Photo: Winning wines in 2017
A total of 486 wines from 136 wineries were entered this year in the 2016 Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in British Columbia Wines.
In keeping with the rigor in which the competition is judged, 12 wines were singled out for awards from among the 50 outstanding wines that made it into the final round. 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. It was continued by her successors, The Honourable Steven Point and the current incumbent, The Honourable Judith Guichon. All British Columbia producers of grape wines are eligible to enter.
This year, the winning wineries are all in the Okanagan. They include both repeat wineries and first-time winners. Burrowing Owl won a previous award also with a Cabernet Franc. As well, Noble Ridge won an award with an earlier vintage of its sparkling wine, The One.
Cassini Cellars, Gray Monk Estate Winery and Howling Bluff Estate Winery all have won awards in previous competitions. Cassini keeps winning with big reds while Howling Bluff is making is mark with Pinot Noir and Gray Monk with sparkling wine.
Kitsch Wines, a first-time winner, just opened last year. Their winning Riesling is from the first harvest at their Kelowna vineyard. Two other first-time winners occupy neighbouring vineyards beside Highway 97 south of Oliver: Maverick Estate Winery, which began sales in 2013, and Castoro de Oro, which had previously been named Golden Beaver by the current owners who bought the property in 2006.
Perseus Winery and The Hatch Wines, both first time winners, are owned by the Terrabella Wineries group. The Hatch opened in 2015 while Perseus opened in 2009.
Upper Bench Estate Winery formerly struggled under other names and owners. It was re-established in 2012 by Gavin and Shana Miller. Unique among the winners, it also incorporates a cheese-making facility operated by Shana.
The awards will be presented in September by the Lieutenant Governor, who visits each winning winery. She is accompanied by members of the Consular Corps of British Columbia. The consuls not only improve their knowledge of British Columbia wines but often make significant purchases.
Here are the winners.
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery Cabernet Franc 2014: ($Sold out). Winery tasting notes: “A ripe yet elegant nose showing a complex range of floral violet notes, five spice, sage, plum, black cherry and liquorice with a subtle hint of dark chocolate infused with orange zest. The palate is medium in body, elegant and refreshing with crisp acidity, soft round tannins and intense raspberry, plum, blackberry and spice on a long finish that shows some complex graphite minerality.”
Cassini Cellars The Aristocrat Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($40). Winery notes: “The Aristocrat Cabernet Sauvignon is a big, rich, intense, voluptuous, seductive style showing supple plum, mocha, dates, cassis, vanilla toffee, chocolate and red wild berry fruit making it spicy and aromatic. Layers of flavour flood the palate, creating a long lasting and lingering finish.”
Cassini Cellars Nobilus Merlot Collector’s Series 2013 ($40). Winery notes: “2013 Nobilus is about balance, structure, character. This classy wine has intense aromas of black currant, raspberry jam, spice and hints of cedar and vanilla. Smooth silky tannins with long lingering blackberry and cocoa notes. A long velvety finish completes this elegant wine ….”
Castoro de Oro Estate Winery Crimson Rhapsody 2014 ($NA). Winery notes: “A Bordeaux style red with a kick from Syrah, this full-bodied red offers flavours of plum, currant and blackberry, and notes pepper and coffee. The blend is finished in French oak barrels for 18 months, adding to its sumptuous richness.”
Grey Monk Estate Winery Odyssey White Brut 2014 ($21.99). Winery notes: “Our Odyssey White Brut sparkling wine is made from a blend of Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay Musqué grapes. The wine's second fermentation is in the bottle and is left on the yeast for 13 months. The bottles are then riddled and disgorged and the dosage is added. Served chilled in a Champagne flute, this pale straw-coloured wine provides a lively display of fine bubbles. The aroma is fruity and fresh. On the palate, the wine has a full creamy texture with flavours hinting of citrus fruits and apricots. The finish is crisply refreshing.”
The Hatch Crown + Thieves “The Broken Barrel” Syrah 2013 ($NA). Author’s tasting notes: “The grapes were from a vineyard in east Osoyoos. The wine completed fermentation in American oak barrels and then was aged for two years in an American oak puncheon. Only 50 cases were made. The wine begins with aromas of deli meats, prunes and bacon fat. That is echoed on the robust palate, along with earthy flavours of plum and black cherry. A note of pepper punctuates the finish. The term, Broken Barrel, apparently refers to a forklift accident.”
Howling Bluff Estate Winery Century Block Pinot Noir 2013 ($75). Winery notes: “The Century Block is sited on a slight western facing slope on what was the stream bed of Three Mile Creek. Terroir: rocks, sand, gravel and silt with "river wash" from the action of Three Mile Creek as it carved the stream bed into the bottom of Lake Penticton. Vineyard size: 1,200 vines, clones: 667 and 777. In the 1980’s there were 100 different species of apples on the site, hence the name “Century Block”. Tonnage was 1,320 kilograms. The wine was aged in 100% new French oak puncheons for 12 months. Because 2013 was the first year, we decided to bottle the Century Block separately. We only bottled 2 puncheons under the Century block label and the rest of the wine was put into our Summa Quies label. Case production: 60.”
Kitsch Wines Riesling 2015 ($25.90). Author’s tasting notes: “This wine begins with aromas of lemon and lime, echoed on the palate. The flavours are surprisingly concentrated for fruit from young vines, with a vibrant tension created by balancing nine grams of acidity with 15.4 grams of residual sugar. The wine has begun to show a note of the classic petrol that develops as Riesling ages.”
Maverick Estate Winery Bush Vine Syrah 2014 ($32). Winery tasting notes: “This expressive, terroir-driven Syrah is made from a single vineyard. [The vines are] grown in a traditional ‘bush vine’ style. It has a rich, velvety red colour and boasts a masculine bouquet with intense cranberry, cherry and tobacco leaf aromas…. This Syrah has an expansive palate that exudes decadent layers of Black Forest cake, yet it has a tailored tannin structure which captures aromas of black fruit, licorice and nuances of white pepper.”
Noble Ridge Vineyards & Winery “The One” Sparkling 2012 ($39.90). Winery tasting notes: “Elegant aromas of Granny Smith apple and refreshing pink grapefruit are complimented by hints of fresh biscuit and caramelized stone fruit. This medium bodied, traditional French style brut highlights our single vineyard estate grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.”
Perseus Winery Invictus 2013 ($49.99). Winery notes: “Inspired by the ‘Grande Vin’ of Bordeaux’s Right Bank, our 2013 Invictus showcases the true potential that Cabernet Franc can achieve here in the South Okanagan. This wine bursts out of the bottle with concentrated aromas of black cherry, truffle and shades of pencil lead which lead into an opulent yet well structured wine of impressive complexity. Flavours here straddle both old world and new, with boysenberry, anise and dark chocolate hints. The mouth-feel is all velvet with long, lingering tannins.”
Upper Bench Estate Winery Estate Chardonnay 2015 ($26). Author’s tasting notes: “This wine was 50% fermented and aged three months in new French oak; and 50% fermented and aged in stainless steel. The minimal oak treatment imparted a creamy texture to this fruit forward wine. The flavours mingle notes of marmalade with peach.”