Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mission Hill's super-premium wines are released

Mission Hill Family Estate Winery has released all of its big guns this spring in an impressive display of accomplished winemaking.

The notes below are for the winery’s three premium tiers. The Legacy wines are at the top of the pyramid: Oculus, Compendium, Quatrain and Perpetua.

Select Lot Collection is the tier just below, referring to wines made from select blocks or even rows of vines in its vineyards. This speaks to the maturity of its vineyards and the winery’s understanding of its terroir – that it now identifies top areas in the vineyard for its premium wines. This is good move away from a practice once common in the Okanagan – selecting the “best” barrels for premium releases.

By identifying the best terroir, a winery has a shot at producing wines with more distinction.

The winery’s third premium tier is its Reserve range. These are also limited production releases but generally are blends of good grapes from more than one vineyard.

If you are on a budget, Mission Hill’s entry-level tier is called Five Vineyards. None are reviewed here at this time but they are solid and reliable wines at competitive prices.

Here are my notes.

Mission Hill Oculus 2008 ($80).  In this vintage, the winery produced 1,100 cases of Oculus. I am told that most of the wine has been allotted for collectors and restaurants although there usually are some bottles on sale at the winery. It would be worth the drive. The wine is a blend of 46% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. It is a concentrated, brooding wine built for the long haul (think 2018). It begins with aromas of black currants, figs and cedar, and tastes of currants and dark chocolate. There is an earthy tone on the finish but with cellaring, this complex wine will reveal its powerful fruit. 93.

Mission Hill Compendium 2008 ($50). This is the “little” brother to Oculus – actually, with 14.5% alcohol compared with 14% for Oculus, it is even riper. It is a blend of 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot.  The wine also has a brooding, contemplative personality that demands you savour it slowly. The aroma is dominated by sage and by the mint and brambly red berries of the two Cabernets. On the palate, there are generous flavours of black currant, black cherry, chocolate, tobacco. The tannins are ripe; the body is concentrated.   92.

Mission Hill Quatrain 2008 ($50). This wine is called Quatrain because it is a four-grape blend: 34% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 29% Syrah. The Syrah seems to elevate the fruit flavours and to contribute t0 the chewy texture of the wine. It has aromas of plum, spice and vanilla, with flavours of plum, black cherry, liquorice and tobacco. 91.

Mission Hill Perpetua 2009 ($40).  This is the winery’s most elegant Chardonnay, made with three clones and 25% fermented and aged in new French oak for 10 months. The barrels and the time on lees add to the texture without covering the bright fruit flavours.  It begins with citrus aromas; the winery’s own tasting notes suggest there are also notes of fennel, hazelnut and vanilla bean. On the palate, there are flavours of lime and grapefruit. The finish is crisp, tangy and persistent. 92.

Mission Hill Select Lot Collection Chardonnay 2010 ($22). This Chardonnay is a little more fruit forward, with 35% aged in French oak for eight months. Also elegant, the wine begins with peach, mango and citrus aromas and offers an abundance of citrus and tropical fruit flavours. 90.

Mission Hill Reserve Viognier 2010 ($21.99). The appeal of this wine begins with its moderate alcohol – 12.5%. The wine gains in elegance and loses nothing in character for not being as alcoholic as Viognier sometimes can be. The wine’s aromas remind me of a good citrus-based marmalade. It has flavours of citrus, pineapple and apricot. It has a crisp finish with the classic feather of tannin in its spine. 90.

Mission Hill Reserve Riesling 2010 ($19.99). The winery is a rising star among the Okanagan’s Riesling producers. This wine begins with citrus aromas, delivers flavours of lime and green apples, displays good minerality and has a crisp, bright finish. 90.

Mission Hill Martin’s Lane Riesling ($25). This elegant wine is a fine tribute to Anthony von Mandl’s late father, Martin. It has flavours of pink grapefruit and apples with a spine of minerals. The bright acidity is beautifully balanced to a crisp, dry finish. 91.

Mission Hill Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($19.99). This crisp, delicious wine recalls the New Zealand style, with its herbal and citrus aromas and its zesty flavours of citrus, gooseberry and herbs. It has more weight than many Kiwi examples, reflecting the Okanagan terroir, but it remains lively and refreshing. 90.

Mission Hill Select Lot Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($26). Forty percent of this wine spent four months on French oak barrels, which shows in the full texture but not in flavour. That’s a good thing because the marvellous flavours of the varietal can be submerged in oak. This wine has fresh aromas of herbs and tropical fruit, with flavours gooseberry and grapefruit. Whether you prefer this wine for its complexity or the reserve for its vibrancy is a matter of taste. 90.

Mission Hill Select Lot Collection Merlot 2009 ($35). This is a ripe and concentrated Merlot from select blocks in Mission Hill’s Osoyoos vineyard. The wine spent 15.5 months in oak, resulting in some aromas and flavours of the oak. But most of the wood was soaked up by the rich, juicy flavours of plum, black currant, blackberry and chocolate. The wine is good now and will blossom to another level over the next five years. 90-92.

Mission Hill Reserve Merlot 2009 ($24.99). Here is a big, bold Merlot that defines the best the Okanagan can do in a good year. Concentrated in texture and certainly age-worthy, it flavours of black currants and black cherries, with a very long finish. 91.

Mission Hill Select Lot Collection Syrah 2009 ($45). The 2009 vintage produced such rich-tasting Syrah that the wine was aged 16.5 months in French oak. It begins with aromas of spice and red berries, delivering flavours of raspberry, blueberry and plum. The impression is that the wine has a satisfying core of sweet berry flavours on the middle of the palate, with a long, polished finish. 91.

Mission Hill Reserve Shiraz 2009 ($22.99). Presumably, this is called Shiraz, not Syrah, because it is meant to emulate the rich Australian style. Dark in colour, it begins with aromas of plums, cherry, vanilla and spice and delivers all of that on the palate. 89.

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