In the 12th annual Lieutenant Governor Wine
Awards this year, 432 wines competed for the twelve 2014 awards of excellence
Clearly, it is a tough competition, adjudicated by seven
judges over three days (I was one of the judges). In my view, the standard of
quality was very high this year. In part, that reflects many wines were from two
good vintages in 2012 and 2013. The 2010 and 2011 vintages were challenging but
quite a number of producers handled them well.
The high quality also reflects the ever more accomplished
viticulture and winemaking throughout the industry.
The competition is open to all British Columbia wineries. A winery is
allowed to enter up to four wines. Unusual among competitions, there is no
entry fee. The costs of the competition are born by Government House Trust.
The judging is supervised by Marg King of Penticton. She is a veteran of wine
competitions, having run the VQA tasting panel for many years when the tastings
were done the research centre in Summerland.
The judging is entirely blind. The flights of wine – usually
no more than a dozen wines to a flight – are poured in a back room at
Government House in Victoria,
the venue for the judging. The judges will know only what varietal or blend is
set before them. They do not know what wineries are represented in each glass.
For most of the competition, the judges split into panels
(three judges in one, four in the other). In the first round, judges nominate
wines to “go forward” to the final round. This year, 55 wines made through to
the final round.
Those finalist wines are judged by all seven judges over a
three to four hour period. The votes of the judges are tallied. The winning
wines are those with the highest number of votes.
The 2014 winners run the gamut from new entries to
established wineries which have won previously. One of the first-time winners,
Bonamici Cellars, is still a virtual winery. Operating through an established
winery’s license, Bonamici began selling its wines only last year. Mario Rodi
and Phil Soo, the partners, plan to establish their own winery in a couple of
Here are the winners. The tasting notes are those provided
by the wineries.
Merlot Cabernet Franc 2012
($28). “The wine is a gentle reminder of the
outstanding growing season had in 2012 in the Okanagan Valley
. In this short time we are able to get the
wine to show all its true colors. This
fruit forward wine boasts of aromas of black currant, cherry, and strawberry
jam with nice subtle notes of black pepper spice and anise. This full bodied red has soft tannins with
lots of berry fruit upfront with nice accompanying flavours of oak, dark cocoa
and tobacco flavours. The wine finishes
off balanced with long lingering flavours.”
Generation Riesling 2012
($20.90). The winery’s notes: “As we stopped the fermentation on this wine earlier,
the remaining sweetness boosts the flavour profile into a much fuller
direction. Lots of honey, nectarine, quince and white peach are dominating but
the lively acidity gives it a refreshing finish which lasts a long time. Aging
The winery is so named
because Bernd Schales, one of the owners, comes from a family that has grown
grapes in Germany
for eight generations. His wife, Stefanie, can trump that. Her family’s wine
history goes back 10 generations.
Fort Berens Riesling 2012 ($18). “Our estate grown 2012 Riesling is a study in
Lillooet’s terroir. Pale in colour, with aromas of white peach, squeezed lime
and flint. Flavours unfold in layers: kiwi, fresh lime and orange rind. A
lingering finish of honeysuckle, ripe peach, and tart apple.”
This pioneering Lillooet
winery is operated by Rolf de Bruin and Heleen Pannekoek. The winery, which
began selling wines in 2009, is opening its first tasting room in July in
Hester Creek Reserve Merlot Block 2 2011 ($28.90). “This Reserve Merlot is very enjoyable
right now and has the ability to easily age for 5-7 years. Showcasing strong
notes of mocha, plum, and eucalyptus, this wine has a lovely balanced tannin
structure and is slightly fuller in body than the 2010 offering. The wine
showcases a round, multilayered mid palate of black current and cherries.”
Hester Creek won an award of excellence several years ago for
a Cabernet Franc. Winemaker Rob Summers has the advantage of getting grapes
from one of the oldest and best vineyards on the Golden Mile Bench.
Bluff Summa Quies Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Sémillon 2013 ($19.90 for 619 cases). “The blend is 74/26 Sauvignon
Blanc and Semillon; the Sauvignon Blanc is noticeable on the nose with the
telltale grapefruit, kiwi and lime aromas and the hint of baked apple and honey
coming behind from the Sémillon.
The wine has a crisp, refreshing finish that lingers thanks to the strength of
the Sémillon and the
freshness of the Savy.”
is the third award of excellence for this winery. That is a commentary on owner
Luke Smith’s passion and on his vineyard just off Naramata Road.
Krāzē Legz Vineyard Skaha Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay 2013 ($19.95). “Hints of honeysuckle on the nose, pineapple
and Okanagan stone fruit on the mid palate with a crisp kiwi lime finish.”
Krāzē Legz, which opened in 2010, was the first winery in
Kaleden (two others have opened since). Owners Sue and Gerry Thygesen, who
celebrate the dance craze of the 1920s in the winery name, recently added Skaha
Vineyards are a companion label.
Laughing Stock Vineyards Portfolio 2011 ($42). “The wine has a nose of dark dried berries,
cedar and a hint of clove. On the palate, black cherry and bramble with anise
and thyme notes. More elegant in body from the cooler vintage, it has a great
structure and long finish.”
This is David Enns’s 10th
vintage of the flagship red for this Naramata Bench winery.
Okanagan Crush Pad Haywire Canyonview
Pinot Noir 2011 ($35). “This
wine started with low crop levels, extreme patience during harvest, and
slave-like manual punch downs in the tanks. It was aged in old French oak
barrels then moved into egg-shaped concrete tanks for further rest time. The
wine has the hallmark cherry fruit intensity of the previous vintage, with
soft, lush tannins and will continue to improve and evolve with bottle aging.”
Okanagan Crush Pad in
Summerland, where Michael Bartier and Matt Dumayne are winemakers, purchases
this Pinot Noir from an excellent vineyard which has a view of the Kettle Valley
Pentâge Syrah Reserve 2010 ($29). “We hand-picked two barrels that we felt were
unique/exceptional and created a reserve Syrah. Intense aromas of ripe
raspberry, cocoa and white pepper leap from the glass. The palate is full
of cherry, blackberry and exotic spice notes. Smooth with an excellent finish.”
Paul Gardner and Julie
Rennie, who operate this Penticton area winery,
have two excellent vineyards on a bluff overlooking Skaha Lake.
Quails’ Gate Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay 2012 ($35). “The
nose opens with enticing aromas of ripe pear, toasted nuts and delicious
butterscotch. The nutty round mid-palette of this fresh and lively wine
finishes in delightful hints of peaches and cream. Our Reserve Chardonnay is a
complex wine with layers of well integrated fresh fruit and sizzled butter
notes that unfold with each sip. The buttery toasted flavour of our Stewart
Family Reserve Chardonnay perfectly pairs with pan roasted halibut and lobster.
The freshness of this wine is particularly enhanced when paired with rich
creamy and savoury sauces, like Carbonara or Alfredo.”
Quails’ Gate is celebrating its 25th
this year. However, Tony Stewart and his family have been growing grapes at this vineyard
on the slopes of Boucherie
since the 1950s.
Ruby Blues Winery Viognier
($25). “Beautiful fragrance of spring blossoms and tropical flavours
with a hint of citrus.”
Ruby Blues’s owner,
Prudence Mahrer, now has at least three awards of excellence. She and Beat, her
husband, won their first (with a Gewürztraminer) in the debut Lieutenant
Governor competition when they still owned Red Rooster Winery.
Gretzky Okanagan The Great Red 2011
($17.99). “Garnet colour
with a bouquet of blue plum, blueberry, black cherry, smoke, sweet oak, violet
and vanilla. A smooth, medium-bodied, fruit-forward red wine. Juicy, fruit
flavours of blue plum, black cherry and black currant are accented by notes of
vanilla and cedar. Juicy, fleshy black fruits, leather and sweet spice linger
on the smooth finish.”
This is a new Okanagan label from Andrew Peller Ltd., which
started producing Gretzky wines several years ago in Niagara
The Okanagan wines are made by Stephanie Stanley who also had made Peller wines
that took home awards of excellence from previous Lieutenant Governor