The results are in from this year's Okanagan Fall Wine Festival Judging Awards.
As usual, they add up to a useful barometer of just who's doing what really well. Oops, make that the 2011 British Columbia Wine Awards; the competition was rebranded last year to reflect a more province-wide appeal. Although entries from outside the valley remain scant.
It's worth remembering these are B.C.'s (if not Canada's) longest running wine awards -- although things have changed a tad since the festival's genesis, when the judges toured the valley's wineries (then just a handful).
At one winery, they actually didn't stay too long. Looking around for a spittoon, they were admonished by the owner: "If my wine isn't good enough to swallow, you can leave right now!" So they did.
As to whether it's a bit of a medalfest, well maybe it is. After all, the Okanagan Wine Festivals' mandate is to promote its members' wines, which they've managed to do more than well over the years.
However, this remains one of the best snapshots of what's happening in the valley, from a highly qualified panel of pros in a well-orchestrated blind tasting. In fact even its process has been long regarded as an industry benchmark for serious competitions.
Winning wineries of note? Jackson Triggs, Sandhill and Road 13 account for about a third of the golds between them. For a treat, track down Sandhill Small Lots Phantom Creek Malbec ('08) or Petit Verdot ('09) if you can find them.
Good value golds we'd be lassoing for the wine rack? There's a bunch of them . . .
- Gray Monk's killer Gewurz 2010. Consistently one of the Okanagan's best examples of this variety, packed with rose petal and tropical notes and a touch of spice. ($16.99 BCLS)
- Hillside Old Vines Gamay Noir 2008 (Gold). Planted in 1984 by Hillside's original owners, the visionary Bohumir and Vera Klokocka, back in the days when most people just dreamed about making good reds. Textbook Gamay with some substance, wrapped in easy tannins and measured oak. ($24.99 BCLS)
- Lakebreeze Semillon 2010. Semillon is another of the Okanagan's well kept secrets; the Naramata Bench yields a couple of note, including this one as well as La Frenz. Crisp and dry, with citrus and gooseberry notes make for a refreshing alternative to Sauvignon Blanc. Think seafood and lighter sauces. ($17.90 BCLS)
- Lakebreeze Pinot Blanc 2010. A perennial, deserving winner but good luck finding it. ($17.90)
- Road 13 Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2010. Made from some of the oldest vines in the valley, this wine happens to be the base for Road 13's celebrated sparkler (which also grabbed gold). There's a healthy dollop of Riesling here that likely boosts the green apple factor. (Winery $19.99)
- Red Rooster Reserve Syrah 2009. We tasted this at Victoria's Taste, where it showed very well beside some heavy hitters. No surprise to find it here. (Winery only $29.99)
- Laughing Stock Portfolio 2009. Fast becoming an "icon" wine but still pretty fairly priced, this take on a classic Bordeaux blend again over delivers with seductive black fruit, wrapped in well managed tannins and layered complexity before a lengthy end. One of the valley's most brilliant packages too. Well worth putting away. ($40)
- Tinhorn Creek 2009 Cabernet Franc. Reviewed here last week. Give it time in a big glass and you'll be well rewarded with generous red and black fruit with a gently earthy edge. Great structure-- and value too: ($19.99 BCLS)
Full results, including plenty of worthy silvers, and bronzes, at www.okanaganwineawards.com.