I have had the opportunity over the years to taste a great many wines, some great, some good, some that could be better. Having visited the Okanagan Valley on several occasions, I have also seen the emergence of the region from very few producers to a vast number, and from very humble beginnings to great estates. One such great estate is Anthony Von Mandl’s beautiful property in West Kelowna, Mission Hill Estate Winery. Perched at the top of Mission Hill the property covers many acres of vineyard land including several parcels of land spread throughout the Valley. It was a pleasure once again to connect with chief winemaker John Simes in Victoria at Zambri’s restaurant in the beautiful Atrium Building. Following is a description of the wines being released and some of my personal thoughts. Availability varies, as do prices, but I’m pretty sure you will find most if not all of these wines available at the Artisan Wine Shop 644 Broughton Street, Victoria BC #250-384-9994, and at a host of private stores in and around the Victoria area.


2011 Five Vineyards Pinot Grigio $15.99

The wine is clear and held a bright coppery hue, with subtle nutty (almond) and floral aromas and a hint of orchard fruit (apple/pear). It is quite dry, with crisp acidity and a real mineral note followed by apple and pear flavours. Rich but not heavy, the wine finishes moderately, not a sprinter, nor a marathoner, perhaps a solid 10k? I noted it as a quality summer sipper, great for the patio or your back yard, a welcome addition to any gathering.


2011 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc $19.99

This wine is clean and bright with a waxy lemon complexion and shows aromas of lemon zest and stone fruit (peach/nectarine) with very little of the classic grassy or herbaceous character so common with Sauvignon Blanc. On the palate it is dry, with bright citrus flavours and mineral undertones, it has moderate acidity and a slightly short finish. John noted that 2011 was a challenging vintage, with cooler temperatures and a smaller than usual crop. Roughly one quarter of the wine was fermented in barrels as opposed to stainless steel. Overall I was a little disappointed, but it was certainly well made and in the right situation I see the wine showing much more character, try is as a foil for fresh oysters, or with a light salad of apple and endive.


2011 Limited Edition Viognier $18.99

This wine is clear with a brilliant pale golden colour and bright aromas of fresh cut flowers, cotton candy and apricots. On the palate it is dry, with moderate acidity and ripe sweet fruit. It is a little short on the finish, which again left me wanting just a little more, but it is a very pleasant wine with well-balanced acidity and fruit. It will make a great summer wine for sipping out doors, or for mixing in wine based cocktails. John noted that Viognier is a difficult variety to grow as it is incredibly vigorous and takes a lot of tending in the vineyard to make sure fully ripe, healthy grapes are available in the fall, hence the “limited edition”. This offers a nice alternative to Chardonnay, a rich and moderately full wine without the toasty component of oak.


2012 Martin’s Lane Riesling $26.99

This wine is a clear and brilliant green-tinged gold with aromas of candied lemon peel and stone fruit (apricot/peach). The wine has been in the bottle for scarcely two weeks, which contributed to the aromas being a little muted at first. On the palate, there is bright savory acidity and a mouthful of ripe apple and sweet citrus fruit, with moderate mineral notes so typical of young Riesling. One of the most appealing things about this wine for me was the finish; it just kept going on and on and on. My mouth was watering a full minute later. Only about 400 cases were produced, so get on this one early and put a few bottle away in your cellar, they should be stellar in a few years.


2011 Reserve Chardonnay $19.99

The wine is bright gold at the core, fading to a pale rim. On the nose it shows citrus fruit, vanilla, toast, green apple and green mango aromas. On the palate, it is dry with moderate acidity and just a hint of oak tannin, medium body and a real creamy mouth feel and pleasant oak notes. This was a leaner style of Chardonnay, with a moderate finish and was very well balanced. John noted that this wine, from a winemaking perspective, has remained consistent since its inception back in the 1992 vintage, the wine that put Mission Hill on the map winning the Avery Trophy in 1994 at the International Wine & Spirits competition in London, England. A bit more than 1/3 of the wine was barrel fermented in mostly older American Oak barrels and a significant portion of the wine underwent ML. For me, this was a good solid wine, it showed typical characteristics of its varietal and wine making and is good value compared to similarly priced wines, but I wonder if the winery isn’t hanging on past glories just a little too long?


2010 Single Lot Collection (SLC) Chardonnay $29.99 (currently on sale for $19.99)

This Chardonnay shows slightly deeper complexion with a vibrant gold hue. On the nose there is prominent aromas of oak, but in a more subtle way than in the Reserve wine, which is likely attributed to the shift from American to French barrels. Along with the sweet vanilla and smoky notes there is plenty of ripe yellow apple, citrus and floral notes. On the palate, the wine is dry, with a rich and creamy mid palate and persistent acidity keeping the wine refreshing. It finished with ripe apple and pear fruit, vanilla and coconut and seemed to go on forever. For me, this was the Chardonnay for right now in the trio, more depth and complexity than the reserve, and more immediately appealing than the Perpetua (coming up next).


2010 Perpetua Chardonnay $40.00

This is Mission Hill’s “flagship” white wine and is more for those with the patience required to allow great wines to develop. In the glass the wine is brilliant, with a pale gold hue and clear to the rim. On the nose, there are subtle aromas of toasty oak and muted orchard fruit. If I had the time I would have left this glass for a while longer to come up in temperature and allow a little more of the aroma to become apparent. As it was, the nose was a little subdued. On the palate, the wine is dry, with moderate acidity and is very luscious and creamy with mild smoky and vanilla notes. It is medium bodied and finishes with sweet citrus (think Meyer Lemon) and orchard fruit like Gala apple. There is plenty to like in this wine, but its best showing is still a ways away, so put it away, forget about it for a couple years, and enjoy the SLC in the meantime.


And now, on to the reds…


2011 Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir $29.99

The Martin’s Lane wines are a tribute to Anthony’s late father Dr. Martin Von Mandl, and the inaugural MLP is was made from a careful selection of Pinot Noir fruit from both East and West Kewlona vineyards in and around the winery.  It is bright ruby at the core and intense violet at the rim. On the nose it shows intense bright cherry and plum fruit, with toasty sweet oak aromas, it is very appealing and alluring to smell. On the palate, the wine is dry, with moderate acidity and subtle tannin. Dark fruits dominate with an almost liqueur like quality and there is plenty of integrated oak notes. The wine is medium bodied and has a good long finish with excellent balance. There were those in the crowd who were less enthusiastic than I, but I really like this wine for the purity of fruit and the balance. It will likely improve over the next couple years, but I could never wait if there was a bottle in the house.


2010 SLC Syrah $39.99

This wine is typical BC Syrah, inky black in the glass with intense aromas of dark cherry, smoked meat and black pepper. There is a slight sensation of alcohol on the nose, which dissipates as the wine is allowed to aerate in the glass. On the palate, the wine is dry, with tart acidity and almost no tannin. Dark fruits and mild oak notes mingle with sweet spices. The finish, which at first seems short and a little disappointing, begins to grow as more air is allowed to mix with the wine. I think if I had allowed more time this wine could have been very appealing, but in a tasting format it left me wanting more, next time I would decant prior to drinking, or put it aside and come back to it.


2010 SLC Merlot $32.99 (currently on sale for $27.99)

The Merlot is a very dark ruby and shows intense aromas of smoke, mint/menthol and red cherry with a meaty, sort of leathery quality. On the palate the wine is dry, with bright acidity and moderate tannin. There are plenty of mixed berries (blackberry, raspberry, boysenberry) and mild chocolate and tobacco flavours. One of the trademark characters of merlot is its “velvety” texture, which this wine shows nicely. It is very appealing and well balanced, showing why the Okanagan is such a great place to be growing Merlot.


2009 Compendium $50.00

Compendium is the Cabernet dominant companion to Mission Hill’s flagship wine Oculus (next). It is a blend of roughly 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. At the core, the wine is an intense dark ruby with youthful violet highlights at the rim. It shows plenty of toasty oak notes, dark fruit such as blackberry, black cherry and even blueberry, and a hint of licorice. On the palate, the wine shows moderate acidity and super smooth tannin with intense dark fruit flavours, a creamy mouth feel and sweet vanilla. Medium to full bodied, it is incredibly well balanced and the finish is unbelievably long. An excellent wine, one that should continue to evolve in the cellar but is so darn tasty I don’t know how anyone will wait.


2009 Oculus $80.00

Oculus is Mission Hill’s flagship red, and like Compendium is a blend of traditional Bordeaux varieties, but in this case with more Merlot making up the blend (50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot). At the core, the wine is dark and inky, gently fading to a bright ruby rim. On the nose, intense sweet dark cherry, plum and blackberry fruit mingle with toasty oak, vanilla and mild cocoa. On the palate, moderate acidity and silky smooth tannins set the stage for a mouthful of intense dark berries, creamy chocolate and integrated vanilla and coffee. Full bodied, very smooth and a long long finish. Like the Compendium this wine will likely grow and evolve in your cellar, but if this is your plan you should pick up a few so you can see how it changes because its pretty darn delicious right now.

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