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Wine Industry Awards
Rick Bonitati, president, Mission Hill Family Estate Winery.
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Keynote speaker - The Honourable Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification.
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Josie Tyabji, Chair, British Columbia Wine Institute.
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Canadian Wine Industry Awards
Tony Stewart, CVA chair; Robert Heiss, Gray Monk operations manager accepting the 2014 Canadian Wine Industry Award of Distinction on behalf of his parents George and Trudy Heiss; Dan Paszkowski, CVA president & CEO.
On a blistering hot July evening, 150 industry and political guests turned out for the inaugural Canadian Wine Industry Dinner & Awards Presentation under a tent at CedarCreek Estate Winery. A collaborative effort by the British Columbia Wine Institute (BCWI) and Canadian Vintners Association (CVA), the wine industry’s eyes and ears in Ottawa, the evening’s agenda encompassed three major industry awards, an illuminating keynote speech by the Federal Minister of Western Diversification, news on Mission Hill’s plans for CedarCreek, and what the Fitzpatrick clan has in store for its Greata Ranch property in Peachland. CedarCreek’s chef, Jeremy Tucker, orchestrated a summer-friendly menu of Wise Earth Farm mixed baby lettuce, grilled roast pork roast and carrot cake to accompany a selection of local wines, for the guest’s dining pleasure. Here are some of the highlights of the evening:
CVA and BC Wine Institute Awards
Touted as the “highest form of peer recognition and appreciation”, the CVA`s Award of Distinction went to George and Trudy Heiss of Gray Monk Estates Winery, 'British Columbia’s oldest family-owned and -operated winery'. “The Heiss’s are trailblazers” said Tony Stewart, CVA Chair and president of Quails’ Gate Winery. “They can be credited with bringing many high quality vinifera vines to Canada, as well as helping to establish the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA).” As George and Trudy were unable to attend, son Bob Heiss accepted the award on their behalf.
Stewart presented the Wine Industry Champion Award to Dean Allison, the federal Member of Parliament for Niagara West-Glanbrook, for his contributions to the overall strength and long–term viability of the industry. “As the champion of the excise duty exemption on 100% Canadian wine (and other agricultural products) in 2006, Allison has strengthened every single Canadian winery,” Stewart said.
The BC Wine Institute honoured Senator Ross Fitzpatrick, founder of CedarCreek Estate Winery, for a well-deserved 2014 Wine Industry Recognition Award. The 81-year-old Kelowna native “exemplifies the intent of the award, which was created to recognize those who have helped to develop the wine industry in our province,” said BC Wine Institute chair, Josie Tyabji, who presented the award to Fitzpatrick at the Canadian Wine Industry dinner at CedarCreek winery.
The grandson of a pioneering Okanagan agricultural family, Fitzpatrick left the Valley to pursue a highly successful career in politics and business before returning to his roots in the mid-1980s. He took over the struggling Uniacke Winery in 1986 and set it on a path to become one of Canada’s top wineries.
Both Dan Albas and Ron Canaan, local MPs who won the Wine Industry Recognition Award in 2013 for their efforts to modernize the Canadian wine laws through Bill C-311, were on hand for the evening.
CedarCreek Purchased by VMF Estates
News of the sale of CedarCreek to von Mandl Family (VMF) Estates, the holding company of Anthony von Mandl, owner of Mission Hill Family Estate, early in 2014 sent shockwaves through the BC wine industry. In his acceptance speech, Fitzpatrick commented on the sale: “CedarCreek was not up for sale; however, when approached by Anthony von Mandl, we saw another family with a shared vision for the Okanagan Valley. I am confident that CedarCreek will continue as an award-winning estate winery under the new owner and the winemaking guidance of Darryl Brooker. To make the investment required for the future of CedarCreek, deep pockets are required,” Fitzpatrick said.
New focus for Greata Ranch
While CedarCreek Estate Winery and its vineyards in East Kelowna and Osoyoos have been sold, Greata Ranch Estate Winery between Peachland and Summerland remains firmly in the hands of the Fitzpatrick family. The focus will be on high quality sparkling and reserve single varietal Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes from vines grown on the cool climate, 40 acre Greata Ranch vineyard. Although limited quantities have been produced since 2012, the winery will remain closed during construction of a sleek, new 6,000 case winery, which is slated for completion in 2015.
New home for Martin’s Lane
Next up, Rick Bonitati, president of Mission Hill Winery, explained the intense construction activity on a block of land just behind CedarCreek. After the purchase of CedarCreek winery in early February, VMF and Mission Hill owner Anthony von Mandl decided to build a winery in honour of his father. Previously housed at Mission Hill in West Kelowna, Martin’s Lane Winery has staked out a reputation as a world class producer of Pinot Noir and Riesling “representing the purest and most natural expression of vineyard, varietal and vintage“. Martin’s Lane Winery’s new facility pushes the boundaries with five level gravity flow engineering and the very best equipment. “To have it up and running for the 2014 harvest, we have only 152 days to get everything done,” said CedarCreek’s winemaker in an interview.
Minister of Wine
It was unexpected and refreshing to hear a politician - not just any politician but a federal cabinet minister no less - speak knowledgeably and enthusiastically about her appreciation of wine. Only 34, the Minister of State for Western Diversification in Ottawa, Michelle Rempel is the youngest female cabinet minister in Canadian history. She has impressive credentials in the health and education sectors promoting and administering innovative academic and business research partnerships and applying her knowledge in intellectual property management. As a wine “geek” and graduate of WSET with an advanced diploma, she knows her wines inside out. Rempel has toured Canada’s wine regions and is blown away by the “luxury coolness” of Canada’s best wines. “A rising tide of top producers has set the bar high,” she said. She likes to visit the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys for occasional wine getaways. As wine technocrats “make progress figuring out the terroir, BC wines are coming into their own,” she added. “To take advantage of more opportunities within free trade agreements, wineries and associations need to work harder on marketing Canadian wines to the growing pool of ‘pluralistic consumers’.” But governments also have to assist by removing interprovincial trade barriers, a priority of Industry Minister James Moore, according to Rempel. “If there is one area of our economy that need bolstering, it is such fast-growing secondary industries as the capital intensive wine sector, which utilize clean energy technology,” she said.