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Senior editor and tasting director Bruce Sanderson joined Wine Spectator in 1993. His tasting beats are Burgundy in France and Piedmont and Tuscany in Italy.
Bruce Sanderson

A Pair of Tasty Reds from Canada

Mission Hill Shiraz Okanagan Valley Reserve 2006 and Palatine Hills Cabernet Sauvignon VQA Niagara Lakeshore 2005

Bruce Sanderson
Posted: September 23, 2009

While visiting my family in Canada with Kim and Wendy Marcus, we uncorked several of the country's wines. We bought a few from the LCBO store (see Kim's tasting note on a white), and my brother David arrived with three bottles to enjoy with our meals over the weekend.

Canada's two major vineyard areas are the Niagara Peninsula and British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. The former encompasses most of the 15,000 acres under vine in Ontario and accounts for 80 percent of Canada’s wine production. The Okanagan Valley’s 4,000 acres of vines are the source of 95 percent of B.C.’s wines.

With one meal of beef done in the rotisserie, Mission Hill's Shiraz Okanagan Valley Reserve 2006 delivered plenty of ripe, slightly jammy plum and sweet blackberry aromas and flavors. It picked up accents of spice on the generous finish. I gave it 86 points, non-blind.

The following evening, my brother roasted three chickens on the grill. One of the reds we washed them down with was from the Niagara Peninsula, the Cabernet Sauvignon VQA Niagara Lakeshore 2005 made by Palatine Hills. Though it didn’t show a lot of complexity, this red had good varietal character, showing black currant, cedar and oak spice notes, all well-balanced. 85 points, non-blind.

WineSpectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated Canadian wines.

Jeffrey Diliberto
New York, NY —  September 23, 2009 11:35pm ET
Bruce -- good to see someone else has had Canadian wines besides Icewine. I've had some good back vintage reds from Ontario, light in style but elegant. Good spice without being too green. I love Cabernet Franc which seems to do well in Ontario and I also seek out the blends with a Cab Franc component.

I've been to some of the larger LCBO stores and find it hard to get BC wines (I often only see the Mission Hill Oculus in Ontario and in the US). Any suggestions on finding them?

Bruce Sanderson
New York —  September 24, 2009 8:51am ET
Jeffrey, We found the Mission Hill in the Vintages section of the Elfrida store just at the southern edge of Hamilton. I would look for any LCBO with a Vintages to find a better selection of more limited wines from around the world.
Mads Bunch
Vancouver, Canada —  September 26, 2009 5:29pm ET
Hi Bruce

Good to see you try a BC wine. The Okanagan Valley is really in a rapid development.

But compared to the Mission Hill reds there are much better wines to find, e.g. Burrowing Owl meritage, Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc (Cab Franc is doing really well in the valley - this one is in top 5 percent of the cab. Francs made globally, 91p), Le Vieux Pin makes delicious Merlot and Pinot Noir, Osoyoos Larose a great Bordeaux blend and the high end wines from Jackson-Triggs are really beautiful too (and I could just go on and on).

Janis Robinson just visited the Okanagan Valley in August. Among the whites she was especially impressed with the pinot blancs and rieslings.

Pinot Blanc might to British Columbia what Malbec turned out to in Argentina.

So maybe it was about time for Wine Spectator to pay a visit to this interesting region, where the quality is soaring year by year. Great restaurants and accommodation in the valley too, the landscape is beautiful - wine country when best....

Well, just a recommendation....


Mads Bunch

James Fraser
Vancouver, B.C. —  October 20, 2009 3:59pm ET
In answer to the requests below, I went to the Mission Hill website and found that they ship to the USA. See http://www.missionhillwinery.com/to_purchase/usa.html

Happy Drinking, and do come up and see us, either for or after the Winter Olympics.

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