Life­time Achieve­ment

Vancouver Magazine - - Restaurant Awards - An­thony von Mandl Mis­sion Hill, mis­sion­hill­win­

Imag­ine an It’s aWon­der­ful Life sce­nario in which An­thony von Mandl was never born. The Okana­gan, far from the swank des­ti­na­tion it’s be­come, looks like a slightly up­dated ver­sion of its pre-1980 self—lots of A&Ws, a few steak­houses and du­elling Su­per 8s lin­ing Kelowna’s Har­vey Av­enue, hous­ing road-trip­ping fam­i­lies who like to take back a crate of peaches to Red Deer in the back of the Grand Car­a­van. The winer­ies, such as they are, would be of two camps: the be­he­moths, crank­ing out jug wine from what­ever grapes they were able to get to max ripeness, or ahand­ful of very niche spots, sel­dom tasted, vis­ited even less, hop­ing des­per­ately that some­one from Wine

Spec­ta­tor might stum­ble upon them and make them as­tar. B.C. con­sumers, hav­ing never been ex­posed to lo­cal wine, would be con­tent with a se­lec­tion at the BCLDB that mir­rors that on the shelves of the Safe­way in Belling­ham—at dou­ble the price. And our wine lists would like­wise be doc­tri­naire af­fairs, indis­tin­guish­able from those of the Ruth’s Chris Steak House in In­di­anapo­lis. Talk about anight­mare.

But, thank­fully, none of this hap­pened. In­stead, in 1981, a31-yearold Tony Mandl, pos­sess­ing al­to­gether too much moxie and not nearly enough cash, de­cided to buy one of the five winer­ies in the Okana­gan when in­ter­est rates were push­ing 20 per­cent and the lo­cal wine hap­pily dou­bled as gum re­mover. And then with Mis­sion Hill, he set about the ab­surd task of mak­ing wine that would stand on par with the greats he had tasted in his trav­els to Europe. And when—against all odds—the first few ac­co­lades came pour­ing in (like the 1994 chardon­nay win­ning Gold at Lon­don’s In­ter­na­tional Wine and Spir­its Com­pe­ti­tion), he didn’t do the sane thing and take the prof­its and run, but in­stead plowed the money (and then some) back into hir­ing up-and-com­ing Seat­tle ar­chi­tect Tom Kundig to cre­ate not just the most im­pres­sive win­ery in B.C. or in Canada, but one that eclipsed any­thing in Wash­ing­ton or Ore­gon as well. And then he set up arestau­rant that es­chewed ca­su­al­ness in favour of cre­at­ing great food to pair with wines in a set­ting so spec­tac­u­lar that it still ranks among the world’s best.

Per­haps the cra­zi­est as­pect of all is that with his ul­tra-premium Check­Mate Ar­ti­sanal Win­ery set­ting its sights on be­ing at the per­fect cli­ma­to­log­i­cal lo­cus of fu­ture wine great­ness, and the like­wise ul­tra­premium tem­ple of pinot and ries­ling that is Martin’s Lane just open­ing its new win­ery doors, we may sim­ply be at the half­way point in this in­no­va­tor’s ca­reer.

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