KELOWNA, B.C. — It was a first for Canada at the highly-respected, U.K.-based Decanter World Wine Awards International (DWWA), when the trophy for the Best in Show Pinot Noir Under £15 ($25) was awarded to the Okanagan Valley’s Mission Hill Family Estate for its 2011 Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir (13.5 per cent).
When the blind judging results were announced to the jury, the winning vino was so unexpected that the wine was tasted again, according to Anthony von Mandl, Mission Hill proprietor. He made the comment while hosting a recent delegation of chefs and restaurateurs from Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNA).
“[The award is] making the world sit up and take notice,” wrote Tony Aspler, the Canadian wine authority, on the Decanter website. “[It’s] bright raspberry and sweet, fresh cherry nose with elegant violet. A silky palate shows ripe, juicy red fruits, dried herbs and spice.”
Situated on a hill overlooking the 120 km long Lake Okanagan, Mission Hill Winery features an eclectic collection of dramatic Greek- and Roman-styled columns. The brick structure has become “a cathedral to celebrate the fermented grape” said Aspler. “We’ve tried to change the pace of people visiting our winery,” said von Mandl. “We want to create a relaxed sense of calm — celebrating wine, food, and the arts. The venue’s seasonal Terrace Restaurant, which features wine country cooking using locally grown in-season ingredients, has been featured by Travel and Leisure magazine as one of the top five winery restaurants in the world.
Von Mandl acknowledged his winery, which overlooks rows of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, was originally modelled on the Napa Valley’s Robert Mondavi winery. “But we have evolved a distinctly different style and character. The sense of calm begins at the entrance to the walled property, with a high gate that is only wide enough for one vehicle. We want people to slow down,” von Mandl explained. Entering the immediate winery area, visitors pass under a massive concrete arch, which features four family crests on a centre stone. A large bell tower rings every 20 minutes, and elegant landscaping, with a marked presence of roses, surrounds the winery.
The original winery, largely abandoned, was acquired in 1981 with the objective of creating a destination, world-class facility producing sophisticated wines for an international audience. In 1992, New Zealander John Simes was hired as chief winemaker. The 2013 DWWA Pinot Noir Award is the result.
The award-winning limited 485-case Lane Pinot Noir production, fermented in small French oak and aged for 11 months, is available at the winery for $45.