Photo: Winery owner Chris Jentsch
C.C. Jentsch Cellars opened its winery just two years ago in
a converted apple processing plant beside the highway south of Oliver.
Even though the tasting room is quite visible and even
though the wines are widely available, I still encounter consumers who have
never heard of the winery.
That may change as a result of a recent tasting called The Judgment
of BC. C.C. Jentsch Syrah 2013 emerged as the number one red wine in a field of
12 superb British Columbia
and international Syrahs.
Take a bow, winegrower Chris Jentsch and Amber Pratt (right),
The Judgment of BC was a tasting that pitted six Chardonnays
and six Syrahs from British Columbia
against a similar number of Chardonnays and Syrahs from international wine
regions. The wines were tasted blind and scored by a panel of 17 tasters,
including British wine authority, Steven Spurrier.
The tasting, organized by the British Columbia Wine
Institute, was modelled on Spurrier’s famous 1976 tasting, The Judgment of
Paris, which put California wines in the map internationally.
The results of The Judgment of BC are unlikely to have the
same shock value, for three reasons. British Columbia
wines did not score a clean sweep; British Columbia
does not have the market weight of California;
and comparative tastings like this have become routine.
In 1976 Spurrier was a wine merchant in Paris. He sold primarily French wines and he
expected French wines to wine the tasting. When the result was announced, one
of the outraged French judges demanded her ballot back. (All but two of the 11
judges were French and the scores of the others – Spurrier and an American –
were not counted.)
You can understand why the French were outraged when an
upstart like Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon beats a First Growth Bordeaux like
The result launched California
wines onto the world stage.
Having said that, there is always an asterisk about wine
judgings. In the Wikipedia entry of The Judgment of Paris, Spurrier (left) is quoted
as saying: "The
results of a blind tasting cannot be predicted and will not even be reproduced
the next day by the same panel tasting the same wines."
Some judges are more consistent than others; others have
good days and bad days.
While there were no wines of First Growth status up against
the British Columbia
wines, the competition was stiff.
Of the 12 Chardonnays, those ranking one through five all
were from international wineries. Of the 12 Syrahs, British Columbia
wines took places throughout the field, including number one.
My view is that British
Columbia wines are now running with the pack. We can
stop asking ourselves if we are world class yet. We most certainly are. Even a
two-year-old winery like C.C. Jentsch can play with the big boys.
Here is how the wines were ranked.
1. C.C. Jentsch Syrah 2013 | Okanagan Valley, BC
2. Langmeil Shiraz Orphan Bank 2012 | Barossa, South Australia
Vincent Paris Cornas Granit 60 2013 | France | $66
4. Nichol Syrah 2012 | Okanagan
5. Le Vieux
Pin Syrah Cuvée Classique 2013 | Okanagan Valley, BC | $50