7 things you didn’t know about the BC Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in BC Wine

The winners have been announced for this year’s Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in BC Wines (or as it is known in winery lingo – “The LG’s”) and the list of winners is extremely interesting to me for a lot of reasons. Alphabetically, the 2014 winners are:

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

Firstly, congratulations to all of the winners this year. All are, I think, well deserved and it’s great to see some new wineries getting a trophy this year. Okanagan Crush Pad, Kraze Legz, Bonamici, and Fort Berens are all newbies to the LG and seeing a quarter of the awards go to new wineries is refreshing.

Fort Berens brings the first LG trophy home to Lillooet making it a true trailblazer in the BC wine world. It’s always big news when a non-Okanagan winery wins an LG for a wine that is not grown in the Okanagan. While I’m not sure of the exact provenance of Mt. Lehman’s Viognier that won in 2011, it seems unlikely that it’s grown in Abbotsford. Correct me if I’m wrong. Also, I’m pretty sure that Domaine de Chaberton’s Syrah (winner in 2006) was not grown in Langley although it’s quite likely that their Gewurztraminer (winner in 2005) was. Either way, Chaberton was the first to collect an LG for a winery located outside of the Okanagan.

Also groundbreaking in a way is Kraze Legz win which may be the first LG for a wine grown on the west side of Skaha Lake. The east side has been decorated many times already by Pentage, Blasted Church, and Painted Rock. If you include Wild Goose’s win for their God’s Mountain Riesling in 2005, that pretty well makes every major vineyard on the east side of Skaha Lake an LG winner at some point.

In fact, going over the past 12 years of LG winners reveals some interesting information about BC wine. Allow me to go a little wine-nerd crazy here because there are a few things that I find incredibly interesting when I look at the list of previous winners.

BC Wine-Nerd Stats about the LG Awards

photo 1– Hester Creek is the second non-commercial winery to do a three-peat by winning in three consecutive years (’12, ’13, ’14) which ties Road 13’s wins (’07, ’08, and ’09). Another award for Hester next year and they’ll tie Jackson-Triggs’ run from ’05-’08. They’ll need a 5th win to tie Sandhill however who won 5 straight from ’07 to ’11 and has the record for most consecutive wins.

photo 2– Sumac Ridge has won the most LG’s ever (10) but nothing past the 2006 vintage. (Hmm, what happened after the 2006 vintage?)

– The most decorated single wine is the Sumac Ridge Stellar’s Jay Brut, winning in 5 vintages including the 1999 which is the only LG awarded to a wine from the 1990’s. (Of course, the first awards were in 2003 so it has nothing to do with the quality at the time.)

– Oddly, only one rosé table wine has ever won – Volcanic Hills 2010 Rosé in 2011.

– 54.76% of LG award winners are red wines. Whites make up 44.44% with the one rosé taking the remaining 0.79%. Statistically speaking, a rosé won’t win you an LG which is kind of a pity since the category itself has come a long way in terms of quality and market perception. (Millennials have never tasted Mateus and don’t care to. Get over it already.)

– 75.4% of winners are single variety wines while blends of various kinds (mostly meritage) make up just over 15%. Sparkling and Dessert wines make up the rest.

But probably the biggest surprise to me while I was going through all the data though was this:

One quarter of all LG winners go to wines made with Syrah / Shiraz.

25.26% of all awards for single-variety table wines to be precise or 24 awards in total. The second place grape variety, Pinot Noir, isn’t even close at 13.68% (13 wins). Of all LG awards given out, Syrah/Shiraz is just over 19% or nearly 1 in 5. It’s also not just one producer getting all the hardware – 16 different wineries have won with Syrah/Shiraz with Jackson-Triggs winning the most with this variety at 6. This particular grape variety seems to be showing well by many different producers which makes it seem like not only is the ‘next big thing’ but has probably always been on the radar of wine makers in BC, who are now able to take the time and learn about how to work with it as best as possible. An article by Rhys Pender on page 19 of the latest special issue of Wine in Canada by Maclean’s magazine proposes Syrah as the “next sensation” for Canada, His argument is based on the shifting consumer trends away from the huge jammy monster shirazes of hot climates like Australia and more towards a brighter, juicier, and more perfumed French style. It’s an intriguing argument and one that I have to say I agree with. It’s very interesting that the stats from LG winners also seems to back this up.

photo 3

Of course, I could have gone further with this analysis, especially concerning the location of the winning wines, although that might be harder to figure out. There may be some more number crunching at a later date but until then, I’ll leave it at this.

Congratulations again to all of the winning wines, the wineries, and the wine makers, vineyard managers, cellar hands, vineyard workers, and pickers who helped make them. Cheers from wine country!

~Luke

2 thoughts on “7 things you didn’t know about the BC Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in BC Wine

  1. Luke:

    I was told by a wine writer who had judged at the Lt. Governor’s Medal competition a couple of years’ ago that the wines are not allowed to breath before being tasted. They are simply opened and poured. If this practice has occurred every year, it might explain why red single varietals have done better than complex red blends.

    It would be interested to determine whether the open & pour scenario is still occurring.

    Keep up the good work.

    Simon Wosk
    SIP Wines VQA
    Richmond, BC

    • That’s very true. All competitions treat their wines differently before being judged and it’s hard to say if they even do it the same every year. I agree that single varieties do have a certain advantage over the blended wines but I think it’s because of familiarity more than anything else. The judges should know what a good merlot tastes like and hopefully will judge it accordingly. A Cab / Merlot blend will be different than a Cab / Syrah / Merlot blend and then which one is better? They’ll both be different so can they really be compared and judged on quality?

      Thanks for the comments Simon!

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