Wine Culture Magazine

Anthony Von Mandl’s ambitious soil-mapping plan

Iconic Wineries of BC has hired soil science technician Stephanie Vickers to analyze what’s beneath all those vines. Photo courtesy of Iconic Wineries of BC

Talk for more than a few minutes with Anthony von Mandl and you’re sure to hear the word “extraordinary” bandied about. And fair enough. The proprietor of Iconic Wineries of BC is doing some fairly extraordinary things these days.

It’s not just that he’s almost done turning all his Okanagan vineyard land, all 1,000 or so acres of it, organic. Or that he managed to nab the first and second 100 point scores ever for a Canadian table wine (the CheckMate Little Pawn Chardonnay 2015 and 2016). Now he’s bent on mapping every millimetre of his vineyards, defining each micro-block so it can be farmed in the most precisely perfect way possible.

To that end he’s hired Stephanie Vickers, the only soil science technician to be employed full-time by a winery in Canada. “What she’s doing is extraordinary,” von Mandl says.

That’s not all. Curious to learn more about the soil of the Okanagan Valley, not long ago von Mandl and two geologists flew up to the Yukon to follow the trail of the glaciers that carved the valley out some 10,000 years ago.

The valley, he points out, is unique among the world’s wine regions in that it was created by both volcanic activity and two glacial periods. As the glaciers of the most recent ice age retreated, they created lakes, unearthed volcanic ash, scraped off mountainsides and left all sorts of sand, gravel and other debris in their wake. All of that is still captured in those glaciers up north, literally frozen in time.

“We landed on glaciers which are identical to the last glacial age in the Okanagan, so we can see exactly how the soils are formed,” von Mandl says. “We’ve learned so much about what’s above the ground, I thought it was important that we also see what’s below the ground.”

See? Extraordinary.

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