It can be difficult to get your hands on Okanagan Valley wine. But when you do, oh what a reward!
Okanagan Valley Remote and Rocking
One of my travel highlights in recent years was a trip to Penticton, British Columbia, to visit the Okanagan Valley wine region. It is a land of breathtaking beauty nestled between the snow-crested Coastal Mountains to the west and the Monashee Mountains to the east.
The valley extends north from the US-Canada border for 100 miles and glacial lakes run its length. Lake Okanagan is 85 miles long and is flanked by superb vineyards on the slopes and benches surrounding it. Merlot thrives there as do Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris. The magical scenery, superlative wine and friendly people made for an unforgettable experience.
Mission Hill Winery
Mission Hill Winery is one of the finest wineries I’ve ever visited. That includes stops on three different continents. It is a nexus of food, wine, architecture and art that is draped on a sharply sloped hillside overlooking Lake Okanagan near Kelowna.
Owner Anthony Von Mandl has spared no expense at this winery, which was built by an international team of architects, designers and craftsmen. The wines are sophisticated and – thankfully – are available outside British Columbia. In my case, I was able to purchase this 2011 Reserve Cabernet at an LCBO store in Ontario.
Mission Hill offers a spectrum of wine, and the Reserve line is one of their more affordable ranges. I paid $20 US for the bottle, which I consider to be a tasty value.
The grapes for this vintage come from vineyards in Oliver and Osoyoos in the southern reaches of the Okanagan Valley. The area has sand and gravel soil and sage abounds. It’s also rattlesnake country and while touring the area, we had someone going with us to look out for snakes.
The Reserve Cabernet is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and has 14% alcohol. It is well balanced with light and smooth tannins. Delicate cherry notes mix with some oak and a dash of nuanced plum. There is depth to the wine, but nothing like Mission Hill’s top end Oculus red blend. The tasting window on this wine is probably closing within the next year.
Mission Hill produces some standout wines and you are encouraged to seek them out. The Reserve Cabernet represents a good value, but doesn’t deliver the heavy hitting tannins preferred by some Cab fans. Newer vintages are worth a fling at the $20 to $25 price range.