One of the longest running wine festivals is during harvest in British Columbia’s largest grape growing region, the Okanagan Valley. The 37th annual Fall Okanagan Wine Festival celebrates all things BC wine for almost two full weeks, from the end of September into the start of October. There are signature sponsored events like the WestJet Wine Tasting (Kelowna, Sept 29–30) and Cropped – a wine tasting with farmers’ market – by Valley First (Penticton, Oct 6–7), plus an abundance of winemaker dinners, wine-centric yoga, vineyard lunches, grape stomping, and other hands-on activities from Osoyoos to Lake Country. Although I can be easily lured by any of the aforementioned, one of my favourite parts of this Festival is the BC Wine Awards.
There still remains a learning curve among consumers as to how wine awards work, who judges them, and how some wineries shout their awards from the rooftops while others don’t say a peep. The general outline for most wine competitions is as follows:
- wineries choose to enter wines for competition, sometimes all of their portfolio, sometimes only a few select bottles – not all wineries submit their wines for competition
- competitions cost money: in samples submitted (anywhere from 3 bottles to 6 bottles per entry), packaging & shipping, and entry fees (memberships, competition administrations fees, and at time cost per bottle entered)
- the quality of judges can influence the reliability of the awards – attract trusted wine evaluators, and your competition holds more weight with wineries
- wines are (largely) judged blind: a separate team is responsible for documenting entries, pouring wine in glasses, and presenting numbered glasses to judges for evaluation – the most judges know is the number of the wine entered and category they’re evaluating; a good organizer will put wine peers together in the same wine flight (there can be up to 20 wines in a flight)
- the quality of organization behind the scenes impacts the outcome: reduce the flight size, pace the flights before the judges, and spread the evaluation over an appropriate timeframe for best results
With that said, the BC Wine Awards runs smoothly with thanks to organizer Marjorie King – she also handles the Festival’s spring Best of Varietal (BOV) awards. Disclosure: I judge for the BOV awards, so I know of what I speak from the judging side of things.
Of this year’s BC Wine Awards winners, and there are many, I’m pleased with the variety of style and winery production size among the entries. Of course, I have favourites. Review the winners at your leisure. Meanwhile, here are a few of my recommends.
2017 BC WINE AWARDS: a curated list
Red Rooster Winery 2016 Riesling, Platinum: this winemaking team nails BC riesling every single year.
TIME Winery 2013 Meritage, Platinum: merlot dominated, approachable now, can cellar for several years.
Deep Roots Winery 2016 Gamay, Gold: bright and beautiful, as BC gamay can (and should) be.
Quails’ Gate 2015 Pinot Noir, Gold: elegant and sleek, with just the right combination of fruit/acid/mineral.
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Franc, Gold: a benchmark study in what this grape means to BC.
Gray Monk Estate Winery 2014 Odyssel White Brut, Silver: your new reason to bring bubbles into your daily life.
Inniskillin Okanagan Discovery Series 2016 Viognier Gewürztraminer, Silver: don’t make explain why, just drink it.
Moon Curser Vineyards 2013 Tannat, Silver: because TANNAT in British Columbia.
Play Estate Winery 2015 Syrah, Silver: watch for these up-and-comers.
Wild Goose Vineyards 2016 Riesling, Silver: the one, the only, the original.
50th Parallel Estate 2014 Pinot Noir, Bronze: should have placed higher, but competition is fierce.
Bench 1775 2013 Cabernet Franc, Bronze: clone 214 (you need no other reason).
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2016 Optimum Pinot Gris: still under $20 plus taxes, and sets the bar.
Indigenous World Winery 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Bronze: find it, drink it, you’re welcome.
Road 13 Vineyards 2015 Roussanne, Bronze: need a reason to join a wine club? this is it.
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2014 Oldfield Reserve Chardonnay 2015, Bronze: I just can’t even…