If you’re one who values wine similarly to one who treasures collectible art, you then already know that, like art, the great wines of the world always have a story to tell. Sometimes the process of acquiring such a fine commodity is a story unto itself. It’s more than just what’s in the glass. Rare and iconic wines connect and forge an emotional tie with consumers and collectors. They capture our imagination.
Wine collectors usually start with icons of a region. Needless to say, iconic wines are emblematic of region, terroir, winemaker and grape. Often, these wines are already legendary, trophies per se, but can also be insider secrets. In the relatively short timeline of quality wine in British Columbia, the province has championed several iconic bottles, perhaps none more prestigious than those that comprise the Legacy Collection from Mission Hill Family Estate.
The history of Mission Hill isn’t as long-stretched as, say, Lafite in Bordeaux or Stag’s Leap in California, but they’ve more than made up for it with the quality of wines that they’ve produced. The 1992 vintage of Mission Hill’s chardonnay that would go on to win the Avery Trophy for “Best Chardonnay Worldwide” was only just the beginning.
By 1997, the winery was producing Canada’s first “icon wine” – a rich, elegant and refined merlot-dominant blend that epitomized a fusion of old world and new world winemaking traditions rooted in the soils of the South Okanagan. The flagship and iconic Bordeaux-inspired ‘Oculus’ is a statement wine, representing the pinnacle of everything Mission Hill does from viticulture to winemaking. It has captured the attention of sommeliers, collectors and consumers worldwide. In short: Oculus set the stage for premium Canadian wine.
“They are lively wines that excite and bring that special character that makes you want to discover more.” – Darryl Brooker, President of Mission Hill Family Estate
The Legacy Collection is the winery’s ultimate expression of the Okanagan Valley. Grapes are hand-harvested and hand-sorted, consisting of the top one percent of the harvest from all their prized vineyards. They benefit from extended barrel aging which is followed by a 24-month period in-bottle prior to release. The wines are small lot and limited production collectibles. Cellar-worthy, you can age them for decades. The collection includes Compendium, Quatrain, Prospectus, Perpetua and, of course, Oculus – Canada’s most collected wine.
“The Legacy Collection is not just the iconic wines of Mission Hill, they are the iconic wines of the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia and Canada,” states Darryl Brooker, former winemaker for Mission Hill and now its president. “These are the best examples of (arguably) the most unique wine region in the world. They are lively wines that excite and bring that special character that makes you want to discover more.”
Australian-born, Brooker is driven by a single passion: to produce wines of incredible depth and unprecedented quality that reflect the unique terroir of the Okanagan and can stand alongside the best in the world. It’s a fervor that might as well serve as the winery’s mission statement.
“All iconic wines start in the vineyard and we meticulously selected these vineyards over 25 years ago,” says Brooker. “After decades of farming these vineyards and converting to organic viticulture, these are the most unique and sought-after vineyards in the entire country. They produce the most outstanding fruit I have ever worked with, anywhere in the world.”
Continues Brooker: “Since launching the Legacy Collection, the wines have continued to evolve every year. This evolution is natural as the vineyards are getting older and our experience is growing. However, the transition to organic viticulture has been a huge shift and we are definitely seeing the results, both in the vineyard and the winery.”
It seems that many producers are now focused on the production of an icon wine in the belief that it will help market other products in their portfolio. In Mission Hill’s case, their multiple icon wines not only define the winery’s Legacy brand, they also help to define the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, and thus Canada’s impact on the fine wine market; a legacy that the winery can surely be most proud of.
Mission Hill 2017 Oculus
Mission Hill has a vast collection of wines under its portfolio, but none are more prestigious than its flagship Oculus – a wine made with the intent to be among the world’s best. This particular vintage marks its 20th anniversary and is easily one to treasure among your most coveted bottles. Boasting a dominant percentage of merlot (49%), with equal parts cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc in support, expect layers of complex, rich flavours, including black fruits, earth, cigar box, savoury herbs and licorice. A true Bordeaux-influenced expression. ($160)
Mission Hill 2017 Compendium
A compendium is a compilation of concise items on a subject, in this case, the combination of soil, climate and grape selection to create this collector worthy wine. This one is more dominant in cabernet sauvignon (62%) and is backed with merlot (29%) and cabernet franc (9%). The wine is intense, yet graceful and incredibly balanced. Expect a fine concentration of cassis and highlights of cedar, anise and vanilla bean on the nose. The palate displays generous layers of bramble fruit and subtle nuances of white pepper. Will cellar well into the coming decade. ($80)
Mission Hill 2017 Quatrain
Quatrain is four lines of verse that the winery interprets as four varietals giving balance and structure to this wine. Made of shiraz (44%), equal parts merlot and cabernet franc, with a small amount of cabernet sauvignon, this wine is plush and very distinctive. Scents of strawberries and roses lead the way to a rich and flavourful deluge of blackberry, blueberry, spice and leather. Well structured, with fine and explicit tannins that support its long, persistent finish, this is a remarkable wine that shows distinct character from its Legacy Collection companions. ($80)
Mission Hill 2018 Prospectus
From a blend of fruit sourced from three superior vineyards within the Okanagan, this is a meticulously crafted pinot noir, superbly structured with a core of dark cherry fruit and earthy undertones. Concentrated, complex and contemplative in its persistent finish, this is among a very small handful of Canadian-made pinots worthy of “iconic” status. Enjoyable now but will undoubtedly be so much better in about five more years, as this wine is merely a budding flower, still needing to unfold. ($80)
Mission Hill 2018 Perpetua
Harvested from four individual blocks from the winery’s eastern Osoyoos and Naramata Ranch vineyard estates, this flagship chardonnay doesn’t disappoint. Its bright acids and mineral freshness are testament to the quality of the fruit that’s used for this iconic wine. Flavours of stone fruit, citrus, and flint are highlighted by a seductive texture. The harmonious integration of oak provides considerable depth and body to this wine, not to mention a slightly spicy finish. Perfectly okay to enjoy now, but will certainly develop further attributes in the coming years ahead. ($60)