Friday, July 5, 2013

Martin's Lane is becoming a neighbourhood

The Martin's Lane family

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.

Martin’s Lane 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 2001.

By the 2006 vineyard census, 52 acres had been planted. Plantings quadrupled to 204 acres by 2011, the most recent census.

Martin’s Lane 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.

California 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 vineyards and another 30 at Naramata Ranch. One of the winemakers in the team under head winemaker, Niki Callaway, has been given specific responsibility for making Pinot Noir.

“And there is talk about building a Pinot winery at the Ranch,” Ingo says.

Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir 2011 ($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.)


At October 5, 2013 at 4:11 AM , Blogger Bill Tieleman said...

Hi John - interesting that this post before the Martin's Lane won the Decanter best Pinot noir in the world under £15 - - your rating gave it a very good 91 points.

Certainly a very good score but world beating? Great news but surprising.

I also note that £15 equals $25 but this wine retails for $45 in BC!


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