Today’s announcement that Mission Hill winemaker John Simes is relinquishing his position as Chief Winemaker in order to concentrate on the Von Mandl Family Estates vineyards is an indication of just how much things have changed since Simes arrived on the scene. He’s handing the winemaking reins to Darryl Brooker, who joined the group when Mission Hill acquired Cedar Creek in 2014.
When Simes landed in BC, 23 years ago, it was regarded as a major coup to attract a prominent Kiwi winemaker of his stature to the then still very small and unknown Okanagan Valley.
The former Montana winemaker quickly went on to more than prove his worth by winning the coveted Avery’s Trophy for the Best Chardonnay in the World at the 1994 London International Wine and Spirits competition with his very first vintage, Mission Hill Grand Reserve Chardonnay1992. That milestone effectively announced to the wine world that the Okanagan might well in time become a force to be reckoned with.
The win sent a signal to talented winemakers around the world that the Okanagan was a place where their skills would be welcomed—and, besides, that it was (and is) a pretty good place to live.
Now, two decades and no doubt a few hundred more medals later, Simes says he wants to focus fully on the von Mandl Family vineyards:
“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 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.”
Over the years, Mission Hill proprietor Anthony von Mandl has demonstrated a keen ability to recognize the true potential in people; and to provide the all the critical materials for them to succeed as needed—often with no expense spared. In allowing John Simes to pursue his true passions in the vineyard and in the process accommodate the considerable talents of Darryl Brooker, he has now solidified the most potent winemaking team in the valley.
Says the Mission Hill founder: “John has gone on to transform 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.”
VMF says the transfer of duties will take place over the next few months, in time for Brooker to be fully in charge for the 2015 harvest. Simes will complete the winemaking and all final blending for the “remarkable 2014 vintage and will remain a key resource to Darryl to ensure Mission Hill’s continuing legacy of numerous icon wines he has crafted such as the award-winning Oculus.”
At the end of the day, there’s no such thing as too much winemaking talent. In a way, it’s a bit like having two great goalies, right?
Next up for Mission Hill? The inaugural releases from CheckMate Artisanal Winery, near Oliver.