Mission Hill Captures its 4th Canadian Winery of the Year Award
The Bells on Boucherie Mountain are Ringing Gold and PlatinumAug 5, 2015
by Anthony Gismondi
There is a certain symmetry in the news that Mission Hill Family Estate has won its fourth Canadian Winery of the Year award at the 2015 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada. Ironically just about the time our judges were tasting in Niagara Falls early this summer, John Simes announced he would be stepping down as the chief winemaker at Mission Hill before the 2015 harvest kicks off. He’s not leaving just yet but rather transitioning from chief winemaker to focus on the von Mandl Family Estates’ diverse collection of vineyards across the Okanagan.
All four Mission Hill wins, including the inaugural ‘2001 Canadian Wine Awards’ have come under chief winemaker John Simes’ watch. His last win was in 2013. To give you a sense of the growing competition there were fifty-plus more wineries involved in the 2015 Nationals and 300 more wines in the mix in only two years. Simes has been about as consistent as it gets, bringing home the best winery award in 2001, 2007, 2013 and now in 2015; consistency is something that wins you awards year in and year out. Over the last three years they have finished in first, second, and first place, to rank ahead of other top quality Canadian wineries, proving their consistency.
The truth is Mission Hill has been on a roll ever since the arrival of Simes in 1992 after an extensive international search. His first vintage of Mission Hill ‘Grand Reserve’ (now the ‘Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay’) won the trophy for ‘Best Chardonnay in the World’ at the 1994 International Wine & Spirits Competition in London. Speaking of his chief winemaker, owner Anthony von Mandl notes “John has transformed not only our wines, but the world’s perception of our region – indeed he put the Okanagan Valley on the world wine map. Along the way, John was also instrumental in assembling our Family’s extraordinary collection of estate vineyards located throughout the Valley from West Kelowna in the North, to Osoyoos in the South, on the US border.”
Mission Hill’s move to estate vineyard farming in the late 1990s changed everything. “I see our vineyards as the last frontier in allowing our wines to become amongst the most sought after in the world,” says Simes. “Our terroir and microclimates are found nowhere else, and it now comes down to a relentless quest to drive the most in terms of quality and distinctiveness out of each and every vine. Twenty years ago, no one believed that wines like Oculus, Compendium and Perpetua were possible, or that an Okanagan pinot noir such as Martin’s Lane (a new project with a new state of the art facility to be launched later this summer) would make the world stage in London. With the von Mandl Family’s commitment to continuously raising the bar and their commitment to leading edge research and technology in our vineyards, there is no telling where we can go from here.”
One person you don’t hear a lot about is Australian native James Hopper, now closing in on a decade of work with Mission Hill vineyards after graduating from Charles Sturt University in Australia. Hopper is based at the Black Sage Bench Vineyard in southeast Oliver, where he is focused on innovation and interactive vineyard management as it relates to everything in the winery. With five distinct vineyard holdings in the Okanagan Valley and a wide variety of terroirs, Hopper’s contribution cannot be underestimated.
Mission Hill topped all comers, big and small, on its way to the WineAlign 2015 Canadian Winery of the Year Award, grabbing gold medals for its 2013 Reserve Riesling, 2012 Compendium Red Blend, 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011 Quatrain Red Blend and topping all that off with a rare Platinum Medal (one of only fourteen awarded to the top one percent of all wines entered) for its Reserve Vidal Icewine.
Victoria-based judge Treve Ring sums it up well, “For many people at home and abroad, Mission Hill is their first experience with BC wine. We’re pretty fortunate; not many places around the wine world enjoy such a quality, high-level introduction.”
As mentioned, The Winery of the Year is kind of big deal at the National Wine Awards of Canada because in the cold hard light of the blind tasting room it allows us to measure the progress of wine in Canada. In 2015 the gap continues to narrow at the top and while Mission Hill grabbed the prize this year it’s hard not to think that anyone from the top 25 won’t break through next year.
See you all in Penticton, British Columbia next June.
Mission Hill won: 1 Platinum, 4 Gold, 6 Silver & 10 Bronze medals at this year’s awards.
Mission Hill 2011 Compendium
Mission Hill 2012 Perpetua Chardonnay
Mission Hill 2012 Quatrain
Mission Hill 2013 Perpetua Chardonnay
Mission Hill 2014 Reserve Riesling Icewine
Mission Hill Terroir Collection 2013 No. 29 Bluebird Passage Viognier
Mission Hill Terroir Collection 2012 No.21 Splitrail Merlot
Mission Hill Terroir Collection 2014 No. 17 Silver Ranch Riesling Icewine
Mission Hill 2012 Reserve Merlot
Mission Hill 2012 Reserve Shiraz
Mission Hill Terroir Collection 2012 No.23 Crosswinds Syrah
Mission Hill Terroir Collection 2013 No. 17 Silver Ranch Riesling Icewine
Mission Hill 2013 Reserve Pinot Noir
Mission Hill 2012 Terroir Collection No. 34 Western Trail Merlot
Mission Hill 2014 Reserve Riesling
Mission Hill 2013 Reserve Chardonnay
We would like to acknowledge the following sponsors: Fortessa Canada for the quality, and virtually indestructable, Schott Zwiesel glassware used throughout the judging, Container World for shipping and logistics and Dairy Farmers of Canada for their ongoing support of our Awards. A special thank you to Jason Dziver for the above images, as well as for each and every Awards bottle image appearing our site. You can see more of his work at Jason Dziver Photography.