The Lieutenant Governor’s top ten B.C. wines in 2006
By John Schreiner
July 19, 2007
Iona Campagnolo will complete her term as British Columbia’s Lieutenant Governor next month, having served with great distinction and having done a great deal to burnish the reputation of British Columbia.
In the wine industry, she has won acclaim for the inauguration five years ago of Awards of Excellence in British Columbia wines, a competition open to every winery in the province. In fact, this is the only major wine competition that, to my knowledge, does not charge a stiff entrance fee for each and every wine.
This spring, almost 190 wines were submitted for the 2006 competition. Since each winery can send in up for four wines, the big surprise is that more wines were not entered. It is hard to understand why excellent wineries choose not to enter.
The competition format is simple. The judges (I am a member of the panel) pick between 10 and a dozen wines which they agree are truly outstanding. And that’s it: there are no second and third place awards. The total list of competing wineries is never published, if only not to embarrass those who do not win.
This competition is only about celebrating excellence. There are no other agendas.
This year’s winners include wineries that have won before as well as several for whom this is a first-time win (and hopefully, not a last win).
It is worth noting that, as in previous years, several Syrah wines have won. Obviously, this is a red variety doing splendidly well in British Columbia.
Here are the winners:
* Nichol Vineyard for its 2004 Syrah ($35 and still available). This award is particularly satisfying. Alex Nichol, the former owner of this winery, planted the very first Syrah in the Okanagan about 1990, seven or eight years before everyone else piled into this variety. Alex sold the winery in 2005 to Ross Hackworth. This Syrah, the last one Alex made under the Nichol family ownership, is the culmination of a notable career in wine.
* Desert Hills Estate Winery for its 2004 Syrah Select ($31.90 and sold out!). This is the Black Sage Road winery opened in 2003 by Randy and Jesse Toor. In 1995 the Toor brothers converted an orchard to a vineyard with help and a grape contract from Domaine de Chaberton winery. The brothers are evidently growing terrific Syrah; their grapes produced a wine with which Domaine de Chaberton won an LG’s Award of Excellence last year.
* Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estates 2005 Proprietors’ Reserve Shiraz ($19.00). This is the successor vintage (and arguably a finer vintage) than the winery’s 2004 Shiraz that won top honours last year at London’s International Wine & Spirits competition. Clearly, this winery makes outstanding Shiraz.
* Golden Mile Cellars 2005 Black Arts Pinot Noir ($ sold out). Winemaker Michael Bartier is showing himself an emerging master at making great Pinot Noir.
* Noble Ridge Vineyard and Winery 2005 Chardonnay ($24.99). As consulting winemaker, Michael Bartier also made this wine. He has won numerous awards for Chardonnay at the various wineries with which he has been associated. He’s no longer Noble Ridge’s consultant but he probably established a style that Noble Ridge will carry on.
* Joie Wines for 2006 Muscat (available only in select restaurants). This is the first Award of Excellence for Joie, a small but acclaimed winery established by Heidi Noble and Michael Dinn. The Naramata Road winery does not yet have a wine shop but a 9,000-sq-ft winery is currently under construction.
* Sandhill Small Lots 2006 Viognier 2 (about $25). Winemaker Howard Soon makes only a 100 or so cases a year of this elixir because there is only that much Viognier in vineyard manager Robert Goltz’s Osprey Ridge Vineyard on Black Sage Road. A hard to get wine but a very good one.
* Sumac Ridge 2003 Steller’s Jay Brut ($24.99). This is Sumac Ridge’s flagship sparkling wine. Previous vintages have won LG awards as well, which speaks to the consistency of a wine that is widely available. The winery made 5,358 cases in the 2003 vintage.
* Sumac Ridge 2004 Black Sage Vineyard Meritage ($29). This will also be reasonable available because the winery made 1,334 cases. Meritage is a term used in Canada and the U.S. for red blends with Bordeaux grapes. This one is 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc.
* Thornhaven Estates Winery 2006 Gewürztraminer ($16.90). This is Thornhaven’s first LG award. Not surprising, this Gewürztraminer has won several other awards this year as well. There’s probably not much left at the winery.
Congratulations to all. These 10 wines came through some pretty tough competition.