Wine Of The Week: Mission Hill Oculus 2019

This killer Canadian Bordeaux blend is Merlot-dominant, with touches of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petite Verdot.

When it comes to the great wine regions of the world, the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia probably isn’t high on your list. But it should be, and this Canadian Bordeaux blend proves it.

While the Okanagan is small — comparable to Burgundy in square footage, just 130 miles long and 12 miles wide — it’s remarkably diverse, with over 60 different varieties of grapes, and soils ranging from basaltic lava flow to metamorphic rock to sandy and silty beds. The under-the-radar region boasts more than 200 wineries, making everything from Bordeaux-ish reds to Alpine-influenced and mineral-driven white.      

Mission Hill makes many of these styles, and does so exceptionally well, sometimes single handedly rewriting Okanagan’s reputation. And if we’re going to introduce you to the Okanagan, start with the winery’s flagship bottling.

Oculus, a concentrated, Canadian take on right bank Bordeaux, started in the 1997 vintage. The newest iteration is Merlot-dominant, rounded out by Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and a touch of Petite Verdot.

Merlot dominates with a splash of petite Verdot. “Petite Verdot is an excellent indicator of a great wine year,” says Mission Hill’s Chief Winemaker Corrie Krehbil. “In a good year, it gives depth. But in a cool year, it does none of that — it’s very green and angular.”

And 2019 was a very good year indeed — a beautiful spring, a warm summer, and a slightly rainy fall. The wine is equally as lovely; long and structured with deep currants and blue fruits and a touch of forest depth. It’s beautiful now, but it would benefit from sitting in your cellar for a while. $200

Kate Dingwall is a WSET-trained sommelier and spirits writer. Her work has appeared in Wine Enthusiast, Eater,, and Food & Wine, and she pours wine at one of Canada’s top restaurants.