Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Mission Hill raises profile of its reserves

Photo: Mission Hill's Darryl Brooker

Mission Hill Family Estates has recently released four wines in its reserve tier, perhaps to draw attention to the rising profile of its reserve wines.

“Our Reserve wines are handcrafted on the premise of ‘Selection’,” the winery explains. “Selection in the vineyard and in the cellar. We source our fruit from the top 15% of our estate vineyards; and 75% of the same vineyard blocks are used to ensure consistency vintage to vintage.”

The winery’s currant portfolio has several tiers: the Legacy Collection (which includes Oculus); the Terroir Collection (super premium wines in the $50 range); the Reserve tier ($20 to $35 table wines); and the value-priced the Estate Collection and the 5 Vineyards tiers.

The value-priced wines are no longer available through the Mission Hill website. Clearly, the winery is moving up market.

That is not to say value-priced wines are being discontinued. The winery is just trying to figure out how best to distribute them as it burnishes the Mission Hill image.

A very successful value brand, Prospect Winery, has been produced at the Mission Hill winery since 2006. It is the largest ‘virtual’ winery in the Okanagan – that means a winery without a license of its own or a wine shop of its own.

Prospect wines are not sold in the Mission Hill tasting room; nor is the any effort to associate the Prospect brand with the Mission Hill brand. The exception is that Prospect’s wines are sold alongside most Mission Hill wines in the two Artisan Wine Shops owned by Mission Hill proprietor Anthony von Mandl. The wines are also available in other trade channels including the Liquor Distribution Branch and Everything Wine.

Mission Hill’s reserve tier is also widely available and is moving into national distribution. There are currently nine white wines and five reds under the reserve label (with a slot reserved for a rosé). Prices range from $22 to $36, still affordable but offering a little extra when the occasion calls for something special.

Here are notes on the four releases.

Mission Hill 2017 Reserve Chardonnay ($21.99). This is a disjointed wine, somewhat over-oaked and a shock, given Mission Hill’s usually excellent Chardonnays. The winery provided me an explanation for why there is more oak than usual. Typically, about 30% of the reserve Chardonnay is aged in stainless steel. In the 2017 vintage, because of a small crop, it was all aged in oak. And then it has been released three months earlier than planned because the 2016 Reserve Chardonnay sold out sooner than expected.

Winery president Darryl Brooker says: “Overall, I believe the 2017 will prove to be a very good wine. It just needs time to settle down, given the higher oak percentage than normal.”

I am not scoring this wine until I have a chance to taste one that has “settled down.” If you have bought it, just set it aside until the end of March. It will still show a fair amount of oak but knit much better with the fruit.

Mission Hill 2017 Reserve Pinot Noir ($27.90). This is an elegant wine, with aromas and flavours of cherry and raspberry enhanced by the silky texture and the spicy, savoury finish. 91.

Mission Hill 2016 Reserve Merlot ($26.99). There is 10% Cabernet Franc in this wine, no doubt revving up the appealing fruit flavours. The wine begins with aromas of black currant, black cherry and vanilla. On the palate, there are flavours of plum, black cherry and blackberry. There is a lingering, spicy finish. 92.

Mission Hill 2016 Reserve Meritage ($24.99). Mission Hill will pour this wine at the Vancouver International Wine Festival (along with examples from its Legacy, Terroir and Sparkling tiers). The blend is 35% Cabernet Franc, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot. This is a delicious wine with a fleshy texture and with aromas and flavours of blackberry, cherry and cassis. 92.


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