With the approaching Wine Bloggers’ Conference (June 6th-8th in Penticton) eager participants have been wondering what it’ll be like in British Columbia’s wine country. With such a short period of time I am hoping visitors leave a bit of room to explore other wineries that aren’t on the WBC’s immediate list. One of these is Mission Hill Winery and the offered wine tours are those of legend.
For $20 CAD their knowledgeable tour guides will take you on an excursion of the grounds. This includes the lush vineyards where they explain the terroir, the finicky Pinot Noir grapes that they expertly produce creating award winning wine, and talk about the history of the impressive old world basilica-like architecture. The elegant structure is a marvel within Canada but the fact that it is built upon an extinct volcano, sits along Lake Okanagan and is a meeting place for Canada’s only desert and classic BC mountains – it’s nothing short of the Olympus of wineries.
After a tour of the grounds you also explore the interior and this is where you actually taste the wine. In a warm elegant room with a stone fire place, probably turned off depending on what time of year it is, and a sturdy rustic wooden table the group of 10-25 gather. Mouths watering with anticipation, the guides teach to smell and understand the fragrances. They teach you to taste and know what you are tasting is the direct result of the cooling mountain air, the warm desert heat and the salty sweet Lake Okanagan breezes. As for the soil and terroir it is to each his/her own to decipher what rich mythological tastes it brings to the palate.
But what makes this wine tour of legendary quality is not only the unique atmosphere in which the grapes grow but in which they are aged. The most exciting part of this tour isn’t the tasting believe it or not – it’s the underground cellar.
Blasted into ancient volcanic rock, this cellar has walls of jagged hardened ash and mold. Rows of Mission Hill’s future wines in French made barrels creating pews and multiple naves of fermenting gold.
But to the far right there is a side chapel which holds many valuable wines of prestige – some of the world’s best – where the proprietor, Anthony Von Mandl, only opens when seeking to test his own wines against the best. Within this chapel are also 18 antique/ancient wine decanters and vessels on display upon the volcanic wall (as shown below).
As I have cheered with my pompoms of dangling vines (the handles made of wine bottle necks), the Okanagan is a worthy rival of Napa and Tuscany but Mission Hill Winery was the one that gave it an edge.
Have you been on a wine tour?
Where & what did you learn?