Anita Stewart’s Canada File: The Terrace at Mission Hill Winery
By Anita Stewart
By Anita Stewart
There is a majesty here – just as founder Anthony von Mandl envisioned it from the beginning in 1981. Set atop an ancient, well-worn mountain overlooking British Columbia’s Okanagan valley, Mission Hill Family Estate Winery is the most beautiful winery in Canada. From its iconic 12 storey tower, bells, one for each family member, peal at noon echoing over Lake Okanagan, a watery 145 km slash in the earth that has become the focal point for most of Canada’s western wine production.
This is genuine opulence where royalty and heads of state visit along with wine aficionados from around the world. The estate is dedicated not only to the art and science of fine winemaking, but to the culinary, visual and performing arts. Indeed there is even a 1200 seat outdoor greco-amphitheatre, the setting for a series of summer concerts that welcome performers like David Foster, Sheryl Crow and the Gipsy Kings.
The year 1994 was a watershed moment for the winery and for Canada when Mission Hill’s Grand Reserve Chardonnay 1992 won the Avery Trophy for Best Chardonnay in the World at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in London. This first major award ushered in the modern era of British Columbian winemaking.
So when the development of a restaurant was envisioned, the caveat was that it had to match the setting and, above all, the quality of the wine!
The chef who was charged with the task of creating a world-class culinary programme was Michael Allemeier, now one of only three Master Chefs in Canada. He took on the challenge with enthusiasm. He was so successful that The Terrace Restaurant was officially named as one of the top five winery restaurants in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine in 2008, no easy feat for what many writers and critics saw as a remote location. “Building our kitchen gardens was a natural part of our culinary program. Can’t think of a stronger way to demonstrate our Cuisine du Terroir than growing our own food.”
He planted a varietal garden showcasing three whites, Riesling, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and three reds, Syrah, Merlot and Pinot Noir. “By organizing the wine varietals amongst the fruits, vegetables and herbs, it helped cooks and guests understand sensory descriptions and pairings.”
Meanwhile, Dr. von Mandl’s commitment to vinous excellence paid off again in 2013 when the 2011 Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir was named Best Pinot Noir in the World by the Decanter World Wine Awards, the most prestigious of global wine competitions.
Today Chef Patrick Gayler has taken the culinary reins and has built on Chef Allemeier’s vision. With summer breezes cooling the open Terrace, diners overlook now-mature rows of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines and have a panoramic view of the valley.
The Terrace team is serving forth a menu that could stand on its own in the finest restaurants in the world. Chef Gayler is constantly challenging himself to stretch the boundaries of creativity, fermenting ingredients like soy sauce and miso and making buttermilk and an array of charcuterie on site. He’s had sea buckthorn planted to press for ponzu sauce, the classic Japanese flavouring. This year his goal is to entirely delete citrus from the kitchens so off to the vineyards they went to harvest green grapes for about 200 litres of verjus.
There is a psychology that permeates all the menus. There is a reason for every dish and every wine! Chef Gayler explained; “We look at seasonality/proximity of product and then look to the best suited varietal. The vineyard garden vegetables are served with the estate-made miso then paired with a Viogner because the floral aroma is heightened by the lightly fermented flavor and aroma of the miso. Our rosé is mostly shiraz and has a great red fruit quality of strawberry and rhubarb. In the foie gras tart the Crimson rhubarb’s acidity is beautiful with the rosé’s crisp style.”
Dry-aged Yarrow Meadows duck is served with Terrace-fermented kimchi some sprouted and then fried rye and hearts from the same ducks. Chef Gayler admits that it’s “not the easiest pairing” but he’s made it work. “The sweet earthiness of the sprouted rye matches with a pinot noir well and even though the hearts have lots of flavor, they are lean and not too rich for the pinot.”
As the summer heat abates and the harvest begins in earnest, the demonstration kitchen becomes home to dozens of cooking evenings, among which one of the themes is matching the fine wines produced by all the winery’s vineyards with local foods. From charcoal cookery to the foods of an Italian Christmas over 60 evenings are dedicated to sharing the Chef Gayler’s cache of culinary knowledge.
Anthony von Mandl with his favoured architect Tom Kundig* continue to influence the region, pushing the boundaries of winemaking and extraordinary architectural construction. In addition to the newly opened Martin’s Lane Winery, they have teamed up to build Checkmate Winery in the dry heat of the South Okanagan near Oliver. Both wineries are absolutely essential to a full understanding of the potential for winemaking in western North America and the new frontiers for world-class wine. They are setting benchmarks for the future!
The Terrace Restaurant at Mission Hill Winery
1730 Mission Hill Road,
Central Okanagan/ Kelowna,
B.C. V4T 2T1
Martin was Anthony’s father and this year, this new winery, Martin’s Lane, has been built on the property across the lake from Mission Hill. https://www.martinslanewinery.com/
Checkmate! This winery is dedicated to playing the climate change game and winning. https://www.checkmatewinery.com/
Regional Tourism Info: https://www.tourismkelowna.com/
For a full overview of British Columbia wine: http://winebc.com/
*Tom Kundig is the recipient of the 2008 National Design Award in Architecture Design, awarded by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and is based in Seattle.