The 2015 LG’s are in

The results have just been announced for the 2015 Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in B.C. Wine. I’ve run the stats again this year and there’s some interesting things happening.

Firstly, congratulations to all of this year’s winners!

50th Parallel Estate – 2013 Chardonnay

BC Wine Studio -2012 Siren’s Call Syrah

Blasted Church Vineyards – 2012 Holy Moly Petit Verdot

Cassini Cellars – 2012 Cabernet Franc Collector’s Series

Church & State Winery – 2012 Quintessential

Enrico Winery & Vineyards – 2014 Tempest Ortega

Ex Nihilo Vineyards – 2013 Pinot Noir

Inniskillin Okanagan Vineyards Winery – 2014 Riesling Icewine

Lake Breeze Vineyards – 2012 Merlot

Noble Ridge Vineyard and Winery – 2010 “The One” Sparkling

Platinum Bench Estate Winery -2013 Gamay Noir Block 28

Red Rooster Winery – 2012 Syrah Reserve

Ruby Blues Winery – 2014 Commune Viognier

Wild Goose Vineyards and Winery – 2014 Mystic River Gewürztraminer

Now if you’ll allow me to get all sports-caster like and let me show you a little of what I’ve found based on the stats that now include this year’s results. I won’t do up charts like I did last year but there were some really interesting things in this year’s competition that included 425 wines from 116 wineries throughout B.C. There have now been 140 LG awards handed out in total over the 13 years that the awards have been held. 14 awards were handed out this year making it the largest pool of winners ever for a single year.

The big news this year for me is that Enrico Winery & Vineyards becomes the very first winery from Vancouver Island to win an LG! To me, this is huge in the same way that Fort Berens’ win last year was huge because it shows that great wine in BC can be grown in places other than the Okanagan. I visited their tasting room in the spring of 2012 and was very impressed by the experience and with the wines. Well done Enrico Winery! The Gulf Islands are now the only DVA to not have an LG award but that may change soon.

Wild Goose picks up another LG for the Mystic River Gewurztraminer, a vineyard that represents 4 of their total of 9 LG awards. Along with their great showing at the All Canadians, this is a nice way for the Kruger family to celebrate their 25th year in the wine business.

Two new varieties receive awards. Enrico’s win with an Ortega marks that varieties debut with a trophy and Blasted Church wins their second with a Petit Verdot. This is Blasted Church’s second LG award with the first coming in 2008 with the 2006 Syrah.

50th Parallel pick up an LG for their beautiful 2013 Chardonnay marking their first ever LG award win. It won’t be there last either. This is also the most northerly winery to win an LG award which I think is also fascinating. In previous years the competition looked like it had completely abandoned all wineries north of Naramata. I think it is great to see wineries from all over the province getting recognition through these awards and particularly from the northern half of the valley. Gray Monk’s win in 2010 for their 2007 Odyssey Brut was the previous northern limit for LG awards.

50th Parallel and Enrico are not the only newbie winners in this competition either. Ex Nihilo, BC Wine Studio, and Platinum Bench are also new the awards and will all be receiving the Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of B.C. in late July.

As far as the single varieties go, only two changes have taken place in the stats. Viognier has overtaken Pinot Gris in number of wins (6-5) and Gewurztraminer has edges up over Riesling to take 4th place in the top 5 varieties in B.C.

Place Variety LG Wins % Total
1 Syrah / Shiraz 26 24.53
2 Pinot Noir 14 13.21
3 Chardonnay 11 10.38
4 Gewurztraminer 8 7.55
5 Riesling* 7 6.6

 * Table wines only – does not include Icewine 

So what does that tell us about the state of wine in our fair province?

Nothing!

But it’s fun to see what the stats can tell us sometimes. I’m also done studying for my WSET exams at the moment and have time for stuff like this.

Cheers from wine country!

~Luke

You’ve Gotta Visit: 50th Parallel

IMG_0948Located on the newly developed Scenic Sip wine route around Lake Country, 50th Parallel is a little far off the main route on Carrs Landing Road. Various routes will get you off Highway 97 to the shores of Okanagan Lake near Okanagan Centre. Follow the road north until you reach 50th Parallel.

Why you should go there

IMG_0949Because it’s amazing. Stunning. Awe-inspiring. But perhaps I’m being too subtle and understated. I’ve seen a lot of wineries and I’ve seen a lot of new wineries just starting out. This place is unbelievable in the sheer amount of details involved. Nothing has apparently been overlooked. The name 50th Parallel invokes their own latitudinal position and owners Curtis Krouzel and Sheri-Lee Tuner-Krouzel have creatively riffed on that for everything from marketing to design and architectural elements of all kinds. The results are clearly visible in the new building’s architecture (parallel lines are everywhere, vertical windows) and branding but are subtle rather than in your face or over the top.

It is also a vineyard with a past. For BC wine history buffs like me, this was a vineyard planted with hybrid grapes that used to supply wines to commercial wineries until the pull-out program in the late 1980’s. It was never replanted and remained essentially abandoned as a vineyard until purchased by Curtis and Sheri-Lee in 2008.

What to expect

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Winemaker Grant Stanley with Sheri-Lee and Curtis

Expect to be wowed. The tasting room is currently at one end of the winery where all of the tanks and sometimes barrels are located. Sometimes winemaker Grant Stanley might be working on barrels or racking or filtering and you’ll be able to watch the action. At the very least, it smells like a winery should – clean but with a cool, damp, refreshing feel that wine loves as it matures. The tasting bar is made from rafters from their old Quonset hut that used to be the winery for their initial vintages so it has a beautiful curve to it. There are guided tours of the vineyard that are available for a price and must be booked in advance. It’s well worth it if you like seeing where the wines come from along with stunning views of Okanagan Lake like you’ve never seen before.

The wines

IMG_0950Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir Rose

Gewurztraminer

Riesling

Chardonnay

Pinot Gris

Pinot Noir is their focus here along with a collection of aromatic whites. All the wines are solid performers. They’ve been racking up awards with all of them so nothing is “filler material” at all. The Gewurztraminer is a much drier style than most BC wines which brings out a unique aromatic profile. The Chardonnay is what I call a “classy” style – meaning, it has some oak flavors on it but it’s just a part of the complexity rather than a dominant flavor. It is a style that I think does well in BC And if you still write home at all, it’s the Pinot Noir that you will want to mention. Just smelling it in the glass, it made my eyes bug out of my head and I heard that old-style car horn sound (a-ROO-ga) that always sounds funny no matter how old you are. Needless to say, I took that wine home with me that day along with a bottle of the Chardonnay.

I first visited 50th Parallel in the early spring and was blown away by the thought that went into everything that they did here and the ultimate end result is absolutely evident in the wine. Complex aromas and flavors, balanced acidity, and just a general sense of thoughtful artistry is clearly in every sip. I’ve found that sometimes new wineries take a few vintages to really get their style established, especially across the portfolio but I believe that 50th Parallel has really reached that phase early on. When it does happen this quickly, it’s usually by happenstance, coincidence, or just blind luck. But in this case, with the amount of detail that went into the planning of this winery, I have come to the conclusion that this consistency is entirely by design.

I’ll meet you anytime at the 50th. Cheers from wine country!

~Luke

New Winery: Visiting Lusitano Estate Winery

20140501-151425.jpg

20140617-083320.jpgIt was a small sign that I noticed on the Oliver Ranch Road which runs south out of Okanagan Falls. It’s a route that is fast becoming the ‘Main Street’ of the Okanagan Falls wine region. In traveling through wine country to visit friends, interview wineries for this blog or other publications for which I write, or just to get off of the main road once in a while, I tend to notice when new wineries put up their signs. It’s fun to discover new things and as I’ve been searching for winery signs for well over a decade now, it’s almost become second nature.

My first visit to Lusitano was short out of necessity. I was on my motorcycle and was quickly running out of time to be back home. Seeing their sign on Oliver Ranch Road, I turned east onto Rolling Hills Road until I saw their main sign. The steep, inclined, loose gravel driveway made getting my motorcycle up it a little tricky and like a cat that climbs trees but can’t get back down, I soon realized that the trip down would be even harder.

The wine shop is a small room off the house with a high tasting bar and shelves for the wines. Fernanda Ganhao welcomed me into the wine shop and told me a about their new winery that sits on the top of a little hill with vineyards cascading down on all sides.

I was finally able to taste the wines on my second trip when I made it easily up the hill in the comfort and stability of my van. The winery currently offers 4 wines – Chic Sauvignon Blanc, Rolling Hills Chardonnay, Luscious Rosé, and Marco’s Pinot Noir. The will be another wine – a Cabernet Sauvignon – that will be joining the lineup later this year. The Pinot Noir was the only wine to see oak in any way. The whites were both crisp and refreshing while the Rosé has just a touch of residual sugar to be nicely balanced. The Pinot Noir was the one that grabbed me the most so I returned the favour and grabbed a bottle of it. It’s an elegant style and I’m very interested in seeing revisiting this wine after it has had some time to settle in the bottle.

It was on this trip that I realized just how unique the landscape is in Okanagan Falls. There aren’t really any wine growing areas of the Okanagan that are built on such diversely oriented portions of land. Just driving through on the 97 and you’d think that the land is pretty straightforward and predictable. It’s a valley bottom just like all the others, right?

Well, no. If you’ve been to Blue Mountain Vineyards and been able to take your eyes off of the spectacular sights of MacIntyre Bluff and the Vasseaux Lake and instead looked west towards the valley bottom, you’d notice that the terrain is beautifully undulating. There are a lot of little hills, valleys, kettles, and geological bizarre-nesses that make this one of the most diverse and varied landscape in all of BC wine country, perhaps on par with Naramata and its motley collection of erosion-scabbed silt bluffs and outcroppings. Standing outside Lusitano gives a different impression of the valley than standing outside Noble Ridge, Liquidity, or Stag’s Hollow. The valley floor south of OK Falls is really BC wine’s fun-house hall of mirrors where everywhere you look, there is a completely different and altered view of the world.

It’s a fascinating world to explore and stopping in at Lusitano will only add to your enjoyment. Cheers from wine country!

~Luke

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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