The winners of last week’s keenly contested Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in BC Wine are announced by Government House this morning.
As always, the final outcome was interesting because somehow we managed to select (from 436 entries between 119 wineries) just 12 wines that comprise a cross-section of wineries and styles.
Of note this time are the two contrasting 2012 Rieslings (from Fort Berens and 8th Generation), and also two Chardonnays—Quails Gate’s superbly oaked and Kraze Legz superbly unoaked—that reflect the sound 2013 vintage. The impressive Howling Bluff Sauvignon-Semillon blend points the way forward, in my mind, for one of the best uses of Okanagan Sauvignon Blanc.
Ruby Blues 2013 Viognier won for its perfect varietal correctness and vibrant personality. But it also marks a pleasing ‘deja-vue’ moment: Prudence and Beat Mahrer owned Red Rooster, when their 2002 Gewürztraminer won in the very first competition.
Red entries were equally strong, and again reflected in a balanced range of choices. Wayne Gretzky Okanagan ‘The Great Red’ continues a Lieutenant Governor Awards winning streak for the Peller team, under Howard Soon. Pentage Syrah Reserve 2010 reflects the variety’s continuing ascendance in the mid valley (also a first time red winner for the winery), while Haywire Canyonview Pinot Noir 2011 is the first Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Okanagan Crush Pad. Two time prior LG’s winner Laughing Stock shone through the blends with its beautifully balanced and well integrated 2011 Portfolio.
Looking back to the Lieutenant Governor Awards’ beginning in 2003 and prior, it’s important to be aware of how much the overall quality of the wines has improved. The incidence of flawed wines is virtually non-existent—which was not the case at the competition’s outset.
That fact alone makes the whole competition that much more challenging—and ultimately so rewarding.
Also apparent is the expanding range of geographic origins.
A significant milestone, the selection of the estate grown Fort Berens Riesling, underscores the potential for Lillooet—something which was unthinkable a decade ago. By contrast, the Hester Creek Block 2 Merlot comes from one of the Okanagan Valley’s oldest plantings and most storied vineyards.
The Lieutenant Governor, Her Honour Judith Guichon, will travel to all the wineries between July 24th and July 26th. As to where the Bonamici Cellars presentation will take place (It’s the first LG’s Award to a ‘virtual’ winery), most likely it will be at Cassini Cellars, where the wine was made.
Most of these wines are readily available, if not from local stores, then certainly from the wineries. Obviously, I would not hesitate to recommend each and every one. And I’ll also be posting about some other serious contenders that came close, once I’ve had a chance to activate my decoder ring…
Sincere congratulations to all the winners:
• 8th Generation Vineyard Riesling 2012
• Bonamici Cellars Merlot Cabernet Franc 2012
• Fort Berens Estate Winery Riesling 2012
• Hester Creek Estate Winery Block 2 Reserve Merlot 2011
• Howling Bluff Estate Winery Summa Quies Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Sémillon 2013
• Kraze Legz Vineyard & Winery Skaha Vineyard Unoaked Chardonnay 2013
• Laughing Stock Vineyards Portfolio 2011
• Okanagan Crush Pad Winery Haywire Canyonview Pinot Noir 2011
• Pentâge Winery Syrah Reserve 2010
• Quails’ Gate Winery Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay 2012
• Ruby Blues Winery Viognier 2013
• Wayne Gretzky Okanagan The Great Red 2011
(For more background on the competition see here.)