Anthony von Mandl’s Kelowna Triple Threat: Mission Hill, Cedar Creek & Martin’s Lane Wineries

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Mission Hill Winery. Photo Credit: nuvomagazine

If you live inside (or outside) of Canada there’s a good chance you have limited experience with the full breadth of Canadian wine…and by limited I mean not much at all! Protectionist provincial politics, byzantine interprovincial shipping laws, and the generally glacial pace of change in industry regulations mean we have an utter dearth of premium British Columbia wine in Ontario – and that’s just one example. As a wine lover and writer, that’s a bit of a problem. So last year, I took the Canadian Wine Scholar course to ‘up’ my Canadian wine literacy.

I’ve been watching British Columbia win international awards for their wine for decades, yet for all of the reasons I’ve just listed, tasting BC wine has been restricted to hit or miss side trips while visiting friends & family there. Finally, with degree in hand (jk), I headed west to the British Columbia epicenter of wine – the Okanagan Valley.

To be a Canadian wine scholar, requires studying British Columbia’s two wine legends: Harry McWatters (done!) and Anthony von Mandl (work-in-progress).

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Anthony von Mandl. Photo Credit: Mission Hill Estate Winery

von Mandl’s investment in the Canadian wine industry is nothing short of legendary. A Canadian-born, European-raised entrepreneur, in 1981 von Mandl set out to put BC on the global wine map, building an international wine, spirits and beer empire to kick-start that dream (in that old-fashioned, grow-it-from-scratch, kick-start way). You can read all about the gutsy wine magnate Mr von Mandl, here.

Anthony von Mandl, ironically, was part of an international team of consultants hired in the 1970’s to assess the region for a German based winery. The investor didn’t move forward with the recommendation to buy, but Mandl did. Of course, the research confirmed the Okanagan Valley had the quintessential terroir and grape growing ingredients to compete with Europe’s best: very long hours of sunlight (3 ½ more hours a day than California), loads of heat in the peak growing season, lake influence and airflow (mitigates spring and fall frost), a fabulous range of soil types, elevation (better drainage, sun penetration, deeper roots) and spectacular panoramas and scenic beauty.

Thirty-seven years later von Mandl has not strayed from that 1981 vision, as he continues to invest in wineries and vineyards that confirm his wine prophecy. Today, his four premium wine brands compete with the best in the world.

Note: This post will look at his three Kelowna-based wineries and next week we’ll do a deep dive on CheckMate.

Bram and Debbie
Mission Hill Lead Sommelier – Bram Bolwijm welcomes me to Mission Hill

Mission Hill: 1730 Mission Hill Road, West Kelowna, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

As we drive into the Mission Hill parking lot on a cool spring day in March, I see the exceedingly dapper Bram Bolwijn – head sommelier at Mission Hill – standing coatless in the wind-swept vineyard with two very chilled glasses of Rosé.

“Wow. That’s attention to detail. Do you think he’s waiting for us?” I ask my husband. Not surprisingly, the night before, Netherlands-born Bram had won the ‘best customer service award’ at the BC Tourism Industry Awards beating out 55 other nominees. Of course, with my heightened appreciation for the exacting standards of Anthony von Mandl and the Mission Hill brand, Bram’s personalized greeting and level of hospitality made perfect sense.

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Photo Credit: Mission Hill Estate Winery

Mission Hill is a glorious celebration of the best wine, architecture, and hospitality Canada has to offer. Based in West Kelowna in a perfect lakeside, cool climate location, the ‘Versailles of the Valley’ (NYTimes) is truly one of the most exalted wine experiences tourists will enjoy. Travel and Leisure Magazine called it the centrepiece of the Canadian wine tourism industry and rated its seasonal Terrace Restaurant as one of the top five dining experiences in the world. Mission Hill’s dramatic underground cellars blasted from volcanic rock offer equally impressive views.

MH Barrel Room
Mission Hill Barrel Room
Chagall and David Foster piano
Marc Chagall’s Animal Tales and David Foster piano at Mission Hill
view from MH amustreadblog
The view from Mission Hill

Set high atop the sprawling Mount Boucherie in West Kelowna, the 9.5 acre Greek inspired property offers spectacular views of Okanagan Lake, the distant Naramata Bluffs, and the snow-capped eastern peaks of the Monsashee Mountains. A large golden limestone archway featuring the von Mandl family crest, greets visitors and frames the courtyard and hillsides that host family-friendly picnics and a summer amphitheatre concerts series. The 12-story bell tower stands tall over lakeside vineyards and features four bronze cast bells – one for each von Mandl family member – all, imported from Annecy, France. Eager for the residents of the Mission Hill community outside the winery gates to embrace the ‘ringing’ bells, von Mandl very cleverly invited residents from West Kelowna to be part of the inaugural bell ringing celebration. “It’s our gift to the valley,” he announced. “Joint ownership,” I thought. So savvy.

The Wine

Not surprisingly, the wine at Mission Hill is as layered, nuanced and impressive as the architecture.

To achieve his goal of world-class wines, von Mandl knew he would need a respected cool climate wine-maker. After a lengthy search, John Simes from New Zealand was hired in 1992 to lead the winemaking and viticulture teams. Two years later, Mission Hill’s Grand Reserve Chardonnay won Best Chardonnay in the World at the 1994 International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) in London. “This was the first time I knew my dream had legs,” von Mandl said, announcing the win. “John has gone on to transform not only our wines, but the world’s perception of our region – indeed he has put the Okanagan Valley on the world wine map.”

Two years later, in 2013, Mission Hill did it again.

This time their Martin’s Lane 2011 vintage won top Pinot Noir in the world at the prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards in London. The award was announced by Steven Spurrier, who helped put California on the international wine map. “This is a ground‐breaking achievement for Mission Hill,” said Spurrier. “To receive an award at this level is quite an achievement and an important recognition for the quality of Pinot Noir produced in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.”

In 2015, Simes handed the role of wine-maker over to Australian Daryl Brooker at Cedar Creek so he could focus on his first love, viticulture. Simes has been instrumental in building Mission Hill’s sustainable practices and assembling VMF Estate’s 11,000-acre collection of estate vineyards throughout the valley, from Kelowna in the north, to Osoyoos in the south.

sculpture and bells

Mission Hill Tasting Notes

Back in the Estate Room with Bram, we taste a range of retail and winery-only Mission Hill wines. Mission Hill has a range of price point ‘on-ramps’ for their wines from their modestly priced Five Vineyards to the super premium, iconic red Oculus blend.

A few highlights:

2015 Mission Hill Perpetua 100% Chardonnay – 14.1% ABV – $50.00

Perpetua is part of the legacy collection of wines – a tribute to the family’s generational roots.

The Perpetua Collection showcases a range of Chardonnay fruit from sustainably farmed vineyards in both the south valley – Osoyoos (75%) and mid valley – Naramata Ranch. The wine is fermented in a mix of French oak, concrete eggs and stainless steel and aged sur lie for 15 months

The 2015 is light gold in colour, with a baked apple, citrus and earthy nose. It’s dry, medium to full bodied, bright and intensely flavoured with ripe apple, pineapple and lemon flavours all wrapped in a subtle smoky finish. Beautiful, long finish.

2014 Mission Hill Prospectus Pinot Noir – 13.8% ABV – $65.00

Another wine in the legacy tier – these estate grown wines are hand-harvested and spend ten months of aging in French Oak.

Bright, young red fruit, a little spicy on the nose. Dry with lively red berry fruit, juicy acidity and a hint of spice and earthy elegance. 100% Estate Vineyards – 45% Naramata Ranch, 30% Mission Hill Road, 25% Kelowna Lakeshore.

2013 Mission Hill Compendium – 14.5% ABV – $87.00

This is a red Bordeaux Blend: 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. 100% Estate Vineyards – Osoyoos (90%) and Oliver (10%). 15 months French oak barrels.

Deep, dark colour with a lovely floral quality, ripe blackberry, red cherry notes. On the palate, fresh, black cherry and raspberry, with light oak, medium-full bodied, silky smooth tannins.

*Awards: it’s a long list…… see list below

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CedarCreek Estate Winery. Photo Credit: Scout Magazine

CedarCreek Estate Winery: 5445 Lakeshore Road, East Kelowna, Okanagan Valley

CedarCreek Estate Winery is located in the south end of East Kelowna, almost directly across the lake from Mission Hill. The views across the lake are nothing short of spectacular and once again, we are greeted at the gate by Experience Manager Doug Cheney who is welcoming in true von Mandl Family (VMF) Estates style.

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The view from CedarCreek. Photo Credit: BC Living

CedarCreek – already a high-end estate – is in the midst of a significant facelift to elevate it to the exacting standards of Anthony von Mandl. The property is getting a new tasting room, event space and a year-round restaurant.

CedarCreek Estate Winery was one of the first eight pioneering estates in the Okanagan Valley releasing its first wines in 1987. It was started by Canadian Senator Ross Fitzpatrick and included 110 acres of vineyards in Kelowna and Osoyoos. Under the Fitzpatrick family, the winery produced about 45,000 cases a year (about 1/10th of Mission Hill’s output) and was recognized twice (2002/2005) as ‘Canadian Winery of the Year’.

In December 2013, Senator Fitzpatrick was contacted by Anthony von Mandl who – according to son, Gordon Fitzpatrick – ‘made that proverbial offer we couldn’t refuse’.

VMF Estates took over CedarCreek in February 2014 and a few months later, started construction of the Martin’s Lane facility at the north end of the CedarCreek property.

From 2010 until summer 2015, the winemaker at CedarCreek was Australian Daryl Brooker who had worked at Mountadam Vineyards in Australia, Villa Maria in New Zealand, and Flat Rock Cellars, Hillebrand and Thirty Bench wineries in Ontario. In 2015, the talented Brooker moved from the right bank (East Kelowna) to the left bank (West Kelowna) replacing veteran winemaker John Simes at Mission Hill Estates. As a fitting departure gift to Brooker, CedarCreek was named Canada’s Best at the Decanter World Wine Awards in London for their 2014 Platinum Block 3 Riesling.

PlatinumAt CedarCreek we enjoyed the Platinum Experience Tasting, which includes three whites, three reds and a charcuterie and cheese platter. The winery tour part of this package is a challenge today, with all of the construction in the area.

the senatorWine Highlights: Tasting Notes

2016 The Senator White – 14% ABV – pH 3.35 – $18.99

Blend: 53% Chardonnay, 47% Sauvignon Blanc

This wine is a fabulous example of the whites Kelowna does so well and offers amazing value. I also appreciate the respectful nod to the original founders of CedarCreek.

The wine is fresh, crisp and bright. The nose offers ripe fruit aromatics: passionfruit, stonefruit and an interesting herbaceousness. On the palate, it’s dry, tropical notes of pineapple, ripe peach and lemon curd.

Silver Medal, National Wine Awards of Canada, 2017; Silver Medal, San Francisco International Wine Competition, 2017; Silver Medal, BC Wine Awards 2017

whites2016 Platinum Haynes Creek Viognier – 14.4%ABV – pH 3.31 – $31.99

Who doesn’t love this spectacular Viognier?

It’s beautifully aromatic with floral notes of honeysuckle, orange blossom and jasmine. This wine offers a rich, full-bodied palate with flavours of ripe peach and apricot. It is fresh, full of energy with amazing mouthfeel and length.

2013 The Last Word – ABV 14.5% – pH 3.55 – $54.00

Blend
34% Cab. Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 24% Cab. Franc, 10% Malbec

I had to take this one home with me.

Lovely spice box nose. The palate has dense, dark blueberry and blackcurrant fruit, earthy – a little gamey – with hints of cedar and a peppery, beautifully balanced finish. 20 months in French oak

Gold Medal, InterVin Wine Awards, 2017; Silver Medal, International Wine & Spirits Competition 2017; Platinum Medal, The Okanagan Fall Wine Festival 2016

martins lane amustread

Martin’s Lane Winery: 5437 Lakeshore Road, East Kelowna, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Martin’s Lane Winery – completed summer of 2016 – was born out of the success of the 2011 Martin’s Lane Mission Hill Pinot Noir win at the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2013.

Harvested from Mission Hill’s cool climate vineyards around Kelowna, Anthony von Mandl and John Sime’s passion pinot project eclipsed entries from Pinot Noir’s homeland, Burgundy, plus another 14,000 wines submitted from 61 regions. This was the quality acknowledgement and validation Anthony von Mandl sought when he invested in the Mission Hill facility twenty years earlier.

Named after his late father, Dr. Martin von Mandl, Antony von Mandl worked with architect Tom Kundig of Seattle firm Olson Kundig, to build this impressive gravity flow winery. If Kundig’s name rings familiar, it’s because he was responsible for von Mandl’s first love, the architectural gem, Mission Hill. Instead of Greek inspiration, von Mandl wanted a design that paid homage to the rolling agricultural landscape, and as importantly, respected the kid-glove treatment and finesse required to produce the famously finicky, Pinot Noir grape.

spiral staircase
Staircase emulates spiral of a grapevine. Photo credit: Martin’s Lane Winery

 

The brilliance of Martin Lane’s design is its vertical, five-level integrated design. The 34,800 square feet (3,233 square metres) winery is built into the west-facing hillside. Gravity flow utilizes the downhill slope of the hillside so there’s no harsh pumping required to move the grapes, juice and wine through the stages of the production process. The winery produces only Pinot Noir and Riesling – thin-skinned, cool climate superstars, and beautiful examples of what Canada does best.

The roof and exterior walls of the building are clad in corrugated sheets of weathered steel in colours that reflect the landscape. The tiered orientation built right into the earth minimizes energy consumption and provides stable temperatures and humidity so there’s no need for conventional heating or cooling systems.

ML Barrel Cellar
Photo Credit: Martin’s Lane Winery

The top of the facility houses the grape-receiving and crushing areas. Down a tier are the fermentation and settling rooms; the barrel storage area follows, then bottling room with the bottom level assigned to wine storage. The tasting room and visitor experience area overlooks the lower-level barrel storage room and offers mountain and lake views. In keeping with Anthony von Mandl and Tom Kundig’s use of metaphor, spiral staircases, designed to mimic the vine propagation process, are scattered throughout. Blackened steel doors are a respectful nod to the fires that singed the hillside landscape in 2003. “Like wine, the more nuance you can build into a building the more you can appreciate it over time,” Kundig said at the facility’s opening.

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Photo Credit: Martin’s Lane

The Wine

Martin’s Lane vineyards include the steep Simes (granite based soils) vineyard in East Kelowna, Fritzi’s Vineyard – named after Anthony von Mandl’s 102 year-old mother – on Mt. Boucherie in West Kelowna (417 meters elevation – volcanic quartz) and the Naramata Ranch vineyards (volcanic red granite). For New Zealand winemaker Shane Munn – a mathematician turned winemaker – Kelowna offers a near perfect location for growing Pinot Noir and Riesling grapes.

Munn follows an indigenous yeast and hands-off approach to production. Martin’s Lane vineyards are all organic and all wines are from single-vineyard bottling’s representing a clean, natural expression of vineyard, varietal and vintage. Martin’s Lane produces three Pinot Noirs and three Rieslings.

Sadly, Martin’s Lane was closed in March when I visited, so no tasting (this time).

Awards

Decanter World Wine Awards, 2014: Silver

International Wine & Spirit Competition, 2014: Bronze

International Wine Challenge, 2014: Bronze

Decanter World Wine Awards, 2013: International Trophy

 

Feature Image: Mission Hill Terrace Restaurant. Photo Credit: Mission Hill Estate Winery

*Mission Hill Awards

Best Canadian Red Wine
Best Canadian Pinot Noir
2017 Decanter World Wine Awards

2015 Terroir Collection Reflection Point Pinot Noir

Canadian Winery
of the Year
2015 National Wine Awards of Canada
2015 InterVin International Wine Awards
Canadian Winery
of the Year
2013 National Wine Awards of Canada
International Trophy
for Best Pinot Noir
in the World
2013 Decanter World Wine Awards

2011 Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir

2011 Canadian Wine Producer of the Year
2011 International Wine & Spirit Competition
Winery of the Year
2011 InterVin International Wine Awards
International Trophy for Best Icewine in the World
2008 International Wine Challenge

2006 Reserve Riesling Icewine

One of the Top Five Winery Restaurants in the World
2008 Travel & Leisure Magazine
Winery of the Year
2007 Canadian Wine Awards
Winery of the Year
Inaugural Winery of the Year,
1st ever Canadian Wine Awards
November 2001

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