. 88-90.


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