Thursday 26 May 2011

BCWAS: Painted Rock Wine Dinner

Tuesday evening was the British Columbia Wine Appreciation Society annual dinner, hosted this year by Raincity Grill in Vancouver’s English Bay, and paired with the amazing wines of Painted Rock Estate Winery. Painted Rock can be found on the Skaha Lake Bench south of Penticton, where proprietor John Skinner grows 60-acres of grapes to make several award-winning wines. Our dinner was the first time a “mini-vertical” of Painted Rock’s entire production had been assembled: we had the opportunity to enjoy almost every wine released since the winery arrived on the scene in 2009 as the Best New Winery at the Okanagan Fall Wine Festival.

Raincity Grill Executive Chef Jennifer Peters prepared a five-course meal to pair with Painted Rock’s wines – each course to include two vintages, with the exception of the missing-in-action 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, long since sold out following its Lt. Governor’s Award last year. Although many Wine Dinners are beyond the reach of vegetarians for whom a fixed menu centred on meat is prohibitive, Raincity was happy to provide for a fully vegetarian option! The vegetarian menu overlapped by about 50% with the regular menu, and had clearly been carefully considered to pair with the wines – much appreciated!


We began with a flight of Chardonnay, and in contrast to the potted prawns served to most guests, we enjoyed an Heirloom Vegetable Salad with our wines. Sunchokes, beets, and carrots were served with a mixed green salad that included generous amounts of parsley. The somewhat bitter flavours served to enhance the oak flavours in the wine, and also demonstrated the difference between the 2008 and 2009 Chardonnay. Although the 2009 was on oak a couple of weeks longer than the 2008, it had integrated more elegantly, whereas the 2008 had more obvious toasty, popcorn aromas. John explained in detail how the different vineyard treatment in 2009 (leaf thinning) changed the expression of his two Chardonnay clones to bring out the tropical flavours we were enjoying.


Painted Rock produces only one white wine – the Chardonnay – so for the remainder of the night we moved onto to the many celebrated reds in their portfolio. The fantastic second course of mushroom tart and roasted shallot was shared across all diners, and paired with the 2007 and 2008 Merlots, the 2008 having been just released recently. John recalled his nervousness about his first vintage of Merlot, and how his trepidation was put aside when the wine won Best of Varietal at the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival last year. It went on to wine a Silver medal at the Canadian Wine Awards and Gold at the BC Wine Awards in the Fall! The 2008 vintage was more challenging, and Painted Rock had to drop nearly half the fruit to ensure a ripe harvest, but so far the wine is being received very well. I found the 2007 to have good acidity and fine tannins, with prominent cherry flavours, while the 2008 had an even more fruit-forward nose that became savoury after time in the glass.


The much anticipated Syrah was next up alongside tortellini – bison for the carnivores, and braised leeks (and plenty of butter) for us vegetarians. With two different Syrah clones in the vineyard John had initially thought about releasing a “Syrah” and  “Shiraz” but was set straight by his Bordeaux consultant Alain Sutre. Alain pointed out that when it comes to grapes “1 + 1 = 3”, i.e., blending both clones would undoubtedly produce a superior wine than either could yield alone. The 2007 Syrah had a nicely perfumed nose and red fruit flavours, with a silky soft mouthfeel. John was proud to point out his wine had been the only Canadian wine served at the recent Playhouse Wine Festival Bacchanalia Gala Dinner, a prominent coup indeed. As good as the 2007 was we enjoyed the 2008 even more: it had an even more expressive nose, a bit less acid, and an equally smooth mouthfeel, with cherries and pepper present on the palate. The challenge will be to find it in stores given the reduced production in 2008, unless of course you order directly from the winery.


Our fourth (vegetarian) course was another modified version, replacing the beef ribeye with roasted sunchokes and lentils, alongside the carefully assembled potato pave, spinach, leeks, and morel mushrooms everyone received. For this course a vertical of Cabernet Sauvignon was not available, so we enjoyed a larger glass of the 2008 vintage. The Cabernet was actually the first 2008 red released by Painted Rock, showing up in stores as early as last Fall! My guess would be that the 2007 sold out so quickly that John needed something for store shelves and restaurant wine lists! Although I can’t vouch for the wine’s approachability several months ago it is actually quite delicious now despite its youth. Surprisingly fine tannins and rich, dark fruit flavours made this a great pairing with the food, and probably our second favourite wine of the night (after the 2008 Syrah). I would have loved to try it against the 2007 but John was quite clear in asserting that he only has 17 bottles left after the Lt. Governor’s Award ceremony and subsequent positive press depleted his library.


The final course of the evening was an unconventional savoury blue cheese cheesecake to pair with the two Meritage blends ‘Red Icon’ 2007 and 2008. The walnut crusted cheesecake initially confused the palate but along with the accompanying red wine pear compote it paired quite well with the rich red wine. The 2007 Red Icon also received a Lt. Governor’s Award, but I managed to acquire one bottle before it sold out. The 2008 is unique in that it doesn’t include any Cabernet Sauvignon, and significantly more Petit Verdot than one would expect (20%). Both wines have particularly complex aromas within which you can almost smell the different components intertwining. On its own the 2008 showed its elegance more so, with youthful but promising tannin structure and sweet berry flavours. Until John starts producing dessert wines it seems the Red Icon can show quite well even with the “dessert course”!


My big thanks go out to the BCWAS Executive for their hard work in organizing the dinner, and to Raincity Grill and Chef Peters for excellent service and delicious food. Lastly, thank you to John Skinner for sharing his wines, his time, and his enthusiasm with us all!

Monday 23 May 2011

May Wine Club: Blind Tasting

This month’s “wine club” dinner included a blind tasting to compare a unique Canadian varietal wine against its Old-world counterpart, plus a tree-fruit dessert wine from the beautiful Naramata bench.


The evening started with a delicious appetizer course of puffed pastry vegetable tarts topped with ricotta cheese. The wine pairing came from celebrated Okanagan Falls winery Blue Mountain – their 2007 “Stripe Label” Chardonnay. Blue Mountain eschews the term “Reserve”, in favour of the Stripe Labels affixed to their selected lot wines; as John Schreiner explains: “the word ‘reserve’ had become meaningless”. With many mediocre, cheap wines from around the world labelled “Reserve” the stripe label is used instead to designate an extra special wine at Blue Mountain. The Chardonnay we enjoyed came from an excellent vintage, with a light, tropical nose and very well balanced use of oak (it is only 50% barrel fermented). The toasty aromas and creamy mouthfeel associated with some Chardonnays were not present, but we agreed that the vinegar and cumin in the tarts may have unduly influenced the experience. I think this wine likely could have benefited from more time in the cellar to further mature; I have a bottle in my own collection that I’ll probably open this winter (although I’m sure it could last longer).


Our dinner entree was a very appetizing “deluxe” mac & cheese, containing Fontina, Gruyere, Parmigiano, and Pecorino! Baked to a crispy finish in the oven and served with a fresh mixed green side salad it was something anyone could agree with!


For our dinner drinks we were presented with two bottles wrapped in paper, with the forewarning that one was from British Columbia, while the other came from overseas; gasp! The first bottle was a marvel of sweet earthiness, with very smooth tannins plus vanilla and caramel notes that lingered on the palate. Aromas of cherries, berries, and currants were detected, and a very slight brown tint suggested a somewhat mature wine. In comparison, the second wine showed relatively more acidity and a shorter finish, with suggested aromas of walnuts and cotton candy, among others. Being more fruit forward, we felt it would befit a spicy tomato dish more so than the cheesy pasta we were enjoying. We were left to guess which wine came from local grapes, and which had travelled from afar – I crossed my fingers for the heavily favoured first bottle! Our host hinted at an Italian varietal and my mind went immediately to Sangiovese or Barbera, knowing their position in Kelowna winery Sandhill’s Small Lots portfolio. I was rewarded when the reveal showed our favourite as the Sandhill 2007 Small Lots Barbera! Given its apparent maturity we were all surprised that the the other wine – an Italian original – was actually from an earlier vintage year. The consensus around the table was that a few more bottles of Sandhill Barbera would be a wise purchase for all of us, and fortunately it still shows up on some store shelves, despite only 270 cases produced. Keep in mind that this is the Okanagan’s only Barbera, so don’t pass up a chance to try a very rare and unique wine!


Our dessert course was something my wife had thought of a few weeks ago – ice cream sandwiches! Of course they would have been even better had the weather cooperated with a bit more warmth, but we didn’t want to wait until August, when we are next scheduled to bring dessert. I had been eyeing the Elephant Island Stellaport for a while and this seemed like a pairing that could work well. Stellaport is a Port-style wine made with Stella cherries, produced using the solera style, resulting in the latest release including eight different vintages from 2001-2008. The beautiful bottle is printed with headlines from each of the years that comprise the blend; it’s quite a keepsake.


Premium organic chocolate ice cream was complemented by some giant chocolate cookies I made that very morning, which included chopped pecans, chocolate chips, and dried organic cherries. The cookies were soft, so as to avoid the dreaded ice-cream-squeeze-out that can occur when biting into a sandwich made with dense, crisp cookies. The finished product was a thing of beauty, I won’t deny it, but the wine was no slouch either: rich and chocolatey, with noticeable cherry notes that reminded you it wasn’t a grape wine. On the nose we found savoury elements that reminded some of curry powder, with a spicy finish that suggested it might actually pair well with Indian food, believe it or not! Although some of us couldn’t manage to finish the enormous ice cream sandwiches (I won’t name names to spare them the shame), we finished the Stellaport handily!

Saturday 21 May 2011

“Bloom” BC VQA Spring Release

Tuesday was the BC VQA Spring Release Tasting event – “Bloom” – and I was honoured to be invited to sample the many wonderful new wines coming out from over 50 of BC’s top VQA wineries, over 200 wines in fact (I did NOT taste them all)! It was a two and a half hour whirlwind, but I went into it prepared, with several wineries from which I definitely wanted to sample; having at least a semblance of a game-plan is eminently helpful at events like this! The BC Wine Institute had prepared a very helpful booklet listing the many wines being poured, but as is common at large tastings some of them weren’t present for various reasons, while many unexpected gems were present in addition. My notes on a few of the interesting and unique wines are below, plus some other tidbits of winery news:

CedarCreek: One of the top new releases from this Kelowna-area winery is their 2010 Riesling, winner of Best of Varietal at the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival. It’s a very refreshing summer wine, with loads of lime flavours that will be quite enjoyable in the warm weather that’s coming. I’m pleased to be getting two bottles as part of my first CedarCreek Platinum Club case next month! I also tried out the new 2010 Pinot Noir Rosé, CedarCreek’s first foray into Rosé. Pinot Noir Rosé is relatively common here in BC – mainly because it works quite well, ensuring tasty strawberry flavours and food-friendly acidity.

Church & State: Having recently opened their Okanagan winery (in addition to their original Vancouver Island location), Church & State also celebrated the third vintage of their top Bordeaux-blend “Quintessential”. Although not a new release for summer, the 2007 Quintessential was present for tasting, alongside the less expensive Meritage. Quintessential 2006  was awarded Best Red Wine of the Year in the 2010 All Canadian Wine Championships, and just this week the 2007 vintage received a Gold medal at the 2011 ACWCs. It is a fairly meaty, chewy big red, whilst the 2007 Meritage is more approachable at present, with a more expressive nose in fact, and a slightly thinner texture. It was entertaining and enlightening to taste both wines against each other!

Painted Rock: I stopped by to see John Skinner, proprietor of this popular new winery, and let him know how excited I am to be attending next week’s BC Wine Appreciation Society Painted Rock dinner. We talked about the challenges he is facing with relatively limited production and simultaneous high demand for his superb wines, like the new Red Icon 2008, follow-up to last year’s Lt. Governor’s Award Winner. If you are lucky enough to find any Painted Rock wines at VQA stores for winery pricing don’t dawdle, or you may miss the boat like I did with the first release of the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (another Lt. Governor’s Award winner).

Fort Berens: The pioneering Lillooet winery run by Rolf de Bruin and his wife has already established itself with some impressive award-winning wines made from Okanagan grapes (while their own vineyards mature for the 2011 harvest). I tried a delicious vanilla, buttery Chardonnay from 2009 and an amazingly expressive Pinot Gris from the 2010 vintage, with aromas that leapt out of the glass. Rolf’s 2009 Meritage was surprisingly smooth and silky for such a young wine, and he recalled with glee the gold medal received for the 2008 release at the New World International Wine Competition – the only Canadian wine to win gold in that category! Lastly, also present was a unique Petit Verdot-based Rosé from 2009: I’d love to try a tasting of this alongside a few other unique offerings such as River Stone’s Malbec Rosé, La Stella’s Merlot Rosé, Tinhorn Creek’s Cabernet Franc Rosé, and Stag’s Hollow’s Syrah Rosé.

Fairview Cellars: A bit of a grab bag of wines from Bill Eggert’s Golden Mile winery, due to some confusion about dates – leading to a mad dash through the warehouse the morning of, followed by a five-hour drive to Vancouver to set up for “Bloom” at 2pm! The results meant there actually weren’t any of the new Spring 2011 releases available to taste, but I thoroughly enjoyed the previous vintages! The 2009 Sauvignon Blanc (all 190 cases of the 2010 are sold out anyway) was a awash in gorgeous grapefruit, and can actually still be found in some private stores. Bill’s remaining wines are all reds, and both Meritage blends Madcap Red (2008) and Two Hoots (2008) were deliciously smooth; the Madcap being more Merlot-heavy, while the Two Hoots favours Cabernet Sauvignon. I also got to hear about the upcoming special release Cabernet Sauvignon “The Wrath”, which I’m looking forward to as excitedly as is Liam Carrier from Icon Wines, who enjoyed an early barrel sample last fall!

Laughing Stock: New wines from this Naramata winery include white and red “Blind Trusts”, blends for which the exact components are hidden beneath the capsule to allow for a little guessing fun. The current release Blind Trust White 2010 has some really nice tropical notes, while the upcoming Blind Trust Red 2009 continues a fine tradition of fruit-forward approachability. Spoiler alert: this year Blind Trust Red is mostly Merlot (70%), with 22% Cabernet Sauvignon and just a bit of Malbec (8%). Laughing Stock’s 2009 Chardonnay was also present, and impressive with toasty aromas and buttered popcorn flavours showing deft use of oak; it received a Bronze medal in last year’s Canadian Wine Awards.

8th Generation: The new 2010 Pinot Meunier Rosé is very tasty, and continues the rich tradition of excellence with this wine; it’s a must-have summer Rosé for me every year. Also available was the newly-bottled “Integrity” Frizzante, a follow-up to last year’s gorgeous Chardonnay Frizzante, renamed in part due to the inclusion of some Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc for 2010. I think the inclusion of Pinot Gris in particular changes the experience: it seems to have more mousse than last year, and isn’t quite as crisp and mouth-watering. I do however look forward to trying a full bottle later this summer in a different context to see how it develops given a little time to come into itself.

Summerhill: I didn’t get a chance to try any of Summerhill’s new wines, but instead I took note of their new upcoming packaging venture, in the form of a 3L bag-in-box. They will be releasing various wines in these boxes later this year, with some excellent deals to be had as a result; for example, their deliciously rich Organic Merlot at $80/box vs. $30/bottle – you’re getting more than a bottles-worth for free!

I’m looking forward to seeing many of these wines in stores big and small over the coming months. It should be another great summer for BC wine, so get out there and enjoy some!

Friday 13 May 2011

Tinhorn Creek Aging Seminar

Last month I received my first shipment of wines as part of Tinhorn Creek’s Crush Club – a mixed half-case of new Summer wines – and I have now discovered some of the other benefits to the Club: “Member Only” events! Members recently received an invitation to join Owner/Winemaker Sandra Oldfield at Goldfish Kitchen in Vancouver for a Cellaring & Aging Seminar featuring old and new vintages of Tinhorn Creek wines. My wife and I were very happy to attend and get the chance to sample past vintages we’ve never tasted, and to hear Sandra reflect on how her wines have changed over time.


Laid out before us were four very different Tinhorn Creek wines, spanning several unique vintages: Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Kerner Icewine. For each wine two vintages were presented, separated by 4-5 years, but from the same vineyard blocks, as Sandra was careful to point out. Tinhorn’s cellaring strategy is to hold back 10 cases of each red wine and 4 cases of each white wine every vintage for research purposes; plus they can host special events such as this! (The winery’s recently opened Miradoro Restaurant is also significantly benefitting from the ability to serve library wines.)

Gewurztraminer: 2010 vs. 2006

The newly released 2010 Gewurztraminer is beautifully perfumed with classic floral notes. It has generous residual sugar at a listed 11.3g/L but that seemed like just the right amount upon tasting. On the palate we noticed fresh green apple crispness and tropical notes that will be enjoyable in Summer, should it ever arrive. The four year-old 2006 vintage was dramatically different, having lost the fresh perfume found in newer releases. We also noticed that the colour of the 2006 wine had become darker – more golden in tone as it has aged. Sandra mentioned that even older vintages of this same wine are available in Miradoro, and that over time the wine takes on surprising green notes (think mint and green beans) which defy categorization. These older vintages are not bad, per se, but almost indistinguishable as Gewurztraminer.

Cabernet Franc: 2008 vs. 2003

Tinhorn Creek takes pride in producing a relatively rare varietal Cabernet Franc, which Sandra feels really benefits from the South Okanagan terrior. The newest release, which came out last year, is from the 2008 vintage and is pitched by Tinhorn as a superb pairing for winter comfort foods (lasagne, chili, mac & cheese) and summer barbecue. We recently enjoyed a bottle with (veggie) burgers and fries, and loved the bright red fruit and fresh acidity. Some critics agree that it’s ready to drink now but others feel it could benefit from additional aging: it all depends on how you plan to use it I think. On the other hand, the 2003 vintage is the kind of wine you can – and probably should – drink on its own. It has darkened in colour over time and seems more toasty and earthy on the nose, but the tannins and acidity are still present, making it a very enjoyable mature wine. I still have to say I prefer the 2008, given its versatility and almost refreshing characteristics, but it is great to know this Cabernet Franc can age gracefully like other reds which often get more credit – I’m looking at you Cabernet Sauvignon.

Merlot (Oldfield’s Series): 2007 vs. 2003

The Reserve Series Merlot at Tinhorn Creek is named after Sandra, and she begrudgingly reminded us of the days when each bottle label proudly depicted a cartoon version of her face! The new 2007 vintage (revised to read Oldfield’s Series rather than the older Oldfield’s Collection; for marketing reasons) was also released last year, to very positive reviews, helped along no doubt by the extensive and patient bottle-aging (15 months). It is a warm and spicy wine, with many years still ahead of it, especially given the secure Stelvin screwtop closure. The older 2003 vintage showed similar characteristics, but in a more mature way; the kind of wine you could enjoy sitting by the fire, as my wife put it. The acidity is still showing well, and I think the inclusion of 13% Cabernet Franc (and 1% Syrah) will help maintain the complexity over time. (The 2007 contains 5% Cabernet Franc and 3% Syrah.) Tinhorn Creek is currently selling a very attractive six-bottle vertical of Oldfield’s Merlot in a custom wooden crate for collectors: you could drink the 2001 now and replace it with a 2007 – and so on each year – to keep the vertical intact indefinitely!

Kerner Icewine: 2009 vs. 2005

I have very little experience with icewine, finding it challenging to convince myself to spend twice as much as a very good bottle of table wine for half the quantity (e.g., 375ml)! However, it can be a vibrant sensory experience worth trying every once in a while, as I discovered through Tinhorn’s Kerner icewine. The wine comes in a rather petite 200ml bottle but at least it retails for only $30, leaving you with money left in your pocket for some cheese and fruit for accompaniment. The newest release comes from the 2009 vintage, which experienced a very cold harvest, leading to a fairly sugary icewine (280 g/L) in which you can actually smell the sweetness! Although slightly syrupy the naturally high acidity keeps the wine very palatable, and the incredibly fresh fruit flavours blew me away. In contrast, the 2005 wine is very different, having begun with lower residual sugar (due to somewhat warmer temperatures during harvest), and having experienced a few years of aging. Assuming you are willing to brave the risks of cork taint icewine can age for decades; Sandra explained how it can take on caramel, nutty notes over time – a bit like a Sherry – as the golden-hued 2005 was beginning to exhibit. Although the 2009 seemed like it could help along a bowl of fresh fruit, the 2005 was much more of a solo sipper with which to end the night. Sandra asked us how we felt about receiving a bottle of icewine (versus a larger bottle of table wine) in our annual allotment and I have to say after this tasting I’m happy to accept it!

Following the tasting we enjoyed some socialization and further samples of Tinhorn’s new releases, including the very rare and very tasty Cabernet Franc Rosé, available exclusively to Crush Club members and at the Miradoro Restaurant! Delicious canapés by the talented chefs at Goldfish Kitchen paired nicely with the Rosé and other wines, including the 2Bench White – a complex blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and other grape varieties. I especially enjoyed speaking with Donna-Lee Arnold, the new Crush Club Coordinator, about her recent entry into the wine world following a career in commercial banking – she’s picking up the lingo at a fast pace! The whole evening was very informative and enjoyable; Tinhorn Creek certainly knows how to make their fans feel special!

Monday 9 May 2011

Mission Hill Blind Tasting

A few months ago I took note of several Mission Hill Reserve tier wines in my cellar, and realized that with just a few more I would have the entire series of varietals: thus an idea was born. Inspired by a tasting of the entire Tinhorn Creek portfolio I had attended some time ago, I hoped that with some searching and sleuthing I could facilitate a similar event at home: a blind tasting of every varietal from the same tier of wines from a single producer. I eventually got my hands on the elusive Viognier and Pinot Blanc, and before I knew it the collection was complete. I invited a few interested friends and we made a night of it, with some surprising results, and an even greater appreciation for the intricacies of winemaking!


I opened and bagged all the wines, pleased that none appeared corked, then randomly sorted them and assigned each a letter designation for note-taking. The overall goal was to see how accurate we could be as a group in discerning the varietals, but also to better appreciate the unique characteristics of each wine without nearly as many preconceived notions as would exist in a fully labelled environment. We began with six whites, and finished with the four reds, ironically in a very sensible order despite the randomization, as detailed below.

Mission Hill Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (2009): This first wine gave itself away rather quickly with some classic Sauvignon Blanc aromas, although the typical grassy, grapefruit characteristics were much more subdued than in other varietals of this type. I found it quite pleasantly floral, and very approachable – a wine for fans like my wife who tend to shy away from this grape.

Mission Hill Reserve Viognier (2008): Our initial confidence following the Sauvignon Blanc was dashed by this wine, which many mistook for Pinot Gris – having had little experience with single varietal Viognier. We all liked it quite a bit, and enjoyed the floral aromas and ripe pineapple on the palate.

Mission Hill Reserve Riesling (2009): Had the unique bottle size not given this one away relatively easily the initial nose would have done the trick with one sniff. Classic Riesling diesel aromas were present in mild to moderate amounts, although by no means as powerful as some other BC Rieslings I have tasted. The crisp acidity ensured a long finish and satisfied nods from the crowd.

Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay (2007): Our confidence increased with this one as most felt it was easy to call it Chardonnay given the golden colour and toasty, popcorn aromas. It was tasty and buttery on the palate with nicely balanced use of oak. The current release of this wine comes from the 2009 vintage, and I’m told the winemaking style has changed over time to yield a more fruit-forward, tropical flavour profile in newer vintages. I’m sure the newest version will be equally delicious, just in a different way.

Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Blanc (2008): Definitely the dark horse in the competition – many of us had little experience with single varietal Pinot Blanc, as it is often primarily featured in blends. The tropical notes had us guessing at Viognier, and many accolades followed; this was probably the favourite wine of the night, especially once its true identity had been revealed to surprise us. Our experience led us to suggest a pure Pinot Blanc tasting may be necessary in the near future to gain a greater appreciation for how this versatile grape can express itself in British Columbia.

Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Gris (2008): The final white was unfortunately the least favourite, and many felt guilty guessing it was Pinot Blanc only to learn it was Gris instead. It was by no means bad, but seemed slightly over-oaked and austere, without many unique characteristics standing out beyond that. The newer 2009 vintage is only 7% fermented in oak, as opposed to the 17% found herein; I would like to try it relatively soon while the memory of this one is still fresh in order to give this wine a second chance to impress.

Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Noir (2008): Although fairly dark in colour it was still obviously a Pinot Noir, with classic berry and somewhat earthy characteristics. The raspberry and strawberry aromas were enjoyable and the consensus was quite positive.

Mission Hill Reserve Shiraz (2007): Some of us mistook this Shiraz for Merlot after tasting through the final reds, as it was actually very mellow and round. It was delicious overall, juicy and quite well balanced and structured, but got overshadowed in some respects by the Merlot that followed.

Mission Hill Reserve Merlot (2007): The Merlot that masqueraded as a Shiraz, with lots more pepper on the palate than expected. Surprisingly, this is the only one of these reds still available, as all the rest have moved on to subsequent vintages. I would love to try this one again with some rich food to complement its power.

Mission Hill Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (2007): Being ten bottles in at this point, our notes began to degrade, but I can remember this last wine being all-around good without recalling many specifics. It was probably the most elegant of the reds, and really represents good value for this difficult-to-ripen (in BC) variety. With price coming in at only $22 I’m encouraged to seek out what remains of this vintage – and to try the 2008 – to have on hand as a house Cabernet.


Ultimately the group settled on some consensual favourites: the Viognier and Pinot Blanc in particular were well loved, and the Merlot won a very close-knit race amongst the reds, with which we could find fault in none. With the exception of a rare stumble by the Pinot Gris the whole line-up was judged to be of consistent quality and satisfaction. It’s worth noting that every white in the Reserve tier comes in under $20, and the reds range from $22-$25; all represent good value and solid dependability. Barring major changes in winemaking style I would feel relatively confident picking up any of these wines from future vintages without second thoughts. Bravo Mission Hill!