The just concluded BC Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in BC Wines is surely one of the most unique competitions anywhere. I’m not aware of any other judging that starts out with over 500 wines from 132 wineries and manages to single out a mere dozen for recognition. (The similar, Ontario LG Awards, modeled on BC’s, proves that imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery.)

“This year’s winners represent the best of the outstanding wines from our province,” says the Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia.
“With so many exceptional wines entered each year, it is becoming increasingly challenging for the judges to select the winners.”

The 2016 winners span a well balanced range of styles and varieties. But, more importantly, it also shines the spotlight on a number of new wineries, which will now enjoy some well deserved attention. Among them are a couple whose families only came to Canada n the 1990s; grew vines for others and now have opened their own ventures. Their success is a reflection of the remarkable diversity that makes up our wine community. And it suggests a new phase is well underway in the modern industry.

glasses at lieutenant governor awards

If you want to see the full list of list of winners and finalists now you can scroll right to the end.

However, I thought it would be interesting to take a moment and look at the success of this unusual competition since its inception in 2003.

At the time, the BC industry was still very much coming out of its infancy, like an adolescent struggling with all the challenges that precede maturity.

Then Lieutenant Governor Iona Campagnolo was surprised to discover that Canada’s Governor General was on a serious shopping spree to stock the cellar at Rideau Hall with the best of BC (and Ontario) bottles.

Campagnolo immediately went to work consulting with trade and media to come up with the idea for a competition that would recognize quality in BC wines and also capitalize on the distinctive cachet of the office.

Paramount was the requirement that there be no commercial influence whatsoever; and that the only way awarded wineries could capitalize on being selected under the auspices of Government House would be to display the official seal on the bottle.

After a while it was decided that the ‘LG’ would visit each winning winery to present the award. The finalists are recognized with a letter of commendation. Their wines are also included (with the winners) on a list of wines that may be purchased to be served at Government House official functions.

The Government House Foundation, which raises the money to make such projects possible has continued to fund the awards during the tenures of Steven Point and the current Lieutenant Governor, Her Honour Judith Guichon.

People outside of the industry may not be aware of the broader prestige of the awards. A substantial entourage of the BC Consular Corps accompanies Her Honour on the tour—and are enthusiastic in their purchases. So much so that in past years, it’s been sometimes necessary to hire an extra vehicle to help carry the wines back to Vancouver and Victoria. This year’s tour will take place in early September.

This year, 504 wines were submitted by 135 wineries. Wines submitted had to be from 100% British Columbian grown grapes and produced in province to be eligible.

Sincere congratulations to the winners:

Bordertown Vineyards & Estate Winery
2013 Living Desert Red

Ex Nihilo Vineyards
2014 Pinot Noir

Gold Hill Winery
2013 Meritage Family Reserve

Hester Creek Estate Winery
2013 Syrah Viognier

Intersection Estate Winery
2013 Cabernet Franc

Kismet Estate Winery
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

Lunessence Winery & Vineyard
2014 Riesling Icewine

Okanagan Crush Pad Winery
2014 Haywire The Bub

Quails’ Gate
2014 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay

Red Rooster Winery
2012 Reserve Merlot

Ruby Blues Winery
2015 Commune Viognier

St. Hubertus & Oak Bay Estate Winery
2014 Riesling