Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mission Hill Wines from 1981 (British Columbia)

You did not read the title wrong, yes it does say 1981, 28 years ago. Last night I decided to step back in time and open a couple of bottles that a fellow wine writer passed on to me from his collection. He just so happened to have a few bottles of a Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon made at Mission Hill Vineyards in the Okanagan. Interesting thing about these wines is, they are not made with BC fruit, they are actually made with foreign fruit - althought that is not indicated anywhere on the bottle's label. The Private Reserve Pinot Noir was made using grapes from Oregon, while the Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was from Washington grapes. So now that the real origin of the wine has been disclosed let me tell you how they smelled and tasted after all this time. If I was going to to give you the Reader's Digest version it would be something like this: "not bad at all". For those willing to go a little more indepth with me on this one, read on.

I opened the Pinot Noir first, it was obviously old with a brown colour and dried blackberries, cherries and some raisining on the nose; but in the mouth it was surprisingly alive with hints of spice and a raisin in the sun quality. The wine headed south fast, within about half an hour the wine had become more oxidized and older in both flavour and smell, but the initial surprise of this wine was how alive it was at first, and how it carried on for as long as it did.

The Cabernet Sauvignon was a bit more complex. The colour was almost the same as the Pinot, maybe a touch darker, but not by much. The nose had a hint of mint on it, which combined pleasantly with some tea leaf aromas. Over the course of the next hour the wine changed from tea to licorice to a mocha-coffee smell and finally to something more akin to dried leaves and foresty smells. While the nose was impressive for its age the palate was less forgiving. The wine started off well with dried black fruit and tea tastes, the mid-palate was of most interest with that taste you get from sweet dried fruit snacks: the taste had turned old much sooner than the nose, which is something I found surprising. This truly was an interesting piece of British Columbia wine history.

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