Photo: The 14 winners in 2015
In 2015, the Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in
British Columbia Wines broke new ground.
For the first time in the competition’s 12-year history, a Vancouver Island
winery – Enrico Winery & Vineyards –
was among the winners.
There was a significantly stronger showing overall by island
wineries, reflecting both the recent excellent coastal vintages and the maturing
The coastal wineries in either the semi-final or final judging
rounds, in addition to Enrico, included Blue Grouse Estate Winery, Symphony
Vineyard, 40 Knots Vineyard & Estate Winery and Sea Star Vineyard &
As the wine industry knows, this is a difficult award to win
because only a limited number of awards are given. This year, 14 awards were
given for what the judges deemed the very best among the 408 wines entered.
One winery owner has been quoted as saying this is like
winning the Stanley Cup. It is an apt comparison, considering that award was
established by a Governor General. The wine award was established in 2003 by The
Honourable Iona Campagnolo when she was Lieutenant Governor. A similar award
has since been established by Ontario
A slight amendment of the judging procedure this year improved
the rigor of the competition, assuring that the best wines were winners.
The judging team was enlarged and three panels were
established. In the first round of judging, each panel tasted about a third of
the wines, narrowing down the selection of wines for the semi-final round.
The 84 wines in the semi-final round were tasted by the full
judging panel. They refined the selection to 30 wines for the final round of
judging. Inserting the semi-final round of judging was new this year.
Thus, the winning 14 wines were tasted twice by all nine
judges, and three times by some judges. The winners were tasted 27 times. There
was unanimity or strong majorities for the winners.
While a large number of wineries entered, I noted with
surprise that some major producers, among them previous winners, did not enter
while they do enter national and international competitions.
That makes absolutely no sense. It costs around $100 an
entry to submit wines for national or international competitions. There is
no entry fee for the Lieutenant Governor’s competition. Wineries are asked just for three bottles each of up to four entries.
Of course, the difficulty of winning an award – only 14
awards from 408 wines – might strike some as lottery odds. The point is that
the exclusivity of these awards makes them especially prestigious.
Other competitions hand out far more awards, including of
bronze medals, to which there is limited prestige.
This competition also stands apart because the awards are
handed out personally in the last week of July by the Lieutenant Governor (Her
Honour Judith Guichon) in ceremonies at the winning wineries. The event is all
the more grand because many members of the British Columbia
consular corps also attend.
The consuls are not just there to party. They also buy wines
for their own cellars. One year, they purchased so much wine that their bus was
overloaded and a truck had to be rented to carry all of the wine. For winning
wineries, this can be a nice payday.
Here are this year’s winners.
BC Wine Studio
Siren’s Call Syrah 2012 ($25). This big and bold red begins with aromas of
black cherry, oak and delicatessen spices. On the palate, there is more black
cherry and plum with classic notes of white and black pepper.
Blasted Church Vineyards Holy Moly 2012
($31). This is 100% Petit Verdot, a late ripening
variety comparatively rare in the Okanagan. The wine begins with an intense
dark red colour. The aromas span the gamut from floral perfume, plum and cherry
to raw steak. The wine has flavours of black cherry and plum with spice and
sage on the finish. There is even a hint of graphite on the finish of a very
Cassini Cellars Cabernet Franc Collector’s
Series 2012 ($29). Beginning
with brambleberry aromas, this concentrated wine has flavours of plum,
blackberry and black currant, with a tarry, earthy note on the finish.
Church & State
Winery Quintessential 2012 ($55). This is the eighth vintage of Church
& State’s award-winning Bordeaux
blend. The wine is generous in texture and in flavours. It begins with aromas
of black cherry, black currants, vanilla and truffles. On the palate, there are
flavours of plum, mulberry, black cherry and dark chocolate.
Enrico Winery & Vineyards Tempest (Ortega) 2014 ($17.50). This
wine begins with lovely floral aromas. On the palate, it is intensely fruity
with flavours of peach and lime. The residual sweetness lifts the flavours and
gives the wine a juicy texture.
Ex Nihilo Vineyards Pinot Noir 2013 ($32). This is a seductive
wine, with aromas and flavours of strawberry and cherry. It is light ruby in
colour but, on the palate, the wine has a surprising full texture and
50th Parallel Estate Chardonnay
2013 ($32). This wine was
fermented and aged 12 months in premium French oak barrels. The wine begins
with a buttery and spicy aroma of expensive oak (think of cinnamon and apple
pie). That translates to a creamy palate, with flavours of hazelnut, marmalade,
baked apple and a never-ending finish. This is an elegant and satisfying Chardonnay.
Reserve Riesling Icewine 2014 ($34.95 for 200 ml). A superb Icewine, this
has aromas and flavours of lime and ripe pineapple, with brisk acidity to
balance the residual sugar. The finish is elegantly fresh and long-lasting. Earlier
vintages of this winery’s Icewine also won LG awards in 2013 and 2006.
Lake Breeze Vineyards Merlot 2012
is a ripe, almost jammy wine with concentrated flavours of cassis, black cherry
Noble Ridge Vineyard
& Winery “The One” Sparkling 2010
($39.90). This sparkling wine cuvée
is 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. The wine spent about 26 months en tirage
before being disgorged in June 2013. It displays the toasty, bready aromas and
flavours one expects with Champagne
The bubbles give the wine a creamy mid palate but the finish is crisp and dry.
Platinum Bench Gamay
Noir Block 28 2013 ($34.90). This is a dense and concentrated wine with the
structure of a Beaujolais Cru (Morgon, perhaps). It has aromas and flavours of
black cherry and plum. The fruit is sweet. There are savoury and earthy notes
on the finish.
Red Rooster Syrah
Reserve 2012 ($26). Dark in colour, this wine has aromas of black cherry,
delicatessen spices, rare steak and pepper which are echoed in the flavours.
The long finish is pleasantly earthy and peppery.
Ruby Blues Winery
Viognier 2014 ($25). This is the third year that this winery
has won an award of excellence for Viognier. The 2014 wine is fresh and vibrant
with floral fragrances. On the palate, there are flavours of peach, citrus and
apple. The wine is juicy and refreshing.
Vineyards & Winery Mystic River Gewürztraminer 2014
($20.10). This is
the eighth award of excellence won by Wild Goose in the 12-year history of the
competition. It begins with intense aromas of rose petals and spice and
continues with flavours of orange peel, grapefruit and lychee. The wine is dry
but the exceptional fruit flavours trick the palate into perceiving slight