It’s tempting to just run the list without any comment, as the wines tend to stand on their own. And that’s the point. At the outset of this competition back in 2002, more than a few thought that selecting ten or 12 wines from a field of over 100 entries was a well nigh impossible task. And now that the field has grown to over four times that, you could argue it’s become even more impossible. Yet, the intriguing part is, at the end of the day, there’s an extremely solid consensus on the wines awarded. (If you’re not familiar with the awards, there’s more background here, here and here.)
The line-up tends to reflect the success of a variety in a given vintage. For example, you won’t find a whole lot of 2012 Pinot Gris or Chardonnay in the list below. That’s not to say there weren’t some worthy wines entered. They were just overshadowed by better showings in other varieties.
It’s telling to note that almost all of the wines (with the exception of one Similkameen) come from grapes grown in the south valley—Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Osoyoos. In the spirit of the competition, I’m not going to single out any particular wines for attention, as they are all recognised equally. However, a little scrutiny will show that there are some pretty good values here.
Several wines jumped out of the glass in the first round as sure-fire winners. One suggestion I would offer is that some of these are worth buying by the case (OK, maybe not the icewine!) or at least the half case. You can always mix in some other wines to make up the box…
Most, if not all, should be available (at least for a day or two) from the wineries and possibly elsewhere.
Here’s the official announcement, with some brief notes and comments.
VICTORIA – Twelve wines have been chosen for the 2013 Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in British Columbia Wines, the Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, announced today.
“The outstanding quality of wines in British Columbia impresses our wine judges each year and makes the selection increasingly difficult,” said Guichon. “This year’s winners represent the best of the exceptional wines from our province.”
This year was the largest competition in the 11-year history of the awards, with 402 wines submitted from 109 wineries across the province. The winners are:
(re-arranged by variety by HB)
• Burrowing Owl Estate Winery Cabernet Franc 2010
• Hester Creek Estate Winery Block 3 Reserve Cabernet Franc 2010
Cab Franc entries were strong across the board, offering a further indication that in BC as a single variety it deserves the attention it’s getting. The earthy, peppery Hester Creek comes from some of the oldest vines in the valley, planted by the late Frank Supernak. It’s the deal of the two at $26.99. The BoV is plush, full and seductive with loads of black fruit and mocha wrapped in firm tannins. $33.
• Calona Vineyards Artist Series Pinot Noir 2011
• Stoneboat Vineyards Pinot Noir 2010
• Eau Vivre Winery Pinot Noir 2010
Three Pinots from different areas (although the Calona wine is “from premium vineyards throughout the Okanagan.” When I saw the results I debated whether I should remove the Stoneboat mention at the top right of my page here. But there it is. Now it’s even more a winner. The Calona exemplifies the Artists Series rep for good value: medium bodied, bright cherry and spice notes with a good balance of fruit and acidity ($15.99). Eau Vivre is the sole Similkameen flag bearer in the awards. Fruit forward cherry and plum notes with a little herbal hint. $19
• Church & State Wines Coyote Bowl Syrah 2010
• Red Rooster Winery Reserve Syrah 2010
I remember tasting the first release of Church & State Coyote Bowl Syrah some years ago when the Saanich winery first opened. It was one of the first to suggest Syrah’s ascendance in the Okanagan. It has that correct meaty, gamey top with a fruity power-packed but supple palate of black fruit and spicy peppery notes. c. $35. The Red Rooster offers a nice touch of garrigue and complexity (blended fruit from Oliver and Osoyoos), with layers of black fruit, spice and a polished mouthfeel. $29.99
• Stag’s Hollow Winery Cachet No. 03 Limited Edition 2010
More evidence of Stag’s Hollow’s blossoming, this blend of Tempranillo (49%) and Merlot (43%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (8%), interestingly, is the one “icon” wine in the lineup. It exudes smoky, cassis and plummy notes on top, followed by earthy, dark cherry and chocolate flavours with great structure and length. I think this is the most Tempranillo in the blend to date and reflects the winery’s commitment to that variety. c. $50
• Synchromesh Wines Storm Haven Vineyard Riesling 2011
Another wine we flagged for stardom, when we tasted it back in the early spring. Superb petroleum, citrus and tropical nose, classic varietal correctness, apple, lemon lime and mineral notes, good length—and no doubt will continue to evolve. This winery is emerging as another Tantalus. The 2012 is available for $31.90
• Wild Goose Vineyards and Winery Mystic River Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2012
There aren’t too many judgings when a Wild Goose Wine doesn’t pop out somewhere. This time it was the perennially worthy Mystic River Pinot Blanc (which also won in 2011). This is the eighth LG Award for Wild Goose, which has evolved as one of the valley’s most consistent producers. Great fruit expression with apple, stonefruit and tropical notes, with a little added richness from partial time in oak. $19
• Inniskillin Okanagan Icewine Riesling 2011
Classic Okanagan icewine the way it should be. And Riesling, to boot! Superb notes of lifted apricot, lemon, lime and tropical notes with beautiful fruit-acid balance that keeps it interesting all the way through, and not cloying. 200 ml. $34.99
The Lieutenant Governor will visit the winning wineries from July 24th to 26th to present the Awards. Members of the Consular Corps of British Columbia will accompany her when she makes these presentations so they can gain knowledge of British Columbia’s renowned wine industry.
All wineries in British Columbia were invited to submit their wines for judging by a panel of wine industry professionals. Wines submitted had to be from 100% British Columbian grown grapes and produced in province to be eligible. For more information visit www.ltgov.bc.ca.