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B.C. wine report: Duelling Chardonnays from McWatters and Culmina plus reviews for Evolve and Mission Hill

B.C. wine

By Rick VanSickle

With nearly a century of experience in the Canadian wine industry between them, it never fails to amaze me how these two legends continue to produce great wines at the highest level in this country vintage after vintage.

Harry McWatters and Donald Triggs are two of the biggest names in Canada when it comes to wine, and both have found immense success post Vincor (read more here) in the Okanagan Valley with their respective wineries and brands that they have built since the sale of their company to Constellation Brands (now Arterra) in 2006. Triggs and his family built the Culmina Family Estate Winery while McWatters and his family created Evolve Cellars, McWatters Collection and Time Winery.

Canada wine

Okanagan wine

It was fun recently to taste both McWatters’ (top) and Triggs’ (above) top Chardonnays side by side, not that they are alike, they aren’t even from the same vintage, but interesting nonetheless to see the quality both capture in their wines.

In this B.C. wine report, we taste and review of selection of wines from the McWatters Collection, Evolve Cellars, Culmina and Mission Hill’s Five Vineyards series.

McWatters Collection

McWatters Collection Chardonnay 2016 ($25, 92 points) —A more restrained style from Harry McWatters in a vintage that was harvested the earliest on record. It was barrel fermented and aged for nine months in French oak (30% new) and shows a nose pear, elegant oak spice, green apple and toasted vanilla. It is beautiful on the palate with a fresh and vibrant feel in the mouth that showcases a balanced package of pear, apple crisp, integrated oak, spice and a finessed finish. A lot of wine here for the money.

Evolve Cellars

Evolve Cellars Viognier 2016 ($17, 88 points) — The nose shows ripe apricot, honeysuckle, pear and peach with melon accents. It’s round and flavourful on the palate with a ripe tropical profile, peach and a subtle ginger note.

Evolve Cellars Elevate Cabernet Shiraz 2016 ($30, 90 points) — A highly aromatic red with notes of blackberries, currants, pepper, bramble, licorice and spices. It’s a meaty, well-structured wine on the palate with firm tannins, elevated dark fruits, spice, anise and pepper notes. Can cellar 3+ years for further integration.

Evolve Cellars Shiraz 2016 ($20, 89 points) — A deep, rich nose of jammy dark fruits, savoury spices, pepper and earth. It’s a mouth-filling wine with a full complement of cassis, currants, blueberry and spice with a plush feel on the finish.

Culmina Family Estate Winery

Culmina Dilemma 2015 ($34, 92 points) — Sourced entirely from the new Chardonnay vines planted on the estate’s Margaret’s Bench in 2011, this wine has a wonderful, rich nose of apples, vanilla toast, minerals, elegant barrel spices and underlying lemon and citrus. It is pure sophistication on the palate, a proper and graceful Chardonnay with a sense of place that shows the fine minerality of the vineyard and lovely toasted oak that works well with the baked apple, pear and spice flavours that are well-balanced to the very end. A winner of a Chardonnay.

Culmina R&D Red Blend ($24, 91 points) — A Merlot dominant red that has a gorgeous nose of black currants, plums, sweet tobacco, spice and cherry accents. It’s rich yet structured on the palate with clearly defined tannins, dark, ripe fruits, lovely elegant oak spices and depth/structure through a long finish. Can cellar for 4+ years.

Mission Hill Winery

The wines from the Five Vineyards series showcase Mission Hill’s unique ability to source fruit sustainably farmed on their five estate vineyards in the Okanagan Valley including Kelowna, Naramata Bench, Oliver and Osooyos. Comprised of different microclimates, the geographic region’s variety in relatively short linear distances provides ideal conditions and flavours vintage after vintage.

Mission Hill Five Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($15, 88 points) — A fresh and fragrant style of SB with a nose of zesty lime, grapefruit, gooseberry and garden herbs. It’s vibrant and crisp on the palate with lovely lime/grapefruit notes that work well with the herb and grassy flavours on a zesty finish.

Mission Hill Five Vineyards Pinot Blanc 2016 ($15, 87 points) — A nose of peach, melon, crisp apple and light citrus zest. It’s fresh on the palate with peach, apple and underlying citrus notes on the finish.

Mission Hill Five Vineyards Cabernet Merlot 2014 ($17, 88 points) — Bursts with cherries, raspberries and currants on the nose with added spice and cocoa notes. The palate reveals wild berries, cherries, dark fruits with savoury spices, ripe tannins and a lively finish.

Mission Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($27, 90 points) — A big, juicy nose of black currants, jammy cherry and raspberry with lovely barrel spice notes. It’s rich and layered on the palate, with mostly dark berries, subtle cherry notes, barrel spices, evident tannins and length through the finish.