The 2018 Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Wine followed a new format this year.
After being managed for 15 years by Government House Trust in Victoria, the competition this year was turned over to the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society and was integrated with the fall wine festival competition. The entire competition now is called the British Columbia Lieutenant Governor's Wine Awards.
The change came about because Government House needed its resources for other projects. The LG Awards have matured into a respected competition, perhaps more suitably managed by professional competition managers.
This year, slightly more than 700 wines were entered. The judging panel included a number of veterans of the previous LG Awards.
As in past fall wine festivals, the judges awarded gold, silver and bronze medals. Then the 58 strongest gold medal winners were judged again. This stringent process produced 12 platinum awards and an additional “best of show” award. These awards, which were handed out Thursday evening by Her Honour, Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin, equate to the awards given in previous LG competitions. In those, only 10 to 12 awards were made each year, with no other medals.
Later this fall, the winning wineries will be invited to a dinner at Government House in Victoria.
The winning wines are a cross section of British Columbia has begun to do best.
There is one Pinot Blanc, a varietal which Liquor Distribution Branch wine buyer Barbara Philip advocated as the signature grape for the Okanagan in her Master of Wine thesis.
There is a Pinot Gris, a Chardonnay and a Riesling, other leading white varietals in the Okanagan and Similkameen. There is a sophisticated sparkling wine.
There are two Pinot Noirs, three Syrahs and one Cabernet Franc, all rising stars among the red varietals in BC.
And for consumers looking for something different, there is the remarkable Optima desert wine and the Okanagan’s first red from Touriga Nacional, a Portuguese varietal usually associated with Port.
Here are notes on the winning wines. With the exception of the sparkling wine, the tasting notes are all from the winery web sites.
Sperling Vineyards Sparkling Brut 2011 ($43.49 for 200 six-packs). This is a traditional Champagne method wine made with Pinot Blanc from a 1996 planting. The wine spent five years on the lees before being disgorged. It has classic bready/bisquity aromas and flavours from time on the lees. There are also flavours of citrus and apple. Good acidity gives the wine a crisp, tangy finish. The bubbles are fine and persistent. (My tasting notes.)
Black Hills Estate Winery Syrah 2016 ($39.90). This vintage of Syrah is elegant, offering notes of blackberry, blueberry, and black & white pepper on the nose with hints of cocoa and eucalyptus lingering in the background. Soft, supple tannins dominate the palate with rich black fruit carrying through for a mouth-watering finish. This wine will pair well with wild game and hearty red meat dishes. Enjoy now or cellar for up to eight years.
Hillside Estate Winery Reserve Pinot Gris 2017 ($24). Our classic Pinot Gris—luscious ripe fruit created scents of orange blossoms and vanilla mingled with tropical fruit aromas followed by a rich and supple mid-palate.
Kismet Estate Winery Syrah Reserve 2016 ($39.99). Syrah is especially suited to the warm dry climate of the South Okanagan, where it reaches full ripeness with deep purple colour and spicy aromas. Aged for 18 months in new French and American oak barrique barrels. Bright cherry red colour with a good depth and bluish hues at the rim. Intense red currant and red berry fruit aromas along with spice and vanilla. A lively, vibrant palate with intense flavours.
Kismet Estate Winery Cabernet Franc Reserve 2016 ($39.99). Smokey toasty, blackberry, black cherry and leather. Sumptuous soft and seamless texture. Focused acidity lifts the fruit of this viscous wine. Structured bold and emery tannins complete the finish. Aged for 18 months in French and American barrique barrels.
Lake Breeze Vineyards Pinot Noir 2016 ($25.90 but sold out). Best wine of the show. This wine is a medium bodied elegant red with rich aromas and flavours of strawberries and plum, followed by a touch of warm spice. Well integrated tannins and generous length reflects the terroir of this estate grown Pinot Noir. An excellent structured wine designed for food.
Little Engine Winery Silver Pinot Noir 2016 ($35). A beautiful ruby colour wine that beckons with initial notes of savoury herbs, dried brush and red fruit leather. Fresh and juicy start on the palate with bing cherries and dried hibiscus with a considerably lengthy finish highlighting spicy red fruits, anise and a touch of tarragon. Approachable and silky upon release this wine will develop well through 2023 under ideal cellaring conditions.
Moon Curser Vineyards Touriga Nacional 2016 ($39.99). The 2016 Touriga Nacional is a dry, medium-bodied red wine with a nose of spice, red fruits, fennel seed and floral notes. The palate is similar to the nose but with hints of leather, tobacco and cedar. Medium weight, with a silky mouthfeel and approachable tannin and acid structure, the wine delivers an intriguing profile of savoury and fruity characters.
Nk’Mip Cellars Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay 2016 ($28.99). These Chardonnay grapes were whole-bunch pressed to extract the highest quality of juice. Complete malolactic fermentation during 10 months in French oak barrels developed the unique bouquet and mouth-feel. Rich and nutty in flavour, offering lots of caramel, marzipan and pear. Enticing and aromatic with subtle layering of honey and pineapple is followed by a lingering vanilla finish.
Quails’ Gate Estate Winery Totally Botrytis Affected Optima 2017 ($28.99 for 375 ml). For more than 25 years Quails’ Gate has become known for this wonderfully unique dessert wine. Our Optima grapes are grown at the base of the Quails’ Gate Estate vineyards where the proximity to the lake encourages a micro flora known as Botrytis Cinerea or Noble Rot to grow on the ripe grapes, which concentrates the flavours and intensifies the sugars to produce a Sauterne-style wine.
Rust Wine Co. Syrah 2016 ($37). Q Block is situated on the northern edge of the Black Sage Bench in Oliver. Sandy loam soils and a western aspect produce a Syrah with ripe black fruits, cracked pepper and olive notes. Will continue to age well for 5+ years.
Wild Goose Vineyards Mystic River Pinot Blanc 2017 ($16.52) The lovely aromas and flavours of this wine make it one of the unsung heroes of BC wines. This small production wine has a nose that shows melon & minerality, while the palate tastes of pear and white pepper. The buttery mouthfeel is balanced with a lengthy finish that goes on and on and …
Wild Goose Vineyards Riesling 2017 ($16.52). This fruit forward Riesling comes from estate grown grapes, including the 33-year-old Wild Goose Vineyards and the 11-year-old Secrest Vineyards. Sweet reserve is added to balance the refreshing racy acidity, a “classic” method of winemaking. The nose shows aromas of floral, spice and apricot, while flavours of minerality and citrus follow.