Photo: CedarCreek's Ross (left) and Gordon Fitzpatrick (credit Albert Normandin)
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
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 (right) 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
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
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
DiBello in 2000, paid big dividends. CedarCreek was twice Canada
of the year in the leading national wine competition. Mission Hill has won the
same award three times.
DiBello left in 2010 (he is now at Burrowing Owl) and was
succeeded by Darryl Brooker, an Australian-trained winemaker (left)..
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