Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lieutenant Governor's wine awards for 2014






In the 12th annual Lieutenant Governor Wine Awards this year, 432 wines competed for the twelve 2014 awards of excellence in wine.

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 years.

Here are the winners. The tasting notes are those provided by the wineries.

Bonamici Cellars 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.”

8th 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 potential.”

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 Lillooet.






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.




Howling 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.”

This 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 trestle.





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 anniversary this year. However, Tony Stewart and his family have been growing grapes at this vineyard on the slopes of Boucherie Mountain since the 1950s.






Ruby Blues Winery Viognier 2013 ($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.






Wayne 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 competitions.



 





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