Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mission Hill and its alter ego and their current wines

Photo: John Simes

If there is a winery with something for every palate, it surely is Mission Hill Family Estate.

This West Kelowna winery, where winemaking and viticulture are under the direction of veteran winemaker John Simes, has an astonishing range of brands and labels. These include excellent VQA wines from grapes grown on the almost 1,000 acres of Okanagan vineyard the winery has purchased during the past 15 years.

There also are a range of non-VQA brands, such as Mission Ridge and Sonora Ranch, which are primarily blends of imported wines. In my experience, these are serviceable and inexpensive wines. The 2009 Sonora Ranch Merlot ($9.99) is a soft, fruity and cheerful red.

To see the full range of Mission Hill wines, one should visit one of the winery’s Artisan Wine Shops (three in Metro Vancouver and one in Victoria).

Over the summer, I have been making notes on a variety of the wines that Mission Hill and its alter ego labels are offering.

The Mission Hill wines come in tiers, starting with the Five Vineyards entry level tier and move up to Reserve, Special Lot Collection and Legacy Series.

Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery is value-priced brand launched in 2007 by the same team that operates Mission Hill. As yet, no separate winery has been built although the sign beside a Black Sage Road vineyard suggests that one is planned. Prospect has its own winemaker, Wade Stark. Each of the labels is built around a story or a legend from the history of the British Columbia interior.

Prospect has become a bigger brand that most of the Okanagan wineries, thanks in part of good marketing but mostly to VQA wines that often over-deliver for the price.

Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery 2008 Council’s Punch Bowl Sauvignon Blanc ($9.99). This unoaked white is refreshing and light with delicate citrus and herbal flavours. The wine is screaming good value. 88.

Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery 2009 Larch Tree Hill Riesling ($12.99). This refreshing white begins with attractive citrus aromas with the faintest hint of petrol. On the palate, there are bring, lively flavours of lime and peach, with an appealing fruit sweetness although the wine is balanced to a dry finish. 88.

Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery 2008 Townsend Jack Unoaked Chardonnay ($10.99). This is an appealing quaffer, with clean flavours of pears and citrus fruits. 88.

Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery 2009 Trutch Map Rosé ($12.99). Crisp and refreshing, this light rosé has notes of strawberry and raspberry. 87.

Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery 2008 Fats Johnson Pinot Noir ($16.99). Juicy and appealing, this wine begins with aromas and flavours of strawberries and spice. This wine has good varietal definition but is just a little light. 86.

Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery 2007 Red Willow Shiraz ($16.99). This medium-bodied red begins with aromas of plum, black cherry and oak and has earthy flavours of red fruit with a hint of pepper on the finish. 87.

Mission Hill 2009 Five Vineyards Rosé ($14.99). Here is a serious dry rosé, with juicy flavours of strawberries, with good weight and with a refreshing finish. And the alcohol is a moderate 12.5%. 87.

Mission Hill 2007 Five Vineyards Cabernet Merlot ($16.99). Five Vineyards is Mission Hill’s entry level tier of wines. I would call this a fairly safe red blend for that market – a firm wine with a hint of mint on the nose and with flavours of black currants and blackberries. The tannins are just a hint bitter when the wine is first opened. The wine benefits from being decanted. 86.

Mission Hill 2008 Five Vineyards Pinot Grigio ($15.99). This is one of the most popular VQA wines in B.C. liquor stores. It is refreshing, with citrus and apple aromas and flavours of melons and apples. 88.

Mission Hill 2008 Reserve Chardonnay ($18.99). Winery owner Anthony von Mandl describes this wine as the “grandson” of the Mission Hill 1992 Chardonnay that won the Avery Trophy in London. Like its ancestor, this wine is fermented partially and aged in American oak. The wine is fresh, with generous spicy citrus flavours and a hint of toastiness. The finish lingers. 90.

Mission Hill 2008 Reserve Riesling ($18.99). Tangy and crisp on the finish, this wine has lovely flavours of lime and grapefruit, with a backbone of minerals that add to the satisfying weight of this wine on the palate. 90.

Mission Hill 2008 Reserve Pinot Blanc ($18.99). Pinot Blanc is a bit of a chameleon that can be shaped to a variety of tastes. This wine strikes me as Chardonnay Lite, with its light gold hue, its lime and apple aromas and its rich apple flavours fleshed out with a bit of oak and lees effect. 89.

Mission Hill 2008 Reserve Pinot Gris ($21.99). This is a complex white, perhaps overly complex, with toasty and lees aromas and flavours of pears and citrus. The finish is a bit austere. 86.

Mission Hill 2008 Reserve Viognier ($18.99). A growing number of Okanagan wineries are now making wine from this superb Rhone white – a rare white variety that has some natural tannin. This makes Viognier a versatile food wine. Mission Hill’s release is one of the best, beginning with a fragrant floral aroma with an intriguing hint of hazelnut. I don’t know where that comes from but it is appealing. On the palate, the wine shows richness and power that is rare in whites, with flavours of ripe pineapple, apricots, tangerines and peaches. Available only at the winery and in the Artisan wine stores. 91.

Mission Hill 2007 Select Lot Collection Chardonnay ($21.99). This is a lot of wine for the money – rich and elegant with citrus aromas and flavours of citrus, pears and melons well integrated with the oak (French this time). The finish is exceptional in its length. 92.

Mission Hill 2007 Select Lot Collection Syrah ($36.99). Here is a bold Christmas pudding of a wine, with aromas and flavours of red plums, blackberries and spice, all nicely supported by leathery notes and oak. 91.

Mission Hill 2005 Select Lot Collection Merlot ($29.99). Here is a superb Merlot released at its peak. There is an alluring aroma of blackberries and boysenberries. On the palate, there are dollops of sweet fruit, but with good concentration and framed by ripe tannins. It is a very satisfying wine. 91.

Mission Hill Perpetua 2008 ($35). Impressive in its elegance, this polished wine begins with a lovely aroma of spice and fruit. On the palate, the vibrant flavours show apple and citrus flavours very subtly integrated with oak. This single vineyard wine incorporates only the free run juice of three Chardonnay clones. Available at the winery and in the Artisan wine stores. 94.

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