He doesn’t often speak publicly about it, but when Anthony von Mandl shares his vision of the future of his Mission Hill estate winery and the Okanagan Valley in general, he is consistent.
As he addressed the West Kelowna Residents Association on Thursday night, it was expected he would talk about timelines and construction schedules, noise and impacts on neighbours of a stated 15-year expansion to the winery. Instead, he spoke not of how he will expand, but why. Why he chose to build a world-class winery in a little known wine region, why the world’s wealthiest people will need to visit and why the rest of the Okanagan may wish to join that vision for the betterment of all.
It’s a vision that hasn’t changed since he first shared it with the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce in 1982, he recalls. As he described to them then, his vision of the valley and his corner of it, is of a luxury agri-tourism mecca.
“I’ve spent time in all the different regions in the world,” he said. “And there is no place, no valley where wine grows that is as beautiful a region, as precious and pristine as the Okanagan Valley and I don’t know that enough people here realize how valuable each little piece of land is.”
His dream is to build his winery in concert with the land around it, not in contrast. He said he designed Mission Hill to never be sold, a family estate for 300 to 400 years.
Expansion plans call for a new boutique hotel, a new restaurant, conference centre and a wellness centre.
He wants to attract the kind of visitor who is “recession-proof,” the super-rich and accomplished who will always have means.
He has hired one of the world’s foremost architects to take it on.
“This will put him over the top. This (expansion) project will be featured in every book on winery architecture in the world,” he explained.
“We will see a pilgrimage of people from all over the world coming to see the winery. Wine is one of the only businesses that survives not just decades and generations but centuries.”
After taking questions, it was clear many of the 80 people in attendance were there to hear about how the development would impact them. Von Mandl did his best to reassure them.
“There will not be 10 years of cement trucks and anyone that alleges that there will be unabated trucks up and down Mission Hill Road does not understand the nature of the project and construction.
“You also have to understand one other thing, we have 100,000 visitors who come to the winery…(if we had) 10 years of construction and trucks going back and forth, it would damage our business clearly.”
He said he is trying to be clever and inventive in how its done and greatly reduce its impact.
Marshall Jones is a Capital News contributor.