History has a way of repeating itself.
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard that Mission Hill Family Estate Martin's Lane Pinot Noir 2011 scooped top honours for the World's Best Pinot Noir in the under 15 pounds category at the Decanter World Wine Awards in London, England.
I couldn't help but think back to 1994 when, fresh off the boat from New Zealand, Mission Hill winemaker John Simes brought home Best Chardonnay in the World from the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London. At that time, not only did most of the judges not even know where the Okanagan Valley was, they demanded a re-taste to
make sure they'd been poured the right wine.
Suffice it to say the wine world now knows very well where the Okanagan is these days: no re-tastes this time. Celebrated British wine critic Stephen Spurrier (of Judgement of Paris and, more recently, Bottle Shock, fame) proclaimed: "This is a groundbreaking achievement for Mission Hill. To receive an award at this level is quite an achievement and an important recognition for the quality of Pinot Noir produced in British Colombia's Okanagan Valley."
Mission Hill proprietor Anthony Von Mandl agreed: "I am still in awe that a wine from the still emerging Okanagan Valley could win against the best Pinot Noir in the world from Burgundy, Sonoma Country, Oregon, and New Zealand. This is a seminal moment for the entire Canadian wine industry."
It's also testament to the winery's very focused Pinot Noir program, which has been placing special emphasis on the varietal.
Kudos to Mission Hill for another spectacular milestone. However, my hunch is that you won't find much of this wine around, as only about 480 cases were made.
There's also another more nuanced reason why it's good to see the Okanagan again thrust into the international spotlight. Behind the scenes in the valley there's ongoing spirited discussion (in some cases outright disagreement) about how and when the valley should move to a more precise appellation system.
If Canada truly wants to be taken seriously on the world stage, there's no time like the present.
The Hired Belly recently sleuthed out a new crop of good value wines. Here's a few to pin to the fridge for the next time you're in a wallet-conscious mood.
Painted Wolf "The Den" Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: Easy-drinking Cab from The Cape's Swartland region sports cassis and vanilla notes wrapped in easy tannins and juicy acidity (89 points, BCLS $14.99)
Vina Falernia Carmenere Reserva 2011 (Elqui): From high-altitude vineyards on one of Chile's northernmost estates, generous cassis aromas followed by spicy mocha and black fruit on a wellrounded palate with supple tannins and lengthy end. Think barbecued anything (90 points, BCLS $17.99).
Cristalino Jaume Serra Reserva Brut Nature: Here's a great value sparkler that tastes a lot more than its $14-$16 price tag. Hints of brioche on top followed by definite toasty notes on the apple and pear palate with good texture and a crisp, clean finish(89 points, Everything Wine).
Tim Pawsey covers food and wine for numerous publications and online as the Hired Belly at hiredbelly.com. Contact: rebelmouse.com/hiredbelly, on Twitter @hiredbelly or email email@example.com.
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