Winning wines, from one of the year’s toughest contests: celebrating BC’s best, Tim Pawsey photo


This week’s announcement of winners of the Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in British Columbia Wines marks ten years since the competition’s inception.  Check out the Government House website and you can track the winners over that decade. A roadmap to quality, often charting the rise of new wineries, it makes for interesting reading.

What’s missing, curiously, are some names that you’d think would be only too happy to see their wines hailed by Government House, have them poured on state occasions—or even sell a few cases to the entourage of consular corps which will accompany the Honourable Steven L. Point when he visits the winners later this month. Not to mention enjoy bragging rights for such a prestigious award.

Unlike most other competitions, there’s no cost to the winery to enter. But with only ten or so awards granted each year, the odds of winning are indeed slimmer. This year 11 awards will be handed out by His Honour from a field of 347 wines from 94 wineries across the province.

The double blind judging process (in which we take part) is rigorously fair, with some 40 wines selected for the final round over a two day period.

What emerges, always, is a fascinating snapshot of the BC industry.

Overall the standard of 2012 entries was high, even allowing for some of the challenges of the last two vintages. The number of flawed wines was negligible—and the incidence of corked bottles was greatly diminished thanks to the predominance of screw cap closures.

Red wines showed better with strong flights in Cabernet Franc and Syrah demonstrating the advance of those varieties, as well as a strong showing in red blends. The whites that did rise to the top tended to favour aromatics. (It’s important to note that in a varietal or blend are recognised).

The other good news is that several of these wines are available. Prices shown are from the winery.

Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Entourage Sparkling 2008. Sustained mousse, appealing biscuit-brioche notes, apple and mid-palate citrus. A tasty, toasty bubble. $30.09

Road 13 Jackpot White 2011 A well balanced blend of Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne. Stonefruit notes and good length. $29

Ruby Blues Winery Viognier 2011. First time winner. From the former owners of Red Rooster (whose 2002 Gewurz won.) Honeyed notes, citrus orange and stonefruit with some zesty tones. $25

Thornhaven Estate Gewurztraminer 2011 Classic floral, rose petal nose, with good fruit acid balance and a spicy close. Also won for 2010 vintage. $17.90

EauVivre Pinot Noir 2009. First time winner for Similkameen. Earthy, cherry and cranberry notes with easy tannins. Quite Burgundian in style. $19

Hester Creek Reserve Merlot 2008. First time winner. From some of the Okanagan’s oldest Merlot vines. Blue-black fruit on top followed by plush and plummy notes and mocha tones through a lengthy end. $26.99

Laughing Stock Vineyards Syrah 2010. Côte Rotie inspired (6% Viognier), intense, great varietal character, juicy acidity, black fruit and pepper notes with a spicy finish. $34

Painted Rock Syrah 2009. Powerful notes of luscious blue fruit, anise, cassis, great length and varietal character, with meaty, gamey, peppery notes and good acidity. $35.63

Poplar Grove Cabernet Franc 2009. Muscular and elegant with plum and cherry notes, firm but approachable tannins and spice to close. $35

Gold Hill Winery Cabernet Franc 2009. First time winner. Good fruit-acid-tannin balance, cassis, anise and plum with spicy back palate and black pepper to close. $25

• Painted Rock Icon Red Blend 2009. This marks the second time that the Skaha Bluffs winery has scooped two medals. Smoky, cassis, and chocolate notes on top followed by great balance, juicy acidity with complex layers of dusty, herbal notes before a lengthy end. Aptly named. $49.03

For more background on the awards, have a look at last year’s post here.

(Full Government House Press Release, July 5, 2012)

VICTORIA – Eleven wines have been chosen for the 2012 Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in British Columbia Wines, the Honourable Steven Point, 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 Point. “This year’s winners represent the best of the exceptional wines from our province.”

This year was the largest competition in the 10-year history of the awards, with 347 wines submitted from 94 wineries across the province. The winners are:

EauVivre Winery 2009 Pinot Noir

Gold Hill Winery 2009 Cabernet Franc

Hester Creek Estate Winery 2008 Reserve Merlot

Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate 2008 Entourage Sparkling Chardonnay

Laughing Stock Vineyards 2010 Syrah

Painted Rock Estate Winery 2009 Syrah

2009 Red Icon

Poplar Grove Winery 2009 Cabernet Franc

Road 13 Vineyards 2011 Jackpot Viognier Rousanne Marsanne

Ruby Blues Winery 2011 Viognier

Thornhaven Estate Winery 2011 Gewurztraminer

The Lieutenant Governor will visit the winning wineries at the end of July to present the Awards. Members of the Consular Corps of British Columbia will accompany him when he 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