Sunday, October 2, 2016

Okanagan Trip report continues as we go way, way up the Hill

Mission Hill.

The most well-known winery in BC. As close to a giant as it gets in the world of Okanagan wine making. the WINE any good?

I've been hard on them in the past, for sure, even going so far as to call them the "Frass Canyon" of the Okanagan. The wine just wasn't any good. Having said that, a few years ago after the owner of Mission Hill bought Cedarcreek, they moved Cedarcreek's talented winemaker, Darryl Brooker, over to Mission Hill. As fans of Cedarcreek, this worried us a bit, but so far there has been no noticeable decline in the quality of the wines at Cedarcreek. The good news is that the last few times we have tasted Mission Hill wines, the quality seems to have increased significantly. It's almost as if a great winemaker actually matters :)

The winery received worldwide attention in 2013 when their 2011 Martin's Land Pinot Noir was named "Best Pinot Noir in the world under £15" at Decanter World Wine Awards, one of the world's leading wine competitions.

It's been years since we've been here; on our last visit we didn't even taste the wine because the tasting room was so busy. There are no doubts that the grounds are incredible; as beautiful as anything you can see in BC.

We've tasted most of their portfolio many times at various tastings around the Lower Mainland, but let's see how our first tasting at the actual winery went.

First, I notice they are selling an opportunity to taste their high-end wines (Perpetua, Compendium, Quatrain and Oculus). We inquire but the tastings are only available on the hour but we don't have time to wait, so maybe next time.

We pony up to the tasting bar, herded like sheep in the crowds. It's busy but not crazy, we are able to get enough room to taste. We are greeted by a young man who immediately informs us that the tasting fee is $8 per person, and we have to pay IN ADVANCE. And although it can be refundable, it takes a TWO bottle purchase (twice as much as most wineries) to get your $8 back. Good grief. That's not a great way to start the tasting. Oh and another thing that drives me nuts, their entry-level wines (if you ignore the "Five Vineyards" line) are called their Reserve tier. To the average consumer, that is incredibly misleading. Reserve should be something special.

Mission Hill 2014 Reserve Riesling ($20.29)

Fragrant orange blossom and green apple notes on the nose and they continue through to the palate. Slightly off-dry and very juicy and well-balanced. 89.

Mission Hill 2015 Reserve Pinot Blanc ($20.29)

Pears dominate the nose and continue on to the palate where they are joined by notes of oak and cinnamon. 86.

Mission Hill 2013 Martin's Lane Pinot Noir ($65.00)

Two vintages removed from their worldwide success (and it's certainly bumped way up in price), aromas of plum, cherry and forest floor. Juicy and pleasant palate of sage, black cherry and vanilla. Perfectly decent, but certainly not something worth getting too crazy excited about. 89.

At this point in the tasting, the lady from the front desk who we had talked to about the private tasting comes over to suggest if we want to taste the Oculus, they can bring it to us out here (for the same price of $29). That's good service and we take her up on the offer. They bring us the wine and we leave it there for now to open up a bit while we finish the other wines.

Mission Hill 2013 Reserve Shiraz ($23.49)

Amazing nose of dark fruit, particularly blueberry. Cherries, black plums and dark chocolate on the palate. Long and pleasant finish. Really nice, our favorite of the Reserve tier. 90.

Mission Hill 2013 Reserve Merlot ($24.99)

Nice aromas of plum, vanilla and mocha. Flavors of coffee and vanilla, with herbaceous notes mingling in there as well. 89.

Mission Hill 2012 Terroir Collection No 23. Crosswinds Syrah ($60.00)

Intense notes of black fruit on the nose. The palate finds lots of cocoa and tobacco with some herbs on the finish. Has potential but tannins are closed, suggesting further aging would greatly enhance. 89-91.

Mission Hill 2011 Oculus ($126.00)

71% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc

Pleasant aromas of fig, boysenberry, plum and red cherry. Cherries, black fruit and anise on the palate. Herbs and a touch of spice on the long finish. Pleasant now but will get much, much better. 92-94.

Mission Hill 2013 Reserve Merlot Icewine ($60.00)

Aromas and flavors of red cherries, apricots, honey, strawberry and caramel. The first ever Merlot icewine to come out of Mission Hill and it's really terrific. 93.

So, the verdict? Although I'm still not a fan of the fast-food feel of the tasting room, there is little doubt that the wine is improving every year. There wasn't a bad wine in the bunch.

Next up: the trip continues at Volcanic Hills !!

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