Wine Review: 2011 Mission Hill Five Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc

5 07 2012

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

General tip: clear bottle = open soon!

You know it’s officially summer when I can sit outside on my deck and write up a review of a crisp white patio sipper.  The sun is shining, there’s a slight breeze blowing through the trees, and it’s almost-but-not-quite-scorching hot — perfect Sauvignon Blanc weather.  This is the second white I’ve written up recently from the good folks at Mission Hill — I took a look at their Reserve Riesling just over a week ago.   This bottle will be an interesting contrast, because not only are we dealing with a different grape, one with somewhat less of a track record in Canada, but we’re also taking a step down Mission Hill’s quality hierarchy to their introductory level bottlings, which retail for $15ish in Alberta.  The Five Vineyards line of MH wines are sourced from (guess how many) five different estate vineyards scattered across BC’s Okanagan Valley:  Osoyoos and Oliver in the south (just north of the Washington State border), Pinehill and Naramata slightly further north, and the aptly-named Mission Hill Road vineyard surrounding MH’s winery just outside of Kelowna in the northern part of the region.  Each vineyard features differing soils, altitudes and microclimates — Oliver and Osoyoos are near-desert conditions, while the other vineyards along the shoreline of the vast Lake Okanagan, which cools and moderates the growing temperatures — all of which makes it easier to grow grapes with a variety of different characteristics to facilitate the creation of a blended wine that is fairly consistent year over year.  I was surprised to note that the two vineyards that Mission Hill’s website mention specifically for Sauvignon Blanc production are the two hottest ones, Osoyoos and Oliver, although I would guess that some of the grapes in this bottle come from other locations as well.

The 2011 vintage in the Okanagan started slow and resulted in very late harvest dates in the fall — the Sauvignon Blanc in particular was picked in one vineyard on September 26th, Mission Hill’s latest harvest date on record.  The SB was bottled in a clear bottle, which is usually an indication from the winemaker (in non-dessert wines, at least) that the wine is meant to be drunk young and not aged:  most wine bottles are tinted green or brown to help protect the wine inside from UV light which can cause it to break down prematurely, so a bottle without that protective colouring is usually reserved for a wine that isn’t meant to be laid down for any long period of time.  Since the grapes for this wine were only harvested 9 months ago and the ’11 SB only just released to market, I felt like I was following orders by cracking it immediately.

Stelvin Rating: 0.5/10 (Even crazy post-production effects can’t make a black screwtop interesting.)

The Sauvignon Blanc was an extremely pale, totally transparent lemon colour that was almost water-white at the rim.  It wasn’t powerfully or intensely aromatic like some SBs (particularly those from New Zealand), but it also wasn’t hiding what it was on the nose, with bright cantaloupe, gooseberry and mango aromas mixing with brine and the green herbaceous notes that is often this grape’s calling card.  Dry, light and crisp on the palate, and kept in line by taut acidity, it’s the kind of white you want to drink in July under a blue sky.  The flavours are a little bit on the neutral side, pink grapefruit and lemon-lime presented in an understated fashion and overlaid with chalky minerality and a slight grassiness, mellowing out to pear-like notes on a finish that almost tastes salty.  Just like the MH Riesling I had last week, the mineral notes are more persistent and finish stronger than the fruit does.

To me, this bottle serves the same function that Pinot Grigio does but in a much more fun way (sorry, Pinot Grigio):  it’s refreshing and inoffensive, nice in the summer and without any overpowering flavours.  It doesn’t punch you in the face like NZSB often does but instead is a more subtle expression of Sauvignon Blanc, one that is likely to be less polarizing than its Southern-Hemisphere cousin.  At this price point, it’s probably unreasonable to expect layers of complexity and depth of character — this is fresh and solid and, on the deck, in the sun, it gets the job done.  I really didn’t mean to rhyme that.

85+ points

$10 to $15 CDN

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