Monday, June 24, 2013

Mission Hill Family Estate: Okanagan British Columbia Winery Visit

I’m not somebody who likes hype. We run a weekly wine event calendar and a good part of my time is spent removing exclamation points from wine purveyors who are proclaiming New! Great Value! Incredible tasting!

So,  it’s no hype when I say that Mission Hill Family Estate is the most spectacular winery I have ever seen. Have I seen all the wineries of Europe or New Zealand – of course not. But I have seen well more than 100 wineries including top wine regions like Napa, Willamette Valley, Washington State and Ontario. There have been spectacular wineries – but Mission Hill blows them away.

The Cabinator and I shuttled from Penticton – site of the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference – to Kelowna, where we were to catch an early morning flight the next day. After a nice lunch on Earl’s rooftop deck in downtown Kelowna, we took off to visit a couple wineries in West Kelowna, the first being Mission Hill.

Mission Hill is a confluence of stunning surroundings, inspirational design, all-encompassing quality and superb wines. You can drink in the scenery like finest wine. The British Columbia vista combines the best of Colorado, Europe and Canadian cool.

The winery was designed by an international team of architects, designers and craftsmen. After strolling past immaculately tended Pinot Noir vines, you enter the courtyard passing under a five-ton Indiana limestone arch held together by a single keystone. The notch in the arch also lines us with the signature bell tower.

The Terrace outdoor restaurant has been named one of the top five winery restaurants in the world and it looks like a suitable perch for bald eagles with a gorgeous view of Pinot and Chardonnay vineyards and Lake Okanagan. The Loggia is a beautiful colonnade that provides a great  vantage point to view the manicured grounds and the lake and mountains beyond. At least one snowcapped peak is visible.

The commitment to quality doesn’t stop at the front door. The tasting room is beautifully appointed with a wide range of wines available to taste. Tastings take place in their retail store or, for larger groups, in their tasting salons. The winery also has a visitors center with museum quality displays telling the store of Mission Hill.

After being knocked out by the architecture and décor, we decided it was time for wine. There are four tiers of wine, the Mission Hill Five Vineyards entry level and then moving up to the Mission Hill Reserve, Select Lot Collection and the Legacy Series. Prices move up accordingly.

We started with the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, a great refresher for a hot day with a dollop of passion fruit and citrus flavors. The Cabinator has a big thirst for reds, and so we moved to the 2010 Limited Edition Cabernet-Shiraz.

Most Okanagan wineries we tasted opt for the earthier Syrah style versus the sweeter Australian Shiraz style, so this wine was of interest. It offered a rich berry aroma and a light body. Fig and blackberry flavors threaded through the wine. Only 250 cases were made. Retail is $29.99 CA.

While sipping we learned about the challenges of winemaking in the Okanagan. It is a hot, short viticultural season and it is all about pruning to maximize the sunshine. The 2010 Cab showed the winemakers were successful, with cocoa, black cherry and spice flavors. The wine has a cold climate feel as opposed to the fruit forward Cabs of Napa.

We dipped into the Select Lot Collection for the 2010 Syrah, which was a rock star. This is a rustic wine with chocolate, cedar and blueberries. This is a sophisticated wine with layers of flavors.

Keeping in mind that we were preparing to step back into the bright Okanagan sun, we finished with a Rosé that blended Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Gamay. This had a bright strawberry flavor and was perfectly light, crisp and dry.

We are big fans of the hospitality and scenery of the Okanagan. No one does it better than Mission Hill. This is a true gem of a winery.

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