B.C. wines clean up at inaugural Canadian Wine Awards
For years, ordering a bottle Canadian wine was maybe a step up from ordering a bottle of Bud at a fancy restaurant, then asking for a bottle of ketchup to spruce up the broiled salmon.
A lot has changed, however, and in a relatively short period of time. With B.C. leading the way, a group of determined vintners have made the best of our climate to produce some highly enjoyable and marketable wines. In 1996, B.C. wine exports were a mere $300,000, but by the following autumn they were up to more than $2 million. With a bumper year in the Okanagan Valley in1998, and a growing reputation for quality and specialty products such as ice wines, Canadian exports were almost $10 million last year. B.C. exports accounted for more than $6 million of that total.
The fact that there are only a handful of wine makers in Canada, when compared to a wine powerhouse like California, quantity was thought to be a limiting factor in exports.
According the B.C. Wine Research Centre at UBC, a privately funded project that was created by the wine industry to address their scientific needs, there are currently 68 wineries in B.C., and 190 growers on approximately 5,000 acres of land. Thats not even half the size of Oregons wine region.
At home, we still tend to import the majority of our wines, but the domestic market for domestic wines had increased to about 35 per cent of the $745 million in B.C. sales in 1998.
Elsewhere in Canada, and especially in Southern Ontario, the wine industry is experiencing similar growth, but in a different vein. Most of B.C.s pre-eminent wineries are established estate wineries, while Ontario is on the whole more proficient in making and marketing affordable table wines.
At international tasting events, Canadian wines are beginning to earn accolades, but we havent done much to recognize the industry at home. To remedy the situation, Air Canada and Wine Access Magazine hosted the first Canadian Wine Awards in Toronto on Nov. 4. All the West Coast winners were presented with their awards at the Preview Grand Tasting on Nov. 8 in Whistler, as part of the annual Cornucopia Food and Wine Celebration.
A total of 71 wineries from three provinces submitted 528 wines for judging. A total of 247 gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded, based on a points system. A minimum of 85 points is required for a medal, and a total of 20 wines scored 91 or better, denoting "excellent" or "outstanding."
The wines were scored in a blind tasting over five days in August by a judging panel of eight of Canadas best known, independent wine writers: Malcolm Anderson of the Montreal Gazette; Tony Aspler of the Toronto Star; Anthony Gismondi of the Vancouver Sun; Michael Vaughan of the National Post; Sean Wood of the Halifax Chronicle Herald and Mail Star; Vancouver wine writers Sid Cross and Stuart Tobe; and David Lawrason of Toronto, the founder and editor-in-chief of Wine Access magazine.
The complete results can be found in the November Issue of Wine Access, but an abbreviated list was released to the media.
Not unexpectedly, the Winery of the Year Award went to a B.C. company that has earned a reputation in Canada and abroad as a world class label Mission Hill Family Estates of Kelowna.
Mission Hill is a $35 million investment, established by Anthony von Mandl back in 1981. The winery broke through in 1992, with the hiring of New Zealand viniculturist John Simes, who is credited with putting the Mission Hill label on the map.
His first vintage, the Mission Hill Grand Reserve Barel Select, went on to win the Avery Trophy for best in the world in 1994. Their 1999 Estate Chardonnay was the only vintage in North America to win a medal at the 2001 Chardonnay du Monde Competition.
You can find Mission Hill wines throughout Europe and the U.S. They can be found in B.C. liquor stores, but elsewhere in Canada due to the limited size of the harvests rather than interest its a rare find.
The award for Icewine of the Year went to the Chateau des Charmes 1999 Paul Bosc Estate Riesling Icewine, a Niagara, Ontario winery.
B.C. wineries won 13 more awards out of 24 categories.
Red Wine of the Year went to Tinhorn Creek Vineyards (B.C.) for their 1998 Merlot. They also won for Best Merlot.
White Wine of the Year went to Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards (B.C.) for their 2000 Gold Series Chardonnay. The same wine also won for Best Chardonnay.
The Best Value Red Wine went to Mission Hill for their 1999 Cabernet Merlot.
The Best Value White Wine went to Vineland Estates Winery (Ontario) for a 1999 Riesling Semi-Dry.
The Best Value Dessert Wine went to Quails Gate Estate Winery (B.C.) for a 2000 Late Harvest Optima. The same wine won in the Dessert Wine category for Best Late Harvest.
In the White Wine category, the Best Sparkling Wine went to Lang Vineyards (B.C.) Canadian Maple Brut.
The Best Pinot Blanc went to Wild Goose Vineyards (B.C.) for a 2000 Pinot Blanc. They also won for Best Pinot Gris with their 2000 offering.
The Best Sauvignon Blanc went to Vineland Estates for their 2000 label.
Best Riesling went to Cave Spring Cellars (ON), for their 1999 CSV Riesling.
Gray Monk Cellars (B.C.) won for Best Gewurztraminer and Best Aromatic White Wine with their 2000 Gewurztraminer and their 200 Siegerrebe.
In the Red Wines category, Sumac Ridge Estate Winery (B.C.) won Best Rose Wine with their 2000 Okanagan Blush.
Best Gamay went to Sandstone (ON) for their 1998 Gamay Reserve.
Best Pinot Noir went to Ontarios Kacaba Vineyards for their 1999 label.
Inniskillin Wines (ON) won for Best Cabernet Franc with their 1998 Cabernet Franc Reserve.
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery (B.C.) won Best Cabernet for their 1998 offering.
Best Red Meritage went to Jackson-Triggs Vintners for their 1998 Meritage Grand Reserve.
Best Red Hybrid went to the Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery (ON) for their 1999 Baco Noir Reserve.
In the Dessert Wine category, Best Vidal Icewine went to Lakeview Cellars (ON) for their 2000 Vidal.
Best Vinefera Icewine went to Chateau des Charmes for their 2000 Paul Bosc Estate Riesling Icewine.
A number of the award-winning B.C. wineries are taking part in the Cornucopia events. A total of 19 wineries are on the list, including Hawthorne Mountain, Hester Creek, Hillside Estate, Inniskillin Okanagan & Niagara, Jackson-Triggs, Lake Breeze, Mission Hill Family Estate, Mt. Boucherie, Peller Estates, Quail's Gate, Red Rooster, Sandhill, Saturna Island, St. Hubertus, Stag's Hollow, Sumac Ridge, Summerhill, Vignetti Zanata, and Wild Goose.
Tourism Whistler offers Cornucopia discounts to trade staff
All trade staff wishing to take part in Cornucopia trade seminars are being offered a 50 per cent discount by Tourism Whistler, in the hope that they will use the opportunity to expand their knowledge.
Participants will be asked to produce a valid employee I.D. card or business card, and photo I.D., to qualify for the discount. The following trade seminars will be offered on Friday, Nov. 9:
The Language of Wine 10 to 11:30 a.m., $10 (with employee discount).
The Evolution of the American Wine Barrel 10 to 11:30 a.m., $12.50.
Nine Vintages of Mission Hill Chardonnay 12:15 to 1:45 p.m., $22.50.
Emerging Trends in Organics 2 to 4:30 p.m., $5.
In addition, there will be a pre-Crush! trade tasting on Friday afternoon at the Westin Resort and Spa, from 2 to 4:30 p.m. for a $5 donation, with all proceeds going towards the Whistler Health Care Centre.
Health Care Centre to benefit from Cornucopia
The Whistler Health Care Foundation has been named as the official charity of the Cornucopia Food and Wine Celebration. Foundation members will co-ordinate the volunteers for the events, and will run the silent auction at the Crush! Gala Grand Tasting. In addition, all proceeds from Crush! will go towards the foundation, which raises funds for new diagnostic equipment and upgrades to the Whistler Health Care Centre.
A total of 56 wineries from the Pacific West Coast are taking part in this years Cornucopia, including some of the best know wineries from California, Oregon, Washington and B.C.
For more information on Cornucopia, visit the Tourism Whistler Web site at www.tourismwhistler.com . Some events have already sold out, although at press time there were still tickets available for many of the events, including Crush!