Anthony Gismondi on Wine
Thursday, November 12 2020

A Reintroduction to Mission Hill

By: Geoffrey Moss MW
Winemaker and president Darryl Brooker takes Mission Hill to another level

As one of the largest wine producers in British Columbia, Mission Hill needs no introduction.

The wines are ubiquitous on store shelves, and their iconic bell tower winery is besieged by tourists every summer. No, what Mission Hill needs is a reintroduction. If you haven’t tried these wines in a while, it’s time to take another look.

New wineries continue to pop up across the Okanagan at a furious pace, including within Anthony von Mandl’s own Iconic Wineries of British Columbia family. There is CheckMate Winery on the Golden Mile Bench, Martin’s Lane in West Kelowna, and a nascent project in the works on the Black Sage Bench. But Mission Hill has not been left in the dust.

Under winemaker and president Darryl Brooker, who came over from CedarCreek in 2015, Mission Hill is making some of its best wines to date. Their Legacy Collection portfolio, which includes Oculus, Compendium, Quatrain, and Perpetua, could easily go toe-to-toe with any winery in the valley.

What’s better, these are truly world-class wines that could and should compete on an international stage. I don’t mean at wine competitions. Rather, I’m talking about the battle that really matters: on retail shelves where you have to fight and earn each purchase.

Brooker has a clear vision for each of the wines in the Mission Hill portfolio and has gradually implemented changes over the past five years to get there. He has done so with an international mindset, cognizant of how the wines will fit within the larger wine world and not just the Okanagan.

Take Perpetua, Mission Hill’s top chardonnay. The 2018 vintage exemplifies the stylistic evolution under Brooker: restrained ripeness, less new oak, and more reductive winemaking. This isn’t a reinvention of the wheel; those are common buzz words throughout the wine industry right now. The difference is that Brooker isn’t just saying it because that’s what critics and somms want to hear. Instead, he’s delivered a relevant, modern chardonnay that will turn heads.

That’s not to say the work is done, though. Oculus may be the portfolio's flagship and a small fortune at $160, but I find it continues to underwhelm. The latest vintages of Compendium (a cabernet sauvignon-led blend) and Quatrain (a syrah-dominant blend) are much more compelling and Next World in character. And relative bargains at $80 each.

Mission Hill has long been a leader in the Okanagan. But it wasn’t always about the wine. Now Brooker is making sure it is.

Recently we tasted through the current releases from Mission Hill's Legacy Collection. We've included tasting notes for previous vintages to illustrate the subtle changes over time.


Written By:
Geoffrey Moss MW
Geoffrey Moss MW

Geoffrey Moss MW, a wine reviewer/critic and contributor at Gismondi on Wine, earned his Master of Wine in August 2020. Born in Ontario, with a degree from McGill University in Political Science, Moss' resume includes working for premium brands, including with Don Triggs and family at Culmina Estate Winery, and then as part of the team for the ambitious, 100-million-dollar Phantom Creek Estates project, seeing its brand and winery emerge from scratch to full realization. Moss opened Lithica Wine Marketing in 2019. He runs his wine consulting business from Penticton, British Columbia, in the heart of the Okanagan Valley.