John Schreiner

By John Schreiner

reprinted with permission

Anthony von Mandl purchases CedarCreek winery

CedarCreek Estate Winery is being purchased by von Mandl Family Estates, the new holding company of Anthony von Mandl, the owner of Mission Hill Family Estates.

The stunning announcement has taken the wine industry by surprise. In a joint news release on January 24, von Mandl and CedarCreek proprietor Senator Ross Fitzpatrick said: “CedarCreek was not up for sale. However, when approached by Anthony von Mandl, the Fitzpatricks saw another family with a shared vision for the Okanagan Valley who would continue their family legacy for generations to come.”

No purchase price has been disclosed for the transaction, which is expected to close early in February 2014. Von Mandl is buying the CedarCreek winery and its vineyards in East Kelowna and Osoyoos. The purchase does not include the Greata Ranch Winery and vineyard near Peachland. The Fitzpatrick family will continue to operate it.
This transaction could touch off other consolidations in the Okanagan and the Similkameen where almost a dozen wineries are listed for sale. One industry veteran recently said that as many as 26 wineries are for sale.

Von Mandl   has been part of the Okanagan wine industry since he purchased Mission Hill in 1981. He spent a decade turning around a winery that previously had been in receivership twice. In 1992 he hired a winemaker from New Zealand , John Simes who made a Chardonnay in his first Canadian vintage that won a major medal at a London competition, putting Mission Hill on the map.

Since then Mission Hill has acquired about 800 acres of vineyards in the Okanagan and has rebuilt the winery totally to support premium wine production. It has also become one of the leading wineries for wine tourism.

CedarCreek has been owned by the Fitzpatrick family since 1986. Ross Fitzpatrick, who was born in the Okanagan in 1933, took over six-year-old Uniacke Wines, one of the earliest of the Okanagan's estate wineries. The senator's son, Gordon, was named CedarCreek's president, freeing up Ross for his other business activities and his work in the Canadian senate.

Like von Mandl, the Fitzpatricks had taken on a major turnaround at a time when some believed the British Columbia wine industry had a dismal future. CedarCreek redeveloped its East Kelowna vineyard and, after 1998, invested $4 million to rebuild the winery. The money spent on vineyards and winemaking equipment, along with the hiring of California winemaker Tom DiBello in 2000, paid big dividends. CedarCreek was twice Canada 's winery of the year in the leading national wine competition. Mission Hill has won the same award several times.

CedarCreek, which has about 110 acres of vineyard, has been producing about 35,000 cases of wine, about a tenth of Mission Hill's volume. The flagship varieties at Mission Hill include Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The latter variety has a rising profile in Mission Hill's portfolio. The winery's Martin's Lane Pinot Noir recently brought home a major award from the Decanter competition in London .

“We have placed CedarCreek in very good hands,” Senator Fitzpatrick said in the news release.

Gordon Fitzpatrick added: “We are confident that CedarCreek will continue to over deliver under the ownership of the von Mandl family and the winemaking guidance of Darryl Brooker. It is not very often that two multiple winners of Canada 's Winery of the Year join the same family.”

The announcement by the two wineries gave no reason why the Fitzpatricks did not sell Greata Ranch, which is creating a portfolio of sparkling wines. The likely explanation is that Greata Ranch is as much a real estate play as a winery. The vineyard occupies only a small part of the 109 acre property. The Fitzpatricks have drawn up detailed plans for a luxury residential development on the property, which has almost two kilometres of Lake Okanagan water front. The 2008 recession led to the project being shelved.

Von Mandl Family Estates was created last year as the management company for select wineries controlled by Anthony von Mandl. Currently, the wineries under that umbrella are Mission Hill, CedarCreek and CheckMate Artisanal Winery (the former Domaine Combret).

The news release says: “Each winery operates independently, with separate staffing, management, and its own hallmark and identity. The common purpose is to produce wines that can stand along side the best in the world.”

Please see The Elite ~ Greata Ranch


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