Wine Review: 2010 Prospect Winery Major Allan Merlot

3 10 2012

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

Prospect Winery, colour me impressed…again.

After being quite pleasantly shocked by the first bottle of red wine that the Prospect Winery sent my way (the 2009 Red Willow Shiraz, written up here), I opened the second and final red they had provided last night thinking that it was fighting against a strong precedent.  I wasn’t heading into this bottle with the lowered expectations with which I had traditionally approached inexpensive Canadian wine; instead, after Prospect’s dynamic Shiraz, I was looking for big things, at least as far as sub-$20 BC Merlot goes.  And while I’m still trying to figure out whether I was satisfied or disappointed with the outcome, I continue to be refreshed and enthused by the fact that I’m starting to approach my own country’s wines with something resembling optimism…because of that alone, Prospect Winery has already succeeded in its mission to showcase the various varietals of the Okanagan in an affordable way.

Since I covered the winery’s corporate ancestral lineage in detail in my previous PW post, I won’t rehash it here other than to say that the Prospect lineup is part of the Mission Hill family once removed, with its own winemaker and plans to create a stand-alone winery.  Of the various brands falling under the umbrella of MH affiliate Artisan Wine Co., it may be the one with the brightest prospects (pun only half intended), putting out dependable, varietally-correct wines at very reasonable prices.  Each of Prospect’s bottlings is named for a different ecological or historical feature of the Okanagan Valley; the Major Allan Merlot is an homage to Allan Brooks, a prolific wildlife artist whose wildlife paintings are known across North America (and on this bottle’s label, which showcases one of them).  I was particularly interested to try this wine, because, as far as I could tell, unlike many of Prospect’s other offerings, the Major Allan is not currently available in Alberta.  In other words, unless my research is wrong, my home province may just have to take my word for this.

Stelvin Rating: 1.5/10 (Half-point deduction between this and my last Prospect review because I knew how boring a cap to expect this time.)

The 2010 vintage in the Okanagan was a bit of a climatic rollercoaster.  The growing season started very mildly in February/March, followed by an unseasonably cool April/May, tremendous heat through July/August, a wet and cooler-than-usual September and a hot, dry October.  As a result of the up-and-down conditions, harvest was later than usual, but there was enough heat and sun spread out among the peaks and valleys to get the grapes sufficiently ripe.  Prospect’s 2010 Merlot reflected the variability of the vintage weather in its colour:  instead of being deep, full and dark, the wine was a translucent medium ruby-purple hue that you could see through almost all the way to the core, an almost delicate colouring that you would not see in Merlots from warmer climates and one that suggested a lighter, racier expression of the grape.  It had a subtle, slightly muted nose of dark red fruit (raspberry, grape) and cedar supported by hints of pomegranate, anise and pepper, all of which were painted with a deft brush rather than being blocky and overt.  Running throughout the palate, and reaffirming the difference between this bottle and a similarly priced Merlot from California or Australia, was the clear sharp, tangy bite of rhubarb, which lent a bright, almost citric herbaceous streak to the more common Merlot flavours of juicy plum, cranberry and dark chocolate.  Despite coming from one of the bigger red grapes (flavour/body-wise), the Major Allan was light on its feet, with a medium body, prominent acidity and fairly quiet levels of chalky tannin on the back end.  While clearly not a heavier style of Merlot, and despite its rhubarb/citrus flavour components, the wine didn’t come across as green or underripe — it’s just a brighter, more agile expression of what is usually a soft, plush, fireside sort of grape.

This wasn’t quite the revelation in value Canadian wine that Prospect’s Red Willow Shiraz was, but to be fair, it’s also not as expensive, priced to fall into the $10-$15 price range rather than the Red Willow’s $15-$20.  Before this wine, I would have found it a challenge to put the words “Canadian”, “Merlot” and “$14” together without the accompanying adjectives “horrible” and “are you sure?”, so it gets full credit for putting together an interesting and highly palatable version of this warm-climate grape at an entry-level price point.  It also tosses in a bit of verve that is missing from most mass-produced Merlot. If this makes sense, I like Prospect Winery’s winemaking attitude, and I like the way they approach their product.  Two for two.

86 points

$10 to $15 CDN

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