Mission Hill Family Estate’s Martin’s Lane brand, which
started with a Riesling in 2009, has now grown to three varietals, with a hint
of spawning a standalone winery in the future.
Martin’s Lane was named in honour of Martin von Mandl, the
late father of Mission Hill proprietor Anthony von Mandl.
However, the Riesling emerged from a friendship between
Mission Hill’s director of wine education, Ingo Grady, and Fritz Hasselbach (left),
one of Germany’s
leading winemakers. He is one of the owners of Weingut Gunderloch at
Nackenheim, a 133-year-old estate that, in the words of the Gault Millot Guide
to German Wines, had “absolutely no reputation” before he took over the cellar
in 1979. Now, it has a very fine reputation indeed.
In 2007 Ingo took Fritz on a tour of all of Mission Hill’s
Riesling sites to solicit his suggestions on how Mission Hill could make an
ultra premium Riesling.
“The idea was to make a special wine, not a wine similar to
those made by Mission Hill’s colleagues,” Fritz says.
The first vintage of Martin’s Lane Riesling resulting from
his counsel was 2009. The winery has now released the fourth vintage, making
986 cases with grapes from two vineyards that, in Fritz’s judgment, produce
especially intense flavours. One is the Martin’s Lane Vineyard, a steeply
slopped vineyard beside the road leading to the Mission Hill winery. The other
is a block of relatively mature (at least 25 years old) Riesling at Mission
Hill’s Naramata Ranch.
Naramata Ranch is a property formerly known as Paradise
Ranch and purchased by Mission Hill in 2001. It is a beautiful vineyard at the
north end of Naramata Road
not generally open for public visits.
Since acquiring it, Mission Hill has replanted almost the
entire 80 acres that are plantable, including about 30 acres of Pinot Noir.
Riesling 2012 ($25) is a sophisticated wine, beginning with aromas of lime
and peach that lead to flavours of lime, with a subtle core of minerality. The
wine’s 12.6 grams of residual sugar per litre add a fleshy texture and finish,
but the wine is not appreciably sweet because its acidity, 8.4 grams, leave the
wine with superb balance. (90.)
“What I like about this wine is that it is perfectly
balanced,” Fritz says. “The acidity is not too crisp. People like to drink
Riesling but they don’t like acidity.”
The new white wine in the Martin’s Lane stable is a
Viognier, a variety of rising importance in British Columbia. The first varietal
Viogniers were released by Jackson-Triggs and a few small producers around
By the 2006 vineyard census, 52 acres had been planted.
Plantings quadrupled to 204 acres by 2011, the most recent census.
Viognier 2012 ($25 for 800 cases) is made with grapes from Mission Hill
vineyards near Oliver and Osoyoos. This is a wine with intense aromas of orange
rind and apricot. On the palate, there is a veritable flavour basket of
tangerine, apricot, nectarine and wild flower honey. The wine has a generous
texture but a crisp and refreshing finish. (91.)
The impressive new Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir, the second
vintage, makes a statement about the Pinot Noir program at Mission Hill.
writer John Winthrop Haeger, who is now at work on a Riesling book, published North American Pinot Noir
in 2004. Blue Mountain
was the only Okanagan winery to get a full profile. “Most [other wineries] are
in the position of Mission Hill, where management is at the point of trying to
decide ‘whether to get really serious’ about pinot,” he wrote.
That decision has been made. “Our push in the last five
years has been on Pinot Noir,” Ingo says. That has included planting about 30
acres at two East Kelowna
another 30 at Naramata Ranch. One of the winemakers in the team under head
winemaker, Niki Callaway, has been given specific responsibility for making
“And there is talk about building a Pinot winery at the
Ranch,” Ingo says.
Martin’s Lane Pinot
($45 for 485 cases) is a blend of four Dijon
clones from Mission Hill Kelowna and
Naramata Ranch vineyards. The wine has an appealing deep hue and aromas of
strawberry and raspberry. The texture is concentrated but silky, with flavours
of cherry, blueberry and spice. (91.)