The Best of British Columbia

Winning wines from the Okanagan are terroir-driven and improving all the time.

Every late summer, our sister magazine, Wine Access, gathers 16 of the country’s most-experienced wine tasters and approximately 1,000 wines grown and produced in Canada, and we spend an entire week blind-tasting, trying to figure out who made the best wines of the year.

This event, the Canadian Wine Awards (CWA,) is the ultimate snapshot of what is happening in the world of Canadian wine and, judging by the 2010 results, there is a lot going on.

For consumers, and wineries, who haven’t yet come around to accepting screw cap-finished wine, you’d best get on with it. More than 50 per cent of the entries were finished under the twisted metal cover, and if you think that means cheap, think again. The average bottle price in the CWA competition hovered around $24.

Here’s what we learned this year: After assessing nearly 1,000 wines at the CWA, the best wine in the country is estate-made. Vineyards are tended with respect for the land, and many of these wineries make a substantial commitment to the environment. The winemakers and the viticulturalists have extensive international experience, and the owners’ passion for wine sees them regularly drinking some of the world’s finest vintages.

Here, we look at some of the winning wines coming out of the nearby Okanagan Valley. One thing is for sure, wine quality has increased dramatically in British Columbia, along with a clear sense of identity that is allowing B.C. winemakers to express the real story of their spectacular terroir.

Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc 2007, Oliver, Okanagan Valley, B.C. $55 (Silver)

The BOV franc has a bit of that Cheval Blanc mineral thing under its ripe, spicy, earthy, black fruit. Just a whiff of local sage pulls the entire wine together. It will keep for a decade. Good as always, especially with roast beef.

Jackson-Triggs Okanagan 2007 SunRock Vineyard Shiraz, Oliver, Okanagan Valley, B.C. $37 (Gold)

Impressive every year, this single-vineyard syrah is an intense mix of white pepper, smoked meat and black fruit from back to front. Dense, rich, bright and glossy, it is a syrah that will appeal to those who love the New World with a twist of France.

Joie A Noble Blend 2009, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, B.C. $24 (Bronze)

Edelzwicker, the Alsace quaffer, is the model, and this spicy aro-matic ginger- and mineral-scented white with strong grapefruit rind and grassy, peach pit, green apple flavours has summer written all over it.

Laughing Stock Vineyards Portfolio 2007 Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, B.C. $57 (Silver)

Tight peppery, espresso, smoky, oak nose with savoury herbs and cassis aromas and flavours. The texture is the best yet with an oaky warm finish. Best in five years or drink now with a steak.

Mission Hill S.L.C. Syrah, Oliver, Okanagan Valley, B.C. 2007 $40 (Gold)

Open, intensely spicy, vanilla, sausage, floral nose, with blackberry, boysenberry and smoky, licorice, savoury flavours. Good finesse and styling, and certainly the best yet from Mission Hill.

Mission Hill 2007 Legacy Series Compendium, Oliver, Okanagan Valley, B.C. $44 (Silver)

The new Compendium opens with a smooth palate overlying plenty of structure. Red fruits with a minty, savoury, ginger undercurrent attract. Another red that will benefit with some extra bottle time. Best now with grilled lamb
or venison.

Painted Rock Syrah 2007, Skaha Bench, Okanagan Valley, B.C. $40 (Bronze)

Dry, round, elegant, supple palate with flavours of coffee, vanilla, herbal, roasted pepper, resin, caraway, savoury, sour cherry, mocha. Try this with lamb or
roast beef.

Road 13 Jackpot Chardonnay 2008, Okanagan Valley, B.C. $37 (Gold)

Rich spicy, buttery, lees, baked apple/citrus aromas and flavours. The attack is dry and elegant with bright fruit and fine complexity. Drink now or hold for three years. Try it with lobster.

Quails’ Gate Chardonnay Family Reserve 2008, Okanagan Valley, B.C. $30 (375ml) (Silver)

One of the top five chardonnays made in the province, the Quails’ Gate Reserve has a rich smoky, nutty, spicy character with a creamy, nutty, passion fruit, mineral, melon palate. Perfect with Dungeness crab.

Sandhill Pinot Gris King Family Vineyard 2009, Okanagan Valley, B.C. $18 (Silver)

Over the years, this wine has settled into its fresh, juicy persona, offering up bits of pear and tropical fruit with a touch of Okanagan peach. Try it with spicy wraps or crab cakes.

Twisted Tree Viognier Roussanne 2009, Osoyoos, Okanagan Valley, B.C. $29 (Silver)

Round, rich, slightly sweet entry but fresh with flavours of ginger, orange, lemon peel, grassy, gooseberry, grapefruit rind, butter and guava. A delicious seafood wine.

Anthony Gismondi is a the globetrotting editor-in-chief of Calgary-based Wine Access magazine. For more wine picks, visit wineaccess.ca

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