Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wines of the Okanagan: A Diplomatic Overview Part 2

Part two of a British diplomat's Okanagan wine diary...

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We dedicated the next morning to the art galleries and museums of Kelowna and saw some stunning paintings and collages by the town’s children. Most impressive! Our first tasting visit of the day provided three estates for the price of one. Calona Vineyards is the oldest winery in BC and although it processes its grapes in Kelowna, many are sourced from various vineyards throughout the valley. Calona also produces Sandhill’s wines from their vines next door to Burrowing Owl’s estate. Since Andrew Peller bought both Calona and Sandhill in 2005, all three producers have showed their wines at Calona’s premises. Unfortunately the three companies did not provide separate tastings and we were required to choose just four wines from the wide range on offer. I tasted two of Peller’s – the 2007 Private Reserve Chardonnay was smooth and extremely good but the 2008 Pinot Noir was less memorable. Sandhill’s 2007 Merlot at 14.9% was excellent but its ending seemed a little harsh. Their 2007 Syrah (14.5), however, was smooth, suitably dark and very drinkable.

Mission Hill Family Estate
makes an absolute mockery of the assertion that BC wineries are small and beautiful. Mission Hill is enormous and beautiful! The estate, bought by Anthony von Mandl in 1981, is magnificent. Our arrival set the tone. It coincided with the departure of some twenty sports car saloons which had gathered for a wine-tasting rally. Not one deemed it appropriate to give way to allow us in. Fortunately a Corolla eventually did and we entered.

The path to the wine rooms is through an impressive archway from where you can see the processing buildings and an impressive clock tower with four bells which strike the hours. The long bars at either end of the huge tasting room were packed. When we finally established an inch or two of space at one of the bars we found our pourer was also operating for several other such groups.

From the vast range of Mission Hill products we were required to choose just four to taste. The first, a 2007 Five Vineyards Chardonnay I liked; Beryl didn’t. Their 2008 Pinot Grigio was very good and I bought two bottles. Their 2008 Sauvignon Blanc was OK but no more and not a match for a half-decent Marlboro. The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon was fine but needed time and a good pasta.

That night we ate at Bouchons, a French Bistro in Kelowna. Mike and Ian had the excellent Cassoulet, Brian had the Rabbit casserole with mustard and tarragon sauce and the ladies mainly had fish and a white wine. The men enjoyed a couple of bottles of Hester Creek Merlot. We planned to call at that winery later to buy some but, in the event, we were waylaid by something better!

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