[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]
It was with great sadness that I uncorked (OK, unscrewed) the last of the sample bottles that the Okanagan’s Mission Hill winery had sent my way. When MH sent me their small-batch limited edition Martin’s Lane Riesling a few weeks ago, they included with it the Riesling’s vineyard twin, the inaugural release of the Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir. This bottle of Pinot was many years in the making (the vineyard was planted in 1995), but MH held back on releasing it as a single-vineyard offering until the vines and the grapes were fully ready to show their stuff. I laid out the story behind Martin’s Lane in my Riesling review, but to quickly recap, it’s a high-quality, steeply-sloped vineyard located right by Mission Hill’s winery property just outside of Kelowna, and it’s named as a tribute to MH proprietor Anthony von Mandl’s late father Martin. Only 485 cases of this Pinot were produced, and this is the first bottle I’ve seen in this province, so unless you live near the winery, this bottle is probably hard to come by. All the more reason to enjoy it if you have it!
Colour is often simply a passing exercise for wine reviewers, but every so often a wine’s colour makes you sit up and take notice, and this was one of those wines: the Martin’s Lane Pinot was bright and rich but fully translucent, a vivid youthful purple that was deeper than many Pinots without being inky. There was similarly lots happening on the multifaceted nose, where dark cherry and cranberry fruits rubbed shoulders with subtle oak-induced aromas of bitter chocolate, cedar and charcoal, all brought together by a pervasive note of roses and an underlying herbaceousness (cut grass? asparagus?). While that might conjure up an image of a delicate, everything-in-its-place sort of red, the first sip suggested that the wine wasn’t ready to be relegated to a museum piece just yet. There was tons of verve on the palate; the Pinot came alive with jumpy acidity (so much so that it’s almost hard to keep the wine still in your mouth) and a deft, agile mouthfeel that framed surprising levels of subtle tannin, a quiet skeleton for the wine that you barely notice until you swallow and realize that your mouth is fully coated. Varietal flavours of red berry fruit were simultaneously sharpened by a prominent pomegranate/citrus zing and quieted by a pure, clean note almost like mineral water, all finishing up with an iron edge.This is certainly not a mindless fruity quaffer; it brings an interest factor that suggests that Martin’s Lane will do very well with Pinot Noir going forward, especially as the vines age and the grapes develop additional flavour and complexity. This bottle certainly has the structure and depth to handle a few more years of aging, but it’s also in a good spot for drinking right now. It’s a hard Pinot to categorize against its New World peers: it’s not ethereal like many Oregon Pinots or plump and juicy like many California Pinots, but sort of straddles the line between the two, coming across as intense yet elegant. And at a $30 price point at the winery (or so my research tells me), it’s definitely a worthwhile investment. I’m loving this single-site small-production direction that Mission Hill is travelling with some of its top sites, and I hope to see many more bottlings like this from Canada’s wine giants in the future. Bravo, Mission Hill, and thanks for the wine!
$25 to $30 CDN