Announcing the 2019 Winery of the Year

Mission Hill Family Estate Winery Does It Again!

By David Lawrason

In convincing fashion Mission Hill Family Estate has claimed the title of Canada’s Winery of the Year at the 2019 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada. The Okanagan Valley winery took a whopping 18 medals, including two Platinums, six Golds, seven Silvers and three Bronze. Never in this competition has a winning winery strung together so many medals, and they range across wine styles, grape varieties and price points.

Mission Hill Family Estate, Entrance and Keystone

The 2019 Nationals were held in June at the Wellington Community Centre in Prince Edward County, Ontario. Over 1,815 wines and ciders were entered by 259 wineries in eight provinces. Over five days the entries were blind-tasted by 21 judges, representing the top wine writers, educators and sommeliers in the country.

It is the fifth time Mission Hill has taken this title since the Awards were founded in 2001, making it the winningest winery in Canada – they were, in fact, the inaugural winner in 2001.

“Winning Canadian Winery of the Year for the fifth time is hugely exciting,” said Mission Hill Family Estate proprietor Anthony von Mandl, “especially as Canada has never had as many wineries making such excellent wines across the country. This amazing Award is not only a validation of the enormous commitment we have made to the Okanagan and Canada but of our passionate team in the vineyards and at Mission Hill Family Estate that cares so much and is relentless about raising the bar on quality.”

Mission Hill has finished high in the standings every year, and with that kind of consistency, you have to believe there is more than just luck on their side. In my view, the reason has to be a particular quality vision or goal. Anyone who has visited the magnificent hilltop winery in West Kelowna has sensed that aspiration.

Mission Hill Family Estate

The vision has flowed from Anthony von Mandl, who founded Mission Hill in 1981. He had begun working as a Vancouver-based wine importer in the 1970s but had always wanted to create something special in the Okanagan. As the Mission Hill website puts it, ‘he was absolutely convinced that given time and patience, the Okanagan could produce sophisticated wines for an international audience.’

I selected this quote because it talks about ‘sophisticated wines.’  What I have noticed in the past year or two, and in tasting many of the Mission Hill entries at the 2019 Nationals, is that there is indeed a sense of sophistication, achieved through well defined “varietal” character, well-woven amid other complexities, and a certain textural elegance. The wines are hard to dissect, but they feel right. It is something that I find in many of Europe’s best wines, and I think it resonated with our keen, internationally attuned judges as well.

So how has this been achieved? I believe it is in the grapes, and so does Anthony von Mandl.

“A number of years ago, we took a bold decision to farm 100% of our own grapes, and are now doing so organically. We see the difference in our vineyards with soils that are more alive, vines that are healthier and stronger, and grapes with increased varietal character,” he explained.

Anthony von Mandl, O.C., O.B.C.

When you read down the incredible list of 18 medals won this year by Mission Hill (see below), please note that eight of them belong to the new Terroir Collection introduced to highlight vineyards sites in the Okanagan Valley. Every Terroir wine on the docket won a medal – six of them taking gold or platinum. That is quite a statement.

 “I am particularly pleased to see the results for our Terroir Collection,” said Chief Winemaker Ben Bryant. “These small-production, single-vineyard wines are the purest expression of the unique microsites and diversity of the Okanagan Valley. Without a doubt, this is one of the unique winemaking regions in the world, and I am incredibly proud of our team and their commitment to producing wines that are capturing the attention of the world.”

Chief Winemaker Ben Bryant

Ben came from Australia and joined the team in 2018 when former Chief Winemaker Darryl Brooker was promoted to President of Mission Hill. Darryl joined Mission Hill in 2015 and has guided the transition to organic viticulture. Ontario wine enthusiasts will remember him as winemaker at Flat Rock Cellars and Trius before moving to the Okanagan.

Mission Hill produces four quality/price tiers. At the top, the Legacy Collection includes five super-premium wines including the Bordeaux inspired red Oculus (not entered in the competition). But the top white – Perpetua Chardonnay scored a Platinum thanks to its quite remarkable depth. Quatrain which blends some Syrah among Bordeaux varieties scored a Gold, and Compendium, which is a more traditional Bordeaux varieties blend took a Silver, as did the newest entry in the series, a Pinot Noir called Prospectus.

The second tier is the Terroir Collection, the newest project, and as noted above the group of wines that put Mission Hill over the top this year. Of particular note, the 2017 Jagged Rock Vineyard Chardonnay equalled Perpetua with a Platinum medal. The Terroir wines make up only three percent of the production at Mission Hill and are only available at the winery, so they are harder to acquire.

Naramata Ranch

The third Reserve tier wines also did well, and this is where Canadian wine consumers can begin to take advantage, as they sell in the $20 to $30 range in many provinces. The nicely balanced 2016 Shiraz took a Gold medal, with Silvers going to the Reserve Merlot, Riesling and White Meritage. The Reserve Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris took Bronze medals.

The fourth tier of Estate Series wines that sell under $20 across Canada was not entered in the Awards competition but are regularly reviewed on WineAlign with positive results.

The WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada and our judges congratulate Mission Hill Family Estate on this big win and thank the support of all 259 wineries and cideries that made this such a successful competition.

All wineries are ranked according to their medal performance, and each year we publish a list of the Top 25 Wineries in Canada. We also name the Best Performing Small Winery, won by in 2019 by Moon Curser of Osoyoos. We also break out the Top 10 in B.C., Top 10 in Ontario, and Top 10 Small Wineries in Canada.


Mission Hill 2017 Terroir Collection Jagged Rock Vineyard Chardonnay
Mission Hill 2017 Perpetua Chardonnay


Mission Hill 2016 Quatrain
Mission Hill 2016 Reserve Shiraz
Mission Hill 2017 Terroir Collection Border Vista Cabernet Sauvignon

Mission Hill 2018 Terroir Collection Jagged Rock Sauvignon Blanc-Sémillon
Mission Hill 2016 Terroir Collection No. 23 Crosswinds Syrah
Mission Hill 2016 Terroir Collection No. 43 Reflection Point Pinot Noir


Mission Hill 2016 Compendium
Mission Hill 2016 Prospectus Pinot Noir
Mission Hill 2016 Reserve Merlot
Mission Hill 2016 Terroir Collection No. 32 Vista’s Edge Cabernet Franc

Mission Hill 2018 Reserve Meritage White
Mission Hill 2018 Reserve Riesling
Mission Hill 2018 Terroir Collection Brigadier’s Bluff Rosé


Mission Hill 2018 Reserve Pinot Blanc
Mission Hill 2018 Reserve Pinot Gris
Mission Hill 2018 Terroir Collection Bluebird Passage Viognier