Thursday, June 27, 2019

Howard Soon named to Order of Canada

 Photo: Winemaker Howard Soon

Veteran winemaker Howard Soon has been named to the Order of Canada.

He is believed to be just the second individual from the BC wine industry to receive this award. Mission Hill Family Winery owner Anthony von Mandl was named a member of the Order in 2016.

“Created in 1967, the Order of Canada is one of our country's highest honours,” according to the Governor General’s web site. “Presented by the Governor General, the Order honours people whose service shapes our society; whose innovations ignite our imaginations; and whose compassion unites our communities.

Howard is the current winemaker at Vanessa Vineyards, the Similkameen winery he joined in 2017 shortly after retiring from Sandhill Wines, one of the BC wineries operated by Andrew Peller Ltd.

On Howard’s retirement, Craig McDonald, the senior winemaker at Peller, paid this complement to him: “As a fellow winemaker, I will remain in awe at his depth of knowledge, dedication to the craft and unwavering passion toward never compromising wine quality. Indeed, Howard has served the wine consumer well and has touched so many industry professionals along the way it’s too numerous to count. Howard’s legacy continues on with Sandhill and with the many winemakers he has mentored over the years, all respecting his experience, wisdom and dedication to their learning.”

Craig described Howard as “the longest serving winemaker in Canada - amassing an incredible 37 consecutive vintages.” This year’s vintage at Vanessa will be Howard’s 40th.

He was born in 1952 in Vancouver, the grandson of a shopkeeper who emigrated from southern China in the 1880s. Howard graduated in biochemistry from the University of British Columbia in 1974. After five years in the brewing industry, he joined Calona Vineyards in 1980 as a quality control supervisor, became assistant winemaker in 1981 and subsequently was promoted to chief winemaker.

Howard has been the winemaker for Sandhill Wines since that winery’s inception in 1997. Sandhill stands apart from most British Columbia wineries because it is dedicated to making primarily single vineyard wines. Each year those wines put the spotlight on six to eight distinctive terroirs.

“I believe terroir is a quest,” Howard told me in 2005. “It is a process, which is the way we do our wines, too. We’re always trying to make better wines, so we focus on process, not outcome.  We are always doing the best with everything that we do, then the wine will take care of itself. Really to me, terroir is the expression of the fruit quality. What the grape is giving you, that’s what terroir is to me – a true expression of what is in the fruit.”

Sandhill has won an impressive number of awards, including at least nine at the Lieutenant Governor’s Award of Excellence. Since 2004 Sandhill Wines have won about 100 gold or double gold medals in regional, national and international competitions. Just one example: double gold and best in category with a 2011 Small Lots Chardonnay at the Chardonnay du Monde Competition in France.

The BC wine industry gave Howard the Founder's Award in 1998. In 2015, he received the Vancouver Wine Festival’s 'Spirited Industry Professional' in 2015.

In his typically modest fashion, Howard did not claim complete responsibility for the Sandhill single vineyard strategy. He described the history to me in a 2005 interview:

“I can’t claim credit for it. I think it was collusion between us and marketing. Perhaps some wineries don’t have the communication channel between marketing and production. We do. We have always had that because we are brand focused.

“We had the Artist Series [at Calona]. I kept wanting to slip the grape growers in on the back label. It was important to me. I felt you’ve got to give credit to the guys who are growing the grapes. Marketing said, Howie, that’s not the right place for it.

“At the same time, Burrowing Owl Winery started up. We were partners with Jim Wyse. Ironically enough, in a parallel track, we made the first vintage, 1997, for Burrowing Owl in our winery [Calona], working with Bill Dyer.

“At the same time, marketing had the concept that we needed to push up into the premium area. Artist Series is more retail. We need something that is more premium. They asked what we could do. I said, one of the simplest ways of going premium is single vineyard. Let’s give credit to our growers.”

The first Sandhill wines were made with fruit from the Sandhill Estate Vineyard, then owned with Burrowing Owl Vineyards (a partnership later dissolved). Over the years, other premium vineyards were also enlisted for Sandhill.

Arguably, the gem was Phantom Creek Vineyard, a seven-acre parcel on Black Sage Road planted and farmed by Richard Cleave. He is as iconic as a grower as Howard is legendary as a winemaker.

“I have known him for years, ever since he was growing grapes at Pacific Vineyards,” Howard told me in 2005. “That is now where Burrowing Owl is. Dick got through the free trade period [when most Pacific Vineyards was pulled out] by growing market vegetables. He was growing peppers and stuff. He said, ‘Howie, I’ve got my own vineyard.’ He had started growing grapes and selling them to home winemakers. They were pretty good grapes. Even I didn’t realize how good they were.”

Richard asked Howard to make wine for him.  “I said I’ll see what I can do,” Howard recalled. “His first fruit was 2000 – three years after the first Sandhill wine. I made some Syrah, one barrel of Syrah, just under 20 cases. It was superb Syrah, but it was only one barrel. But we realized that Dick had something going.” Phantom Creek became the second single vineyard in the Sandhill portfolio. Ultimately, the vineyard grew some of the best Sandhill wines.

The vineyard was acquired early in 2016 by a Richmond-based Chinese entrepreneur, Richter Bai, who is now developing the Phantom Creek Estate Winery.

The first wines from the 75-acre Vanessa vineyard were produced in the 2012. Most of the grapes continue to be sold to the Peller wineries in BC.

“I’ve worked with Vanessa Vineyard grapes since its founding,” Howard said on becoming Vanessa’s winemaker in 2017. “I believe it is unlike any other vineyard due to the site’s unique topography, climatic conditions and soil types – the perfect combination for making truly distinctive wine.”

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Syrah: best BC Iconic Reds

When Alex Nichol planted the Okanagan’s first Syrah in 1990 on the Naramata Bench, it is probable that his peers thought he was daft.

A generation later, the variety has established itself as one of best red varieties for B.C. wine, especially when grown in the South Okanagan or the Similkameen Valley.

About 530 acres of Syrah are grown. The production in 2018 totalled 2,034 tons, or five percent of the total wine grape crop. Numerous wineries now make Syrah (a few call it Shiraz).

Recently, former wine store owner Simon Wosk teamed up with Norman Wood, who runs the Sutton Place Wine Merchant, to stage a tasting competition of 19 B.C. Syrahs.

At the now-closed Sip Wines in Richmond, Simon and the late John Levine began sponsored tastings in 2008 of Meritage wines, under the banner, BC Iconic Reds. In recent years, that annual tasting has been continued at the Sutton Place hotel.

This year, Simon and Norman expanded the BC Iconic Reds concept to a tasting of Syrah. About 60 wine enthusiasts attended to assess the wines in a blind tasting. Their votes produced a ranking of the top six wines.

The other wines in the competition are listed alphabetically here. My notes suggest all 19 wines had considerable merit. It is clear that Syrah has found a home in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys.

Here are the results of the tasting. Some of the vintages are sold out but most are available from the wineries and from Sutton Place Wine Merchant.

1. Sunrock Vineyards Shiraz 2015 ($34). My notes: Big and ripe, this wine begins with generous aromas of plum, fig and black cherry mingled with black pepper. On the palate, there are flavours of dark fruits, vanilla and oak. Note that the current vintage of this is 2016.
2. BC Wine Studio Siren’s Call Syrah 2015 ($35). Winery notes: Sourced from Vineyards near Cawston, BC, and Osoyoos, BC, this wine was aged 17 months in 100% new American oak barrels, and boasts elegance, finesse and classic varietal characteristics of pepper and spice.  It is clean, rich and full of dark red fruit.
3. Road 13 Syrah 2016 ($43.48). Winery notes: This classic Northern Rhone style Syrah delivers richness, elegance, balance, and freshness with an impressively long finish.
4. Painted Rock Syrah 2016 ($39.99). Winery notes: Aromas of ripe red fruit and florals jump out of the glass with raspberries, cherries, blackberries, and rose water. Rounded and rich on the palate with ripe, silky tannins with further flavours of cracked pepper, vanilla and toasted coconut. Lingering pepper and baking spices on the finish. 

5. Laughing Stock Syrah 2016  ($36.99). Winery notes: 100% estate grown on our Perfect Hedge vineyard in Osoyoos, the style is inspired by Cote Rotie in Northern Rhone, blending 95% Syrah with 5% Viognier. This classic technique gives the nose a floral lift and softens the pepper note ever so slightly.

6. Vanessa Vineyard Syrah 2015 ($34.99). My notes: The wine begins with aromas of cherry and fig mingled with spice and herbal notes. On the palate, the wine is rich with savoury flavours of dark fruit.

Black Hills Syrah 2016 ($39.99). Winery notes: 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.
Bonamici Reserve Syrah 2016 ($45). My notes: This is a bold wine with aromas of plum, fig and vanilla. There is ripe dark fruit on the juicy palate.

Church & State Syrah 2016 ($39.90). Winery notes: This bright and vibrant wine is a rising star in our books, and will only show more personality with additional time in the bottle. Already, it is showing great character through its inky purple colour. Expect a bouquet of flavour on the nose including; dried fruits, subtle spice, leather and cedar. The velvety tannins are well balanced, finishing with a good amount of length. 
Gold Hill Syrah 2013 ($34.99). My notes: The winery begins with aromas of dark fruits mingled with pepper. On the palate, bold oak supports flavours of fig and cherry.

Hester Creek Syrah Viognier 2016 ($28.95). Winery notes: Our Syrah is crafted in the traditional Rhône style with a dose of Viognier added for enhancing aromatics and flavours. This vintage has deep aromas of ripe raspberry, blueberry, white pepper an violet. An elegant palate follows with ripe fruit flavours of blackberry and blueberry, followed by earthy notes along with pepper, anise and smoked meat.

Hillside Syrah 2016 ($28). Winery notes: Crafted from grapes grown in our Hidden Valley vineyard our 2016 Syrah opens with black raspberry and notes of clove and espresso which interweave with black current and a touch of cardamom on the palate.  Elegant fine-grained tannins lead into a powerful juicy finish. 

Kettle Valley Stern Syrah 2015 ($38). Winery notes: The grapes for this wine come primarily from the Stern vineyard in Naramata.  The vineyard was farmed at two tons to the acre resulting in very concentrated flavours.  The grapes were hand picked on September 18, 2015 at approximately 25.4 brix.  The wine has gone through a full malolactic fermentation and was aged in French oak for 20 months before being bottled.  Total production: 45 cases.

Le Vieux Pin Cuvée Violette Syrah 2017 ($30.99). Winery notes: Cuvée Violette, as the name suggests, displays the perfumed and floral side of this noble grape variety. The palate is silky smooth thanks to a gentle co-ferment with just under 1% Viognier. The focus is on the feminine and graceful qualities of Syrah coming to the foreground. In the cellar we kid around and call this wine a Syrah for Pinot Noir lovers. Crunchy bramble fruit and purple flowers mingle with pepper and spice. Red bramble fruits burst on the nose and on the palate.

Phantom Creek Syrah 2016 ($75). Winery notes: Phantom Creek Vineyard has played a pivotal role in establishing Syrah as one of the Okanagan’s signature grape varieties. With only 1.2 acres planted, we produced a meagre four barrels of Phantom Creek Vineyard Syrah in 2016. This wine captures the variety’s floral and savoury signature with the desert sage of the South Okanagan.
Poplar Grove Syrah 2015 ($30.35). My notes: There are appealing floral notes on the aroma. The palate swaggers with flavours of plum, fig and cherry mingled with a hint of pepper.

The Hatch Black Swift The Long Road Syrah 2015 ($49.99). Winery notes: All de-stemmed after gentle sorting at the winery, this wine was fermented slowly at 25 degrees Celsius to fully maximize extraction of the abundantly ripe fruit. After fermentation was complete, the wine was finished in a mix of new and older French oak (50/50) for 16 months. This vintage has an incredible mixture of concentration and elegance. Despite the intensity at this stage, the wine remains beautifully smooth and pleasant to drink at this point, but shows enough stuffing to it that indicates it will have a long and complex life ahead.
Thornhaven Syrah 2015 ($30). Winery notes: Platinum National Award Winner 2018 – blackberry, cherry, vanilla and cloves. medium-bodied.

Winemaker’s CUT Syrah 2017 ($34). The aroma begins with notes of smoked deli meats which are echoed on the palate. This is a robust, gamy red with hints of pepper on the finish.

Monday, June 24, 2019

8th Generation Rose and friends

There is no doubt that rosé wines have become mainstream. Here is a story that proves it.

Recently, three burly bikers en route to a heavy metal concert stopped at 8th Generation Vineyard near Summerland to select wines to take to the concert. The portfolio here includes sparkling wines as well as red and white table wines.

The bikers left for the concert with a case of rosé!

It is a well-made rosé. I scored it 92 points when I recently visited the winery for a tasting of my own. Everything else I tasted, including a Syrah, scored 90 or better. The bikers had options. I suspect that five or 10 years ago, they would have been embarrassed to be seen with a rosé.

Today, no one is embarrassed to be drinking rosé. Pink wines have really broken away from that notion that only women drank them. Many consumers now choose them ahead of white wines because rosé wines, while still light, deliver more flavour. They are also more versatile with food.

Rosé aside, the roots of 8th Generation, which is operated by Bernd and Stefanie Shales (below) are with German Rieslings.

The variety is in their blood. Stefanie, though trained in architectural drafting, has 10 generations of wine-growing in her family. Bernd, who was born in 1972, comes from a Rheinhessen family that has grown grapes and made wine for eight generations, since 1783.

Rather than joining the siblings and relatives in family-owned Weingut Schales, Bernd and Stefanie struck out on their own in the Okanagan. In 2003, they bought an 11-acre vineyard near Okanagan Falls that had been planted in 1985 with, among other varieties, Riesling. The mature vines, all Clone 21B Riesling on their own roots, produce excellent wines with ripe flavours, crisp acidity, and a mineral backbone.

They opened 8th Generation Vineyard in 2007. Bernd’s family had sent him off to Canada with his grandfather’s antique wine press, which was a godsend in the 2007 vintage. That summer, Bernd and Stefanie shelved original plans to attach a winery to their Okanagan Falls home when they were able to buy the building previously housing the highway-side Adora winery just south of Summerland. The building was empty (Adora moved its equipment elsewhere) and Bernd moved urgently to order new equipment because the grapes were ripening quickly. His grandfather’s press, he discovered, was good for yet another vintage.

The Summerland property includes a five-acre vineyard. The winery also has a third vineyard, seven acres in size, on the Naramata Bench.

Here are notes on the wines currently being tasted in the wine shop.

8th Generation Chardonnay 2017 ($20). Eight per cent of this wine was barrel-fermented; the rest was fermented in stainless steel. The oak notes are very subtle in this vibrant, fruit-forward Chardonnay, which has aromas and flavours of peaches and tropical fruits. A note of cloves lingers on the finish. 91.

8th Generation Riesling Classic 2017 ($20). Made from 32-year-old vines, this is a Riesling with depth and intensity of flavour. The wine begins with a hint of petrol and lemon. The lime and lemon flavours are supported by good minerality. The wine has a dry finish. 91.

8th Generation Riesling 2017 ($20). This is the off-dry Riesling. It also begins with a slight note of petrol. The 23 grams of residual sugar support aromas and flavours of citrus and tropical fruits. The finish lingers. 91.

8th Generation Pinot Meunier Rosé 2018 ($20). Twenty-four hours of skin contact gave this wine an appealing rose petal hue. The aromas of strawberry and rhubarb are echoed in the refreshing flavours. The finish is crisp and dry. 92.

8th Generation Integrity 2017 ($21). Bernd captures carbon dioxide from his Riesling ferments to add bubbles to this white frizzante style sparkling wine. It is 60% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Gris and 15% Kerner. The bubbles give the wine a creamy texture. The wine delivers flavours of citrus and peach. 91.

8th Generation Confidence 2017 ($21). This pink sparkler is 90% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Gris. This is a festive wine, with a rose petal hue in the glass. Again, the bubbles create a creamy texture. The palate delivers a bowl full of fruit and a lingering, fruity finish. 91.

8th Generation Pinot Noir 2016 ($23). Elegant and silky in texture, this wine has aromas and flavours of cherry and plum, with a note of spice on the finish. 90.

8th Generation Cabernet Merlot 2016 ($23). The blend is 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 60% Merlot. The wine was aged in French oak (25% new). It begins with aromas of cassis and black cherry. On the palate, there are flavours of blueberry, black cherry and black currant. The texture is juicy. 91.

8th Generation Syrah 2016 ($20.17 wine club only). This wine was aged 12 months in French barriques. It begins with aromas of plum and deli meat spices, which is echoed on the palate. There is also a touch of black pepper. The long ripe tannins give the wine a full body and a firm structure. 92.

8th Generation Red One 2018 ($21). This is a fun wine made to be chilled. It is 97% Merlot, 3% Syrah. The aromas and flavours are cherry and raspberry. The wine is soft and juicy, with a texture recalling a nouveau wine. 90.

8th Generation Riesling Late Harvest 2018 ($14 for 350 ml). This is a very well-balanced dessert wine, with aromas and flavours of lime, apple and quince. The lingering sweet finish is moderated by the bright acidity. 92.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Quails' Gate white is BC's number one white

Photo: The number one-selling  VQA white wine in BC

Some years ago, Quails’ Gate Estate Winery had to rationalize an unwieldy wine portfolio that included a Swiss white varietal not well known to consumers here.

So the winery phased out Chasselas as a single varietal bottling. That is a bit sad because Chasselas was the first vinifera vine planted at Quails’ Gate. Lovers of Swiss wine will know what a delightful wine it is with, say, a cheese fondue.

Having said that, lovers of Swiss wines in BC are few and far between because we get so few of them here. Quails’ Gate worked around the comparative unfamiliarity of Chasselas (60%) by adding Pinot Gris (20%) and Pinot Blanc (20%) to the blend.

It worked. Did it ever! This is believed to be the largest selling white VQA wine in British Columbia. In 2018, the blend, which has all three varietals on the label, totalled a phenomenol 19,000 cases.

The Quail’s Gate portfolio is still large enough that some would consider it unwieldy. That is largely because the winery has added small lot wines that reflect the many special blocks in the vineyard. It is a good call. The current releases include two Gewürztraminers. The large production one is good but the single block small lot is outstanding.

Here are notes on current releases.

Quail’s Gate Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris 2018 ($17.99 for 19,000 cases). Here is a white to keep in the fridge for a refreshing glass of wine in the afternoon, or whenever the mood directs. It is juicy and easy to drink, with fruity aromas and flavours. 90.

Quail’s Gate Gewürztraminer 2018 ($16.99 for 5,900 cases). The wine begins with aromas of lychee and pear, leading to flavours of grapefruit with a hint of ginger on the finish. The acidity is soft and the wine has a hint of residual sweetness. 88.

Quail’s Gate Orchard Block Gewürztraminer 2018 ($21.99 for 550 cases). This is a fine dry Gewürztraminer with intense aromas and flavours. On the nose, there are spice notes. The palate is rich with flavours of lychee and grapefruit. The finish lingers and lingers. 93.

Quail’s Gate Dry Riesling 2018 ($16.99 for 3,600 cases). The wine begins with aromas of citrus. It delivers flavours of lemon and lime mingled with a mineral backbone. The finish is crisp and dry. With another six to 12 months in bottle, the flavours will express themselves fully. 91.

Quail’s Gate Chenin Blanc 2018 ($23.99 for 3,900 cases). The wine begins with aromas of apple and peach, leading to flavours of citrus. The wine is dry with a spine of minerality on the palate. 91.

Quail’s Gate Lucy’s Block Rosé 2018 ($24.99
for 893 cases). This is a blend of 60% Pinot Meunier and 40% Pinot Noir.  Delicate in hue, it has aromas and flavours of raspberries and wild strawberries. It is crisp and dry. 91.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Stag's Hollow turbo charges Vidal

Photo: Stag's Hollow founders Linda Pruegger and Larry Gerelus (courtesy of winery)

The Vidal grape is one of the few French hybrid varietals that remains commercially important in Canadian vineyards.

In Ontario, it is the primary Icewine grape. Several BC producers also make Vidal Icewine.

It can, however, also yield an exuberantly fruity white wine, somewhat reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc.

The varietal was already growing in the vineyard when Stag’s Hollow Winery founders Larry Gerelus and Linda Pruegger bought this Okanagan Falls property in 1992. Larry grafted Chardonnay onto most of the Vidal, keeping just half an acre.

He was just in time for the “Anything but Chardonnay” fad. But consumers had no prejudice against Vidal table wine. It sold so well that Larry let some of the grafted Chardonnay revert to Vidal. In recent years, he has even planted more Vidal.

The grape was developed in the 1930s by French plant breeder Jean-Louis Vidal. He crossed Trebbiano Toscano (also known as Ugni Blanc) with Rayon d’Or (Seyval Blanc in North America), intending to produce a grape for Cognac production. According to Jancis Robinson, the varietal was not authorized in France and is rarely grown there.

When Vidal acquired a cult following in the Stag’s Hollow tasting room, the owners renamed the wine “Tragically Vidal” because so little was grown in the Okanagan, a tragedy considering the appeal of the wine.

When I read the specifications for the 2017 Tragically Vidal, it seemed to me that Stag’s Hollow has begun to overthink the wine. The blend is 85.2% Vidal, 11.8% Orange Muscat, 2.6% Viognier and 0.5% Marsanne. The Muscat has accentuated the aromatics and the Rhone whites have added a noticeable richness to the texture. The wine is more complex than previous vintages of Tragically Vidal.

But does it make sense to put together such a complex blend for a wine selling for $17 a bottle when the winery gets $22 a bottle for its Muscat or its Viognier Marsanne. Stag’s Hollow is spoiling its Vidal drinkers who would, I suspect, still be happy with the simple fruity Vidal of old.

Here are notes on current releases.

Stag’s Hollow Muscat Frizzante 2018 ($22). This is a wine looking for a summer’s afternoon. It is light (11.1% alcohol) with delicate and refreshing bubbles. There are floral and spicy aromas of orange and nectarine. On the palate, there are flavours of spicy Asian pear. The finish is dry. 91.

Stag’s Hollow Tragically Vidal 2017 ($17). The wine begins with aromas of stone fruit mingled with notes of honey. That repeats on the palate. The texture is full. 90.

Stag’s Hollow Dolcetto 2017 ($22). Stag’s Hollow is just one of two Okanagan producers of Dolcetto, a fruity Italian red. The wine, which was aged in concrete and older oak, begins with aromas of blackberry and chocolate. Those are echoed on the luscious palate. There is a note of spice on the lingering finish. 91.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Culmina delivers flavours

Photo: Culmina's Elaine and Don Triggs 

The white wines released this spring by Culmina Family Estate Winery showed a remarkable consistency of style, regardless of the varietal.

The wines were rich in texture and full of flavour. Each was a satisfying experience. Jean-Marc Enixon, the French winemaker there for the last several vintages, has settled very nicely in the Okanagan.

No doubt, credit also is due to viticulture. Don and Elaine Triggs, the winery founders, began planting Culmina’s Golden Mile vineyard in 2007. The vines have had time to settle in and extract flavour from the terroir.

As well, the 2018 vintage was a good one. The winery summarized vintage conditions in its notes on the wines.

“A cool start in 2018 resulted in a slightly later budbreak at the end of April, with warm temperatures in May leading to early flowering,” the winery writes. “Warm conditions continued until mid-summer, at which point temperatures cooled to bring seasonal veraison in mid-August. This swing of the pendulum allowed for phenolic and flavour to finally catch up with that of sugar development for a well-balanced profile in all varieties.”

Here are notes on the wines.

Culmina Unicus 2018 ($27). This is the proprietary name the winery has given it Grüner Veltliner. Arguably, this is the Okanagan’s best expression of this white varietal from Austria. The wine is fermented with indigenous yeast, with 35% fermented in a concrete egg, 26% in a concrete amphora, 22% in stainless steel and 17% in neutral French oak. The aromas and flavours show luscious tropical fruits: guava, peach mango. The finish is dry and the flavours linger. 92.  

Culmina Wild Ferment Viognier 2018 No. 007 ($N/A). Only 44 cases of this wine have been released, likely only in the tasting room. A very complex white, it fermented for 71 days in a combination of stainless steel and used barrels. The wine begins with honeyed aromas of stone fruit and almonds. Rich on the palate, it has flavours of apricot and mandarin orange. The finish is persistent. 92.

Culmina Dry-ish Riesling 2018 ($19). Fermented entirely in stainless steel, the wine appears to be called dry-ish because the residual sugar is superbly balanced with acidity. The wine begins with aromas of citrus and cantaloupe. The flavours are intense, with lemon and grapefruit mingled with apple and peach. 91.

Culmina Skin Contact Gewürztraminer 2018 No. 008 ($N/A). Only 100 cases of this wine have been released. This wine was on the skins for 16 hours before being pressed into a stainless steel cask and fermented with indigenous yeast. It begins with aromas of spice and tropical fruits, leading to flavours of ripe peach and guava. There is a touch of residual sweetness. It is hardly a typical Gewürztraminer but the wine is utterly delicious. 93.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

All Canadian Wine Championships 2019: BC dominates

Photo: Marcus Ansems Shiraz

Okanagan wineries won best of show for red and white wine at this year’s All Canadian Wine Championships.

The trophy for the best red of the year went to Marcus Ansems Shiraz 2017 ($49.90) from the Daydreamer Winery on the Naramata Bench.

The trophy for the best white of the year went to Riesling 2018 ($21.00) from
SpearHead Winery in East Kelowna.

A total of 1,376 wines were entered this year, to be judged over three days by panels of judges from across Canada. The majority of the wines – 845 – were entered by British Columbia wineries. Ontario wineries only submitted 394 wines.

It is not known why many Ontario wineries choose to sit out a competition that was founded in 1981 in Windsor and still is based on Ontario. Judging now takes place in Prince Edward County.

It has been speculated that British Columbia’s domination of results in recent years has discouraged Ontario producers. Whether the BC wineries have a quality edge can be debated. However, it is a fact that BC has enjoyed a string of excellent vintages since 2012 while the vintages in Ontario have been less consistent.

And the 2019 vintage in Ontario is also getting off to a slow start with cool and rainy weather in April and May. One can only wish the Ontario producers good luck on the rest of the season.

Shiraz is the signature varietal at Daydreamer Wines. The variety practically runs in the veins of winemaker Marcus Ansems (right), the owner of this winery with his wife, Rachel. His family in Australia once owned a share of Mount Langi Ghiran, the legendary Shiraz producer in the state of Victoria, and his uncle, Trevor Mast, was a winemaker there.

“One of my favourite wines in the world was made at my family winery,” Marcus once told me. “That wine was what inspired me to get involved with the industry.”

Born in 1974, he graduated in enology in 1996 from Adelaide University. He went abroad to gain experience, first with Simonsig in South Africa and then in Tuscany and the Rhône. He picked up his career in Australia briefly before a Canadian wine entrepreneur, Peter Jensen, recruited him in 1999 to run wineries in Ontario and Nova Scotia. In Niagara, before he returned to Australia in 2002 as a consulting winemaker, he met Rachel, an accountant with a talent in design and photography. They moved to British Columbia in 2004 where Marcus practised his craft at several wineries before starting Daydreamer.

Daydreamer Winery opened in 2014.  The winery draws fruit from five hectares (12 acres) of owned or contracted vineyard. Most of the acreage is on the Naramata Bench but the Shiraz is grown in a sun-bathed Osoyoos vineyard.

When Marcus wrote his Master of Wine thesis in 2015, the topic predictably involved his favourite varietal: he studied the effect of fall frosts on Syrah when the grapes still were the vine. (He found that good wine can be made from the frozen grapes.)

Photo: SpearHead Riesling

Best of show with the SpearHead Riesling 2018 is the second time that SpearHead winemaker Grant Stanley has won the award with a Riesling. The first time was when he worked at Quails’ Gate. The irony is that both Grant and SpearHead are considered Pinot Noir specialists.

SpearHead is based on a 15-acre vineyard in East Kelowna. The vineyard has been developed gradually over the past decade. It is planted primarily with Pinot Noir, with small blocks of Chardonnay and Riesling.

Grant (left) joined the winery in 2017 as general manager and winemaker. “You know I am a Pinot guy,” Grant once told me. “I don’t advertise it but with all the different varieties I make, I still spend about 80 percent of my time thinking about Pinot Noir. I think it has a positive spin-off on the other wines. There is a lot you can learn about Pinot that you can apply to other winemaking. It really is the tricky grape to make.”

Stanley was born in 1967 in Vancouver, the son of a printer and a dental technician, both of them New Zealand immigrants and neither particularly interest in wine. Stanley developed his wine passion while working at restaurant and hotel jobs in London, England, New Zealand and the Whistler resort.

He and his British-born horticulturist wife, Annabelle, moved to New Zealand in 1991, with exquisite timing: the boom in New Zealand wines was just beginning. She got a job with the Cloudy Bay winery while Montana Wines, then New Zealand’s biggest producer, gave him a job and then sponsored him to train as a winemaker. In 1998, after a few vintages with small wineries, Grant joined a legendary New Zealand Pinot Noir producer called Ata Rangi, where he did six vintages, plus guest winemaking in Oregon and France. “Ata Rangi opened doors for me,” he said.

During an Oregon stint in 2001, he visited British Columbia to taste some wines. “I just couldn’t believe it,” he said. “When I left Canada, the Okanagan was a land of cheap white wine.” He did not hesitate when Quails’ Gate recruited him two years later. He went on to spend 10 years at Quails’ Gate and four more at 50th Parallel Winery before moving to SpearHead.

Here are other gold medal BC winners.

Best fruit wine of the year

Forbidden Fruit Winery Pomme Desiree Iced Apple 2018 ($26.00)  

Sparkling wine Charmat Method
Evolve Cellars  N/V   White Effervescence    ($19.99).
Double Gold
Intrigue Wines N/V    I DO ($19.90)
Intrigue Wines   SOCIAL Bubbly 2018 ($19.90)
Unoaked Chardonnay
Double Gold
Gray Monk Estate Winery Chardonnay Unwooded 2018 ($18.40)
Kraze Legz Vineyard & Winery  SKAHA Vineyard Unoaked Chardonnay 2018 ($19.50)
Oliver Twist Estate Winery Unoaked Chardonnay  2018  ($19.04)
Chardonnay under $20
Double Gold
Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate Winery  Grand Reserve Chardonnay   2016 ($19.99)
Chardonnay $20-$30
Double Gold
Monte Creek Ranch Chardonnay Reserve 2017   ($24.99)
Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery Reserve Chardonnay 2016 ($26.00)
SpearHead Winery Chardonnay Clone 95   2017  ($30.00)
Time Winery McWatters Collection Chardonnay 2017 ($24.99)

Chardonnay over $30.00

Double Gold
La FRENZ Winery Chardonnay Single Barrel Lot  2017  ($34.70)
The Hatch Black Swift Vineyards Oak Street Chardonnay  2016 ($39.99)

Riesling Dry

Double Gold
SpearHead Winery Riesling 2018 ($21.00)
Daydreamer Wines Daydreamer Riesling  2018 ($24.90)
Monte Creek Ranch Riesling 2018 ($17.49)
Tightrope Winery Riesling 2017  ($22.00)

Riesling Off Dry

Double Gold
Harper’s Trail Estate Winery Pioneer Block Riesling  2018  ($21.14)
50th Parallel Estate Winery Riesling 2018 ($19.90)
Ruby Blues Winery Forever Young Riesling 2018 ($20.00)
Therapy Vineyards Riesling 2018 ($21.99)

Sauvignon Blanc

Double Gold
Forbidden Fruit Winery Earth Series Sauvignon Blanc  2018 ($22.00)
Howling Bluff Estate Wines Sauvignon Blanc Three Mile Creek Reserve 2018 ($21.00)
Maverick Estate Winery Sauvignon Blanc   2018 ($21.00)


Double Gold
Wild Goose Vineyards Mystic River Gewürztraminer  2018  ($20.00)
Hillside Winery Gewürztraminer 2018 ($20.00)
Rust Wine Co. Gewürztraminer   2018 ($21.00)
Sumac Ridge Estate Winery Gewürztraminer 2018 ($13.99)

Pinot Gris

Double Gold
Mission Hill Family Estate Winery Reserve Pinot Gris  2018 ($22.00)
Alderlea Vineyards Pinot Gris   2018 ($19.50)
Intrigue Wines Pinot Gris    2018 ($16.90)
Lake Breeze Vineyards Pinot Gris 2017 ($21.00)
Red Rooster Winery Pinot Gris 2018 ($20.70)

Pinot Grigio

Double Gold
OVINO Winery Pinot Grigio 2018 ($16.50)
Kismet Estate Winery Pinot Grigio 2018 ($16.99)


Double Gold
Heaven’s Gate Estate Winery Viognier 2018 ($18.71)
Black Hills Estate Winery Viognier 2017 ($28.64)
Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate Winery Grand Reserve Viognier  2017 ($21.99)
Volcanic Hills Vineyard & Cellars Reserve Viognier  2016 ($26.00)

Other Single Vitis Vinifera Whites

Double Gold
Kraze Legz Vineyard & Winery  SKAHA Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2018 ($19.50)
Gehringer Bros. Estate Winery Old Vines Auxerrois 2018 ($14.29)
Nk’Mip Cellars Winemakers Pinot Blanc  2018 ($17.99)
Pipe’ Dreams Grüner Veltliner 2017 ($15.85)
Sunnybrae Vineyards & Winery Ortega 2017 ($18.90)

White Vitis Vinifera Blends

Double Gold
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards Oldfield Reserve 2Bench White 2017 ($25.29)
Alderlea Vineyards Valerie 2018 ($19.50)
Inniskillin Okanagan Estate  Discovery Series Viognier Gewürztraminer  2017 ($17.49)
Tightrope Winery  Sauvignon Blanc Semillon   2018 ($22.00)
Wild Goose Vineyards  Autumn Gold  2018 ($17.39)

White Hybrid Blends

Double Gold
Monte Creek Ranch Hands Up White 2018 ($15.99)

Rosé Blush and Blanc de Noir

Double Gold Blanc de Noir
Kraze Legz Vineyard & Winery Speakeasy 2018 ($17.30)
Double Gold Blush
The View Winery & Vineyard Silver Lining Rosé  2018 ($19.95)
Savard Vines Purple Petals Rosé 2018 ($22.05)
Silkscarf Winery White Pinot 2018 ($26.00)
Time Winery Rosé  2018 ($22.99)
CedarCreek Estate Winery Pinot Noir Rosé 2018 ($19.00)
Crescent Hill Winery Hissy Fit 2018 ($20.00)
Hillside Winery Rosé 2018 ($22.00)

Cabernet Sauvignon Under $30

Black Sage Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($26.49)

Cabernet Sauvignon Over $30

Double Gold
Nk’Mip Cellars Qwam Qwmt Cabernet Sauvignon  2016 ($34.99)

Cabernet Sauvignon Older Vintages

Double Gold

Blue Sky Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($32.28)


Desert Hills Estate Winery  Ursa Major Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($45.00)

Merlot Under $30

Double Gold
Nk’Mip Cellars  Qwam Qwmt Merlot 2016 ($29.99)
Singletree Winery  Merlot 2016 ($30.00)
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards Merlot 2016 ($27.59)

Merlot Older Vintages

Double Gold
Summerhill Pyramid Winery Grasslands Organic Merlot 2014 ($75.00)
Kraze Legz Vineyard & Winery SKAHA Vineyard Merlot 2015 ($23.00)

Pinot Noir Under $30

Double Gold
Privato Vineyard & Winery Pinot Noir  2017 ($27.99)
Corcelettes Estate Winery Pinot Noir  2018 ($24.90)
Mission Hill Family Estate Winery Reserve Pinot Noir 2017 ($28.00)
Moraine Estate Winery Pinot Noir 2017 ($30.00)
Stoneboat Vineyards Pinot Noir 2016 ($27.00)

Pinot Noir Over $30

Double Gold
Privato Vineyard & Winery North of 50 Pinot Noir 2016 ($37.99)
50th Parallel Estate Winery Unparalleled Pinot Noir 2016 ($50.00)
SpearHead Winery Pinot Noir GFV Saddle Block 2017 ($33.00)

Pinot Noir Older Vintages

Double Gold

Privato Vineyard & Winery Grande Reserve Pinot Noir  2015 ($54.99)


Volcanic Hills Vineyard & Cellars Reserve Pinot Noir  2012 ($26.00)

Cabernet Franc Under $30

Black Sage Vineyard  Cabernet Franc 2016 ($26.49)

Cabernet Franc Older Vintages

Double Gold
C.C. Jentsch Cellars Small Lot Cabernet Franc 2015 ($49.90)
Cassini Cellars Cabernet Franc 2015 ($40.00)

Bordeaux Blends Under $30

Double Gold
Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate Winery  Grand Reserve Red Meritage 2016 ($24.99)
Time Winery McWatters Collection Meritage 2016 ($29.99)

Bordeaux Blends Over $30

Double Gold

Nk’Mip Cellars Red Merriym 2016 ($54.99)


Sun Rock Vineyards  Red Meritage 2016 ($30.49)

Bordeaux Blends Older Vintages

Double Gold
Indigenous World Winery Simo 2014 ($44.99)
Summerhill Pyramid Winery  OM Organic Meritage 2014 ($55.00)
Syrah/Shiraz Under $30
Double Gold
Moon Curser Winery Syrah 2017 ($29.99)
Daydreamer Wines Amelia 2017 ($29.90)
Kismet Estate Winery  Syrah 2017 ($25.99)
Syrah/Shiraz Over $30
Double Gold— *Trophy, Best Red Wine
Daydreamer Wines Marcus Ansems Shiraz  2017 ($49.90)
Mission Hill Family Estate Winery Terroir Collection Syrah No. 23 Crosswinds  2016 ($50.00)
Nk’Mip Cellars  Qwam Qwmt Syrah 2016 ($34.99)
Syrah/Shiraz Older Vintages
Double Gold
Chaberton Estate Winery  Syrah 2015 ($28.95)
Vanessa Vineyard Estate Winery Syrah  2015 ($34.99)
Red Hybrid Blends
Double Gold
Volcanic Hills Vineyard & Cellars Magma Red 2016 ($17.39)
Other Single Red Vitis Vinifera
Double Gold
Cassini Cellars Malbec 2015 ($36.00)
Moon Curser Winery Malbec 2017 ($35.74)
Moon Curser Winery Tannat 2015 ($46.09)
Moon Curser Winery Carménère 2017 ($46.09)
Moon Curser Winery Touriga Nacional 2017 ($46.09)
Other Red Vitis Vinifera Blends
Double Gold
Deep Roots Winery Parentage Red 2016 ($37.90)
Kalala Organic Estate Winery  Aspire 2014 ($29.00)
Orofino Winery Red Bridge Red 2017 ($24.90)
Road 13 Vineyards Seventy-Four K  2017 ($25.00)
Maréchal Foch
Double Gold
Alderlea Vineyards Clarinet 2016 ($20.50)
Sunnybrae Vineyards & Winery Redneck Red 2017 ($17.90)
Soft Fruit Off Dry
Krause Berry Farms & Winery Eureka ($19.00)
Northern Lights Estate Winery  Seduction – Strawberry Rhubarb 2018 ($16.43)
Soft Fruit Dessert
Double Gold 
Maan Farms Winery Blackberry Dessert 2016 ($26.45)
Tree Fruit Dry
Double Gold
Forbidden Fruit Winery Speachless 2018 ($20.00)
Farmgate Winery Clarice 2018 ($16.99)
Tree Fruit Off Dry
Forbidden Fruit Winery  Cherysh Cherry Rosé 2018 ($20.00)
Tree Fruit Dessert
Double Gold— *Trophy, Best Fruit Wine
Forbidden Fruit Winery  Pomme Desiree 2018 ($26.00)
Fruit Sparkling
Ripples Winery  Radiance  2017 ($24.95)
Late Harvests
Volcanic Hills Vineyard & Cellars  Late Harvest Gewürztraminer 2016 ($19.99)
Riesling Icewine
Double Gold
Inniskillin Okanagan Estate Riesling Icewine 2017 ($52.19)
Other Icewine
Stoneboat Vineyards Verglas Ice Wine 2016 ($37.00)
Grape Fortifieds
La FRENZ Winery  N/V   Liqueur Muscat ($21.65)
Maverick Estate Winery Fia   2015 ($30.00)