Mission Hill Family Estate Winery is undoubtedly one of the most stunningly beautiful wineries in North America. With the launching of their Legacy Series of wines, they now have wines that are a true complement to their setting.
Situated above the Okanagan Lake southwest of Kelowna, British Columbia, the winery marries wonderful architecture with spectacular views, fine wines, and a phenomenal food program. Personally, I think it is the most gorgeous winery in the Pacific Northwest—thanks in large part to an architectural design that, while echoing European traditions, manages to create its own New World identity.
How nice that Mission Hill also happens to make very fine wines!
I have visited Mission Hill many times, and have had the pleasure of spending the better part of a day being educated on Mission Hill’s wines as well as the Okanagan Valley region by Ingo Grady, an absolutely delightful gentleman who as the winery’s Director of Sales, is happy to share his charming wealth of wine knowledge.
At the beginning of the month, I was in Vancouver B.C. to attend an intimate lunch with Mission Hill winemaker John Simes as the winery introduced its top-tier Legacy Series of wines, including the new brands Perpetua and Quatrain to join their well-known Oculus.
B.C. wine aficionados have long known Mission Hill’s Oculus wines as among the best blends in Canada. And—I hasten to add—for those skeptical (or ignorant) Americans who can’t imagine a good wine coming from B.C., the quality of Oculus is easily equal to the best of similar style blends from anywhere in the United States.
The 2006 Perpetua is a new top-tier Chardonnay that strikes an admirable balance of oak, fruit, acid, and freshness. Taken from a single vineyard (Osoyoos Vineyard Estate), three clones of chardonnay fruit are fermented separately, some in temperature-controlled steel tanks and some in new French oak barrels. The wine is aged on sur lie for 7.5 months, stirred every two weeks.
The result is a masterful Chardonnay that has crisp fresh fruit, mellowed by the lees and wood contact. The body is full and ripe, but never fat, and devoid of overt oakiness. The texture is delightfully silky and the wine has a lingering finish. I found it to be a superb Chardonnay, and was sorry that I could not take a bottle home with me. They are releasing it at $32.99 CDN.
The 2005 Quatrain is the other Legacy Series wine to be introduced. As implied by the name, it is a blend of four grape varieties (57% Merlot, 28% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon). Certainly not Bordeaux-style, and not either a Rhone-style blend, this tasty amalgam is its own poem.
The grapes came from the best blocks within the winery’s estate vineyards in Oliver and Osoyoos (in the southern, warmer, part of the Okanagan Valley). They were fermented in small lots using French oak, and were aged for 15 months in French oak. Winemaker John Simes expressed his joy at being able to do such controlled, small fermentations, and in being able to produce a wine that clearly pleased him: his eyes lit up when he talked about these wines.
The Quatrain is a big wine, though at 13.5% alcohol it is by no means as big as what Washington and California regularly produce. I was struck by the up-front fruit sweetness, followed by a brambly sort of substantial tannin. The wine is certainly meant to age, but tasting it side-by-side with the Oculus, I would expect that the Quatrain will achieve balanced maturity well before the Oculus.
I was tremendously impressed with these new additions to Mission Hill’s already strong line-up of wines. I have long been a fan of their Sauvignon Blanc in particular, and their S.L.C. line of wines (Select Lot Collection). Some of the Mission Hill wines make it into the States, and I understand more supply should be available—though the small production of the Legacy Series wines means that few Americans will ever have the chance to taste them . . . unless you travel to the Okanagan, which is something I heartily recommend ANY wine lover do, but more especially those of us in the Pacific Northwest.
At the launch lunch they also served a 2007 Reserve Riesling which I had never tasted before, and fell in love. I am a Riesling fan, and this one was delicious. It was ever-so-lightly off dry, but had a perfect balance of acidity. The fruit aromas were intoxicating and tremendously fruity. I really enjoyed that wine as well.
I know that I may be sounding a bit overly enthusiastic about these wines . . . but the simple fact is that I was quite impressed with them.
Perhaps my enthusiasm had something to do with our environs: we had lunch at Yew at the Four Seasons in Vancouver. My magazine, Northwest Palate, has written about Yew, but this was my first time there. The small group of us (which included B.C. wine authority John Schreiner and B.C. wine diva Daenna Van Mulligen) sat in a private glass-walled wine room at this elegant restaurant, ad the food paired wonderfully with the wines (the miso-glazed sablefish with the Perpetua was simply heavenly).
Would I think as highly of these wines included in a typical blind tasting for the magazine? I’m pretty sure I would. With nearly everything at his disposal to make the best wines possible, John Simes has the experience and knowledge to make the most of his resources—including vineyards that are reaching a level of balance and maturity where better wines can be made now than ever before.