Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mission Hill refreshes its reserve labels

Photo: Mission Hill's new Reserve label

There are times when the most meaningless word on a wine label is “reserve”.

However, there are wineries that endeavour to give real meaning to the word. One of them is Mission Hill Family Estate.

The winery recently released its reserve wines under refreshed labels that should make them stand out better on wine store shelves. At the same time, the winery provided the trade with some background on how it makes reserve wines so that they will stand apart in the portfolio.

Mission Hill has a large portfolio split into seven tiers. The Legacy wines, such as Oculus, are the top tier. Next is the Terroir Series, introduced last summer, and the Martin’s Lane wines (soon to be a separate winery for Pinot Noir and Riesling). Then there is Select Lot Collection for wines made from specific vineyard blocks, followed by Reserve. The two tiers below Reserve are Rootstock (the wines are sold just to restaurants) and Five Vineyards, the entry level wines.

Keeping this sorted out in the cellar at Mission Hill must be quite a challenge. However, John Simes, the winemaker, (right) has been at this for 23 years and clearly knows what he is doing.

He was recently interviewed for the British Columbia Wine Appreciation Society newsletter. When asked was his “favourite part of the job,” he replied: “Helping build the winery and the vineyards. It was a very small winery with no vineyards of its own when I joined. I’ve been able to be part of a team that has established Mission Hill Family Estate with some outstanding vineyards, an extremely well equipped cellar and some spectacular international-quality wines.”

The winery has five major vineyards, strategically located in diverse terroirs from Kelowna to Osoyoos, encompassing 30 different microclimates. Every mainstream varietal is growing in those vineyards. The reserve wines are all from estate vineyards.

When John is making the reserves, 75% of the same vineyards are used. That ensures consistent quality from vintage to vintage. And each wine includes 15% of the best grapes from those vineyards, so that the wines approach the ultra-premium quality that the reserve designation implies.

The new reserve labels are in a style the winery calls “modern classic.” They feature the original sketch that architect Tom Kundig did when he and owner Anthony von Mandl were redesigning the winery about 15 years ago. The bell tower is the focal point of the sketch and now of the labels.

Here are notes on the wines.

Mission Hill Reserve Riesling 2013 ($18.99). This wine begins with an appealing aroma of herbs and citrus, leading to flavours of lime and grapefruit. A touch residual sugar lifts the flavours and the texture, but the wine is balanced to finish almost dry. This is drinking well now but it will reward you with more complexity if you cellar it a few years. 91.

Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay 2013 ($21.99). I would cellar this wine another six months because it still seems to be integrating the oak, which is sweet in the aroma and adds a suggestion of hazelnuts on the palate. There it mingles with flavours of citrus, apple and pineapple. 88-90.

Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Noir 2013 ($27.99). In the Wine Society interview, John was asked what accomplishments he was particularly proud of. “The emergence of Pinot Noir at an international quality level,” he replied. This wine is a case in point. It begins with aromas of cherries and raspberry, leading to vibrant flavours of cherry and spice with a classically silken texture. 90.

Mission Hill Reserve Merlot 2012 ($26.99). This wine, which has been aged 12 months in French and American oak, begins with aromas of black cherry and black currant. The texture is concentrated and still firm (it will age well). There are flavours of black currant, plums espresso and dark chocolate. 90.

Mission Hill Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($26.99). This wine, aged 14 months in French and American oak, is still tight and will benefit with decanting or cellaring several more years. It begins with aromas of mint, black currant and cedar, leading to flavours of black currant, with a spine of minerality. There is a lingering hint of graphite, dark chocolate and coffee on the finish. 90-91.

Mission Hill Reserve Shiraz 2012 ($26.99). This wine also has been aged in French and American oak for 14 months. Dark in colour, the wine begins with aromas of spicy plum and blackberry. On the earthy and concentrated palate, there are generous flavours of blackberry and cherry with a hint of liquorice on the finish. 90.

Mission Hill Five Vineyards Cabernet Merlot 2012 ($16.99). Recently released, this wine is available in stores from British Columbia to Quebec. It is 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. It has been aged 11 months in French and American oak. It is soft and easy-drinking, with aromas and flavours of cherry, vanilla and sage. 87.

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