Trailblazers: Four Outstanding Wineries in British Columbia, Leading the Way to Incredibly Elegant and Terrior Focused Wines
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Trailblazers: Four Outstanding Wineries in British Columbia, Leading the Way to Incredibly Elegant and Terrior Focused Wines

Not long ago I was fortunate enough to attend a tasting with Mark Anthony Wine and Spirits, in which the theme was entitled: Trailblazers of Osoyoos and Okanagan Valley – a tasting presented by the 4 winemakers of Anthony von Mandl’s wineries;  Taylor Whelan of Cedar Creek, Darryl Brooker of Mission Hill Family Estate, Phil McGahan of Checkmate and Shane Munn of Martin’s Lane Winery.

A trailblazer is a pioneer of sorts: a risk taker and innovator who clears a path, leading into the unknown. In the case of Anthony Von Mandl, this would be the pursuit of exceptional and quality driven wine in the Okanagan Valley.

Anthony von Mandl was born in Vancouver to European parents and grew up with a strong passion and appreciation for art, food and wine.  Graduating with a degree in Economics from the University of Vancouver, he decided to pursue the endeavor of making wine in (at the time unknown) Okanagan Valley.

Ambitious, clever, and relentless, he along with his partners built Mission Hill Winery which is now one of the most important and quality driven wineries in the country. When preparedness meets opportunity, success is the only result and since then Von Mandel is also the proprietor of Cedar Creek, Checkmate, and Martin’s Lane Winery – producing artisanal, small batch, and high quality wines.  The 4 wineries indeed make some wines that are small in terms of production, attached with premium price tags.

A wine colleague once said to me, “In reality, no wine should ever cost more than thirty dollars.  Anything more than that is the result of the cost of marketing.”  With all due respect and love to my friend, I respectfully disagree.  There are a thousand different interrelated factors that go into the production and cost of a wine.  Whether we can afford them is another story, but beauty and appreciation is the eye (and wallet) of the beholder.

The Trailblazer’s  focus is to make exciting, elegant wines representative of the place they come from.   Von Mandl’s success with his other projects ( Mission Hill, Mark Anthony Group, Mike’s Hard Lemonade…the list goes on)  has allowed him to build something truly special in the Okanagan with the wineries listed above.   In this four-part series of articles, let’s take a closer look at each of them, as we can surely tend more focus and appreciation to the quality and elegance of these beautiful wines from British Columbia.




Martin Lane’s Winery

Production: 3000 cases (12 btls)

Grapes: Approx. 70% Pinot Noir 30% Riesling

(Eventually Pinot Noir will increase to 90% and Riesling 10%)

Vines: Approx. 10 – 40 years old, producing very low, concentrated yields.

Winemaker: Shayne Munn

Only two varieties are produced here: Pinot Noir and Riesling, and by God, is Shayne Munn ever making them shine.  All grapes are farmed organically, and with low to minimal interventional winemaking.  There are only 4 plots, all of which are vinified and bottled separately.  Everything is hand harvested, and even single bunches are picked at optimal conditions. This is time consuming and back breaking work, but these wines have clear focus and elegance for it.  From the breath-taking architecture of the winery, to the wine labels and individual cork taint testing, everything has a purpose.   The attention paid to every minute detail from start to finish is impressive.

The winery is not open to the public, but occasionally accepts small group tastings with advanced booking.   For now, to buy wine, you must be a club member and wait for their release offers. Otherwise, in Quebec, these wines are available by private Import in small amounts, or can be enjoyed at any of the following establishments:

Tasting Notes

Naramata Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014

IP: 13713384  $100.00

Spontaneous yeast fermentation, no filtration and 17 months on tight grained French oak, this is their inaugural vintage.

 The wine starts with lots of savoury cherry, strawberries, wild blueberries and crunchy fresh red current. The acidity is clean and refreshing, that carries that fruit and well integrated oak. The tannin structure is fine and adds a bit of depth and texture that lasts right up to the long, and concentrated finish. This wine is light and pure on the palate, but packs a whole lots crunchy, red fruit flavour along with a mineral, earthy streak for added complexity and definition. Joyous wine.

Simes Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014

IP: 13713405  $100.00

This wine has a mix of 2 Pinot Noir clones, which are picked two weeks apart and aged in French oak for about 17 months.

The ripe cherry, strawberry and cranberry fruit is dancing all over the palate while the acidity plays its role in keeping the fruit fresh and delicious. Tannins here are very fine grained, but persistent and almost slatey.  The very fresh finish, which is very plush and intense, leaves notes of raspberries and violets. These flavours do a re-play long after the sip is gone.  Balance, purity and elegance come to mind when you drink think this. Outstanding.

Fritzi’s Vineyard Riesling 2014

IP: 13713376  $75.00

Spontaneous yeast fermentation with 6 months lees aging.

Tangy. Luscious. Bright.  All these words come to mind as the citrus and stone fruit develop on the palate.  Candied lemon, lime, ripe apricot and peach are bursting here as the vivacious acidity and mineral saline notes make its presence. There is spice, there is mango, there is honey. Its super fresh and incredibly refined.  It has a very long, concentrated and satisfying finish.

Simes Vineyard Riesling 2015

IP:  13713421  $55.00

Spontaneous yeast fermentation with 9 months lees aging.

A great example of what Riesling can do with the right place, in the right hands. This wine is rich in fruit, yet incredibly refreshing.    It displays notes of lemon-lime, orange peel and apricot  with a saline minerality on the back palate.  The acidity is super fresh and present, and plays a balancing act with the fruit and the slight creamy mouth feel.  Bits of petrol and honey are interwoven that helps lead it to a very long and elegant, lip smacking finish.

All Photos: