Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Martins Lane releases Pinot Noir 2013

Photo: Martin's Lane Pinot Noir

Mission Hill’s Anthony von Mandl launched the Martin’s Lane label with a 2009 Riesling. The intention of the label was to honour his father, Martin, who died in 1994.

Well, he has certainly done his father proud. The label has grown into a boutique winery (built in 2014) that specializes in Pinot Noir.

The winery has just released 986 cases of its 2013 Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir, an ultra-premium wine priced at $65 a bottle.

This is the culmination of a commitment to Pinot Noir that began in earnest not long after Mission Hill acquired Paradise Ranch at the north end of Naramata Road in 2001. Now called The Ranch, its 80 acres have been almost totally replanted. Pinot Noir accounted for 30 acres. Since about 2005, Mission Hill also acquired additional land in East Kelowna, planting at least 30 more acres of Pinot Noir.

The second vintage of Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir (485 cases) was made in 2011. This was the wine that sealed Mission Hill’s commitment to Pinot Noir.

In the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2013, it was named the “World’s Best Pinot Noir” in the under £15 category. Most of the subsequent publicity omitted the qualification. The wine, which was very good indeed, is spoken of as the world’s best, period.

Anthony had been thinking about building a boutique Pinot Noir winery prior to winning that award. Now, with the trophy in hand, he went ahead with the winery – just behind CedarCreek Estate Winery, which Anthony had acquired in 2014.

I am not aware that there is yet a public tasting room at Martin’s Lane. I am assuming there are plans for one since the latest release is described as a “winery direct” wine.

The 2013 Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir is made from estate grown grapes, both from The Ranch, from West Kelowna and from East Kelowna. It is a blend of four Dijon clones (115, 943, 667 and 828). The wine was fermented in small French oak fermenters and aged nine months in a combination of new and old French barrels. The best barrels were selected for this wine, with enough volume that the wine should be readily available.

The specification sheet does not identify the winemaker. Nikki Callaway, who made the 2011, had joined Quails’ Gate Estate Winery just before the 2013 vintage. Darryl Brooker, now Mission Hill’s chief winemaker, was still at CedarCreek; he made the 2014 Martin’s Lane wines.

The process of elimination gives credit to John Simes, the veteran winemaker at Mission Hill until he retired from that role last year.

Over his 23 vintages, John’s reputation was made with his Chardonnays and his Bordeaux blends. Mission Hill’s Perpetua Chardonnay and the winery’s Oculus, its big red, are among the top Canadian wines year in and year out.

But I have to tell you: Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir is not too shabby either.

Here are my notes.

Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir 2013 ($65 for 986 cases). The wine’s appeal begins with its deep, vibrant hue in the glass. It has aromas and flavours of raspberry and cherry. It has good weight and concentration. Decanting brings out a silky and fleshy texture. There are notes of spice on the lingering finish. 92-93.


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