British Columbia’s Top 10 Wineries at the 2021 Wine Align National Wine Awards of Canada (NWAC)

British Columbia had 148 wineries entered in this year’s National Wine Awards competition; the highest of any province.  With such a strong field of competitors, earning a position in the top 10 is truly an accomplishment.

The wines were all served to the judges without displaying the producer, origin or price.  The wines were identified and organized by grape variety or style. The top medalists were tasted in multiple rounds by many different judges.

The wineries identified in green periodically have their wines available for sale beyond British Columbia. The award winning wines identified in blue are available in Ontario through the LCBO.

1. La Frenz Estate Winery, Penticton, B.C.  (2nd overall)
In addition to being the top B.C. winery, La Frenz was declared the Best Performing Small Winery of the Year.  They previously received the title in 2017.  This year they earned 2 Platinum, 6 Gold and 5 Silver medals.  La Frenz wines are available online from their web site www.lafrenzwinery.com.

Platinum Award Winners

N/V Liqueur Muscat – Category: Fortified Wine -$22.00

2019 Reserve Ensemble – Category: White Blend – $29.00

Gold Award Winners

2019 Reserve Chardonnay – Category: Chardonnay – $32.00

2018 Cabernets Rockyfeller Vineyard – Category: Red Blend – $32.00

2020 Riesling Cl. 21B Freedom 75 Vineyard – Category: Riesling – $22.00

2020 Sauvignon Blanc Wits End Vineyard – Category: Sauvignon Blanc – $24.00

2020 Semillon Knorr Vineyard – Category: Semillon – $25.00

N/V Tawny Port – Category: Other Fortified – $22.00

Silver Award Winners

Syrah Rockyfeller Vineyard – Category: Syrah – $32.00

2019 Pinot Noir Desperation Hill Vineyard – Category: Pinot Noir – $30.00

2019 Reserve Pinot Noir – Category: Pinot Noir – $30.00

2019 Reserve Vivant – Category: White Blend – $29.00

2019 Vintage Port Style – Category: Other Fortified

2. Blasted Church Vineyards, Okanagan Falls, B.C.  (3rd overall)
Blasted Church received 2 Platinum, 6 Gold, 5 Silver and 11 Bronze medals. There wines are available from their website at www.blastedchurch.com.
Platinum Award Winners

2019 Big Bang Theory – Category: Red Blend – $24.00

2019 Cabernet Franc – Category: Cabernet Franc – $36.90

Gold Award Winners

2017 Nectar of the Gods – Category: Red Blend – $75.00

2017 Holy Moly Petit Verdot – Category: Petit Verdot – $50.00

2018 Cabernet Merlot – Category: Red Blend – $34.00

2018 Small Blessings Malbec – Category: Malbec – $40.00

2018 Small Blessings Cabernet Sauvignon – Category: Cabernet Sauvignon – $50.00

2020 Blaufrankisch Rosé – Category: Rosé – $26.00

Silver Award Winners

2017 Cross to Bear – Category: Cabernet Franc – $50.00

2017 Nothing Sacred – Category: Red Blend – $50.00

2017 Syrah – Category: Syrah – $32.00

2020 Viognier – Category: Viognier – $24.00

2016 OMG – Category: Sparkling Wine – $30.00

Bronze Award Winners

2017 Merlot – Category: Merlot – $22.95

2018 Holy Moly Petit Verdot – Category: Petit Verdot – $22.95

2018 Merlot, Skaha Bench – Category: Merlot – $34.00

2018 Nectar of the Gods – Category: Red Blend – $75.00

2018 Nothing Sacred Category: Red Blend – $50.00

2018 Syrah – Category: Syrah – $32.00

2020 Big Bang Theory – Category: Red Blend – $24.00

2019 Pinot Gris – Category: Pinot Gris – $24.00

2020 Hatfield’s Fuse – Category: White Blend – $20.00

2020 Pinot Gris – Category: Pinot Gris – $24.00

2020 Unorthodox Chardonnay – Category: Chardonnay – $22.00

3. Road 13 Vineyards, Oliver, B.C. (6th overall)

Road13 Vineyards earned 1 Platinum, 3 Gold and 3 Silver medals.  Their wines may be purchased from their website www.road13vineyards.com.

Platinum Award Winner

2019 GSM – Category: Red Blend – $36.99

Gold Award Winners

2019 Syrah Malbec – Category: Red Blend – $36.99

2020 Cabernet Merlot – Category: Red Blend – $23.99

2019 Jackpot Malbec – Category: Malbec – $64.99

Silver Award Winners

2017 Sparkling Chenin Blanc – Category: Sparkling Wine – $39.99

2012 Jackpot Sparkling Chenin Blanc – Category: Sparkling Wine – $86.99

2020 Rosé – Category: Rosé – $23.99

4. Quails’ Gate Estate Winery, West Kelowna, B.C. (7th overall)

Quails’ Gate Estate Winery received 1 Platinum, 3 Gold, 9 Silver and 4 Bronze medals.  Their wines are available from their website at www.quailsgate.com.

Platinum Award Winner

2019 Rosemary’s Block Chardonnay – Category: Chardonnay – $63.35

Gold Award Winners

2019 Richard’s Block Pinot Noir – Category: Pinot Noir – $64.99

2019 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay – Category: Chardonnay – $45.00

2018 The Boswell Syrah – Category: Syrah – $69.99

Silver Award Winners

2018 The Connemara – Category: Red Blend – $84.99

2019 Queue – Category: Red Blend – $49.95

2019 The Boswell Syrah – Category: Syrah – $69.99

2019 Chardonnay – Category: Chardonnay – $24.95

2020 Clone 220 Chenin Blanc – Category: Chenin Blanc – $39.99

2020 Clone 49 Riesling – Category: Riesling – $34.99

2020 Orchard Block Gewürztraminer – Category: Gewürztraminer – $26.99

2020 Lucy’s Block Rosé – Category: Rosé – $26.99

2019 Riesling Icewine – Category: Icewine – $44.99

Bronze Award Winners

2019 Dijon Clone Pinot Noir – Category” Pinot Noir – $45.00

2019 Old Vines Foch Reserve – Category: Other Red – $50.00

2019 Pinot Noir – Category: Pinot Noir – $34.95

2019 Dry Riesling – Category: Riesling – $19.95

5. Mission Hill Family Estate, West Kelowna, B.C. (8th overall)

Mission Hill earned 6 Gold and 8 Silver medals at this year’s event.  Their wines may be purchased from their website at www.missionhillwinery.com.

Gold Medal Winners

2017 Legacy Collection Quatrain – Category: Red Blend – $80.00

2017 Legacy Collection Compendium – Category: Red Blend – $80.00

2019 Legacy Collection Perpetua – Category: Chardonnay – $65.00

2019 Terroir Collection Vista’s Edge Cabernet Franc – Category: Cabernet Franc – $60.00

2019 Reserve Chardonnay – Category: Chardonnay – $21.95

2020 Reserve Pinot Gris – Category: Pinot Gris

Silver Medal Winners

2018 Legacy Collection Prospectus – Category: Pinot Noir – $80.00

2019 Reserve Meritage – Category: Red Blend – $29.95

2019 Reserve Pinot Noir – Category: Pinot Noir – $29.99

2019 Reserve Syrah – Category: Syrah – $26.99

2019 Terroir Collection Jagged Rock Syrah – Category: Syrah – $60.00

2019 Terroir Collection Reed Creek Organic Merlot – Category: Merlot – $60.00

2020 Terroir Collection Bluebird Passage Viognier – Category: Viognier – $35.00

2020 Terroir Collection Jagged Rock Sauvignon Blanc – Semillon – Category: White Blend – $35.00

6. Nk’Mip Cellars, Osoyoos, B.C. (10th overall)

Nk’Mip Cellars earned 5 Gold, 4 Silver and 8 Bronze medals at this year’s event.  Their wines may be purchased from their website www.nkmipcellars.com.

Gold Medal Winners

2018 Qwam Qwmt Cabernet Sauvignon – Category: Cabernet Sauvignon – $34.99

2019 Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay – Category: Chardonnay – $28.99

2019 Mer’r’iym Red Meritage – Category: Red Blend – $63.35

2018 Qwam Qwmt Syrah – Category: Syrah – $34.94

2020 Mer’r’iym White Meritage – Category: White Blend – $31.99

Silver Medal Winners

2019 Merlot – Category: Merlot – $21.99

2019 Qwam Qwmt Merlot – Category: Merlot – $25.00

2019 Qwam Qwmt Syrah – Category: Syrah – $34.95

2020 Qwam Qwmt Pinot Noir – Category: Pinot Noir – $34.99

Bronze Award Winners

2019 Qwam Qwmt Pinot Noir – Category: Pinot Noir – $40.35

2020 Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay – Category: Chardonnay – $28.99

2020 Qwam Qwmt Riesling – Category: Riesling – $28.99

2020 Winemakers Chardonnay – Category: Chardonnay – $18.99

2020 Winemakers Dreamcatcher – Category: White Blend – $21.99

2020 Winemakers Pinot Blanc – Category: Pinot Blanc – $17.99

2020 Winemakers Rosé – Category: Rosé – $22.99

2020 Qwam Qwmt Riesling Icewine – Category: Icewine – $74.99

7. Meyer Family Vineyards, Okanagan Falls, B.C. (11th overall)

Meyer Family Vineyards was awarded 1 Platinum, 2 Gold, 3 Silver and 1 Bronze medal.   Their wines are available online at www.mfvwines.com.

Platinum Award Winner

2019 Tribute Series Dr. Bonnie Henry Chardonnay – Category: Chardonnay – $35.00

Gold Medal Winners

2019 Chardonnay McLean Creek Road Vineyard – Category: Chardonnay – $35.00

2019 Micro Cuvee Chardonnay McLean Creek Vineyard – Category: Chardonnay – $65.00

Silver Medal Winners

2019 Micro Cuvee Pinot Noir McLean Creek Vineyard – Category: Pinot Noir – $65.00

2019 Stevens Block Chardonnay Old Main Road – Category: Chardonnay – $36.95

2019 Pinot Noir McLean Creek Rd Vineyard – Category: Pinot Noir – $36.37

Bronze Award Winner

2019 Old Block Pinot Noir McLean Creek Vineyard – Category: Pinot Noir – $50.00

8. Maverick Estate Winery, Oliver, B.C. (12th overall)

Maverick Estate received 1 Platinum, 2 Gold, 3 Silver and 2 Bronze medals.  Their wines may be purchases online at their website www.maverickwine.ca.

Platinum Award Winner

2019 Bush Vine Syrah – Category: Syrah – $34.58

Gold Medal Winners

2020 Amber Pinot Gris – Category: Orange Wine – $34.48

2019 Rubeus – Category: Red Blend: – $28.73

Silver Medal Winners

2020 Cross Road Chardonnay – Category: Chardonnay – $31.03

2020 Carbonic Syrah – Category: Syrah – $40.23

2020 Provenance Pinot Noir – Category: Pinot Noir – $32.18

Bronze Award Winners

2020 Sauvignon Blanc – Category: Sauvignon Blanc – $22.98

N/V Ella Brut Rosé – Category: Rosé – $35.00

9. Spearhead Winery, Kelowna, B.C. (13th overall)

Spearhead achieved 4 Gold, 5 Silver and 4 Bronze medals.  Their wines are available online at www.spearheadwinery.com.

Gold Medal Winners

2018 Coyote Vineyard Pinot Noir – Category: Pinot Noir – $41.50

2019 Riesling – Category: Riesling – $21.99

2019 Saddle Block Pinot Noir – Category: Pinot Noir – $40.35

2019 Coyote Vineyard Pinot Noir – Category: Pinot Noir – $41.50

Silver Medal Winners

2018 Saddle Block Pinot Noir – Category: Pinot Noir – $41.50

2019 Golden Retreat Vineyard Pinot Noir – Category: Pinot Noir – $40.35

2019 Chardonnay Clone 95 – Category: Chardonnay – $30.00

2019 Saddle Block Chardonnay – Category: Chardonnay – $35.00

2020 Golden Retreat Pinot Gris – Category: Pinot Gris – $23.10

Bronze Award Winners

2018 Cuvée Pinot Noir – Category: Pinot Noir – $40.00

2018 Golden Retreat Vineyard Pinot Noir – Category: Pinot Noir – $41.50

2019 Cuvée Pinot Noir – Category: Pinot Noir – $48.40

2020 Pinot Noir Rosé – Category: Rosé – $26.55

10. Painted Rock Estate Winery, Penticton, B.C. (14th overall)

Painted Rock received 4 Gold and 4 Silver medals this year.  Their wines are available from their website at www.paintedrock.ca.

Gold Medal Winners

2019 Cabernet Franc – Category: Cabernet Franc – $44.99

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon – Category: Cabernet Sauvignon – $44.99

2018 Merlot – Category: Merlot – $39.99

2019 Chardonnay – Category: Chardonnay – $42.99

Silver Medal Winners

2019 Malbec – Category: Malbec – $44.99

2019 Merlot – Category: Merlot – $39.99

2019 Red Icon – Category: Red Blend – $64.99

2020 Chardonnay – Category: Chardonnay – $42.99

Next week I will review the awards achieved by Ontario wineries, the other major player in this year’s competition.

Sláinte mhaith

French Versus Italian Wine

Italy and France are two of the world’s finest wine producing countries, for both quality and quantity.  Italy has made wines longer and is a larger producer of wine, but France is more renowned for its creation of premium wines.  So does one rein superior to the other?  I really don’t believe so but here are some of the facts to help you to decide for yourself.

Traditional Sparkling Wine

To begin the France Italy showdown are sparkling wines that are produced using the traditional method – Champagne versus Franciacorta.  Both wines utilize a second fermentation that occurs in the bottle.  It is the most labour intensive process that creates the most complex textured wines.

Champagne is considered the home of traditionally prepared sparkling wine and has the most stringent regulations for production.  These rules dictate both blending practices and aging requirements.

Franciacorta, though less famous than Champagne, uses the same type of grapes and may even have a longer aging process.  Given the warmer climate, the grapes are riper but do not have the same vibrancy as the French wine.  However, it is worth considering that a Franciacorta sparkler will have a more favourable price point than a similar one from Champagne.

Great-Value Sparkling Wine

Both France’s Crémant and Italy’s Prosecco share the versatility provided by the more expensive traditional sparkling wines but at a much gentler price. 

Crémant wines are produced using the traditional method but with less restrictions than Champagne.

Prosecco is produced using the Charmat method which conducts the second fermentation in a tank rather than in the bottle.  Some of the finer Proseccos are aged several years to create a more complex flavorful wine.

The price of both the French and Italian versions is comparable.

Notable Styles

France’s Châteauneuf-Du-Pape and Italy’s Amarone are premium wines from their respective regions and are considered to be among the finest wines in the world.  They are both full-bodied and smooth.

The wines from Châteauneuf-Du-Pape are a blend which has the Grenache grape as the principal grape.  The balance of the wine often consists of a combination of Mourvèdre, Counoise, Vaccarèse, and Muscardine. 

The region produces intense, powerful wines with great body.  Many of these offerings may be drunk when released or retained for quite a few years.

Italy’s Amarone wines are made from grapes from the most mature vines which are harvested late to ensure ripeness.  The grapes are then dried on racks or hooks for about 120 days in order to obtain a higher concentration of sugar and flavour.  During this process 30% to 40% of the grapes’ weight is lost which is part of the reason for this wine selling at a higher price.

Though the cost of both of these wines can run over $100, the average price is in the $50 range.  Whether one wine is preferred over the other will depend on your personal taste.

Challenging Grapes

France’s gentle flavoured Pinot Noir and Italy’s bold Nebbiolo grape share two things in common; they are both very difficult grapes to grow; and they are among the most sought after grapes in the world.

The majority of France’s Pinot Noir grapes are grown in Burgundy.

The Italian Nebbiolo grape is grown exclusively in Piedmont and is used in the creation of Barolo wine.

The two types of wine, apart from both being red, are vastly different in intensity, richness, and flavour.  It would not be fair to try and compare or rate one against the other.  They each stand on their own merits.

Notable Regions

The most recognized wine region within each country is France’s Bordeaux and Italy’s Tuscany.  These regions are home to some of the world’s most expensive sought after wines.  However, they also offer an enticing array of wines at a wide range of price points.

The wines of Bordeaux consist of a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The region is divided into 2 sectors – the left bank and the right bank – by the Dordogne, Garonne and Gironde rivers.  The left bank wines will contain a higher concentration of Cabernet Sauvignon while the right bank wines contain a greater proportion of Merlot.

The wines of Bordeaux have extraordinary consistency of balance and structure, irrelevant of the price point.

The signature grape of Tuscany is the Sangiovese, which is the basis of 3 of Italy’s most famous wines, Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello.  There are also other wines consisting of a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

There are a great variety of styles , flavours, techniques and price points, all containing the definitive Tuscan identity.

There is no winner or loser in this comparison.  It comes down to a matter of personal taste.

The White Pinot

France’s Pinot Gris and Italy’s Pinot Grigio are the same grape but are produced in different styles.  The Pinot Gris is produced in the Alsace region of France whereas Pinot Grigio is associated with northern Italy.

Pinot Gris is produced in a range of styles ranging from dry to sweet.  They contain a distinct richness, weight, spiciness, and complexity that is said not to exist in the Italian version.  The French version of the grape has more potential for aging as well.

The Italian Pinot Grigio is light and zesty and makes a great sipping wine.  It is said to have subtle floral and fruit aromas and flavours.

Aromatic Whites

Aromatic whites are typically those wines producing the aroma of flowers and herbs.  Such wines are normally not aged in oak barrels.

France’s Sauvignon Blanc is the noted white wine grape of Bordeaux and the Loire.  It is renowned for the hint of lime, green apple, peach and tropical fruit, as well as its herb and grassy notes.

Italy’s Vermentino wine is light and refreshing.  It is also complex and layered displaying fruit tones, mineral and herbal notes.

As I stated earlier, I don’t believe there is a winner or a loser.  Both countries provide their own uniqueness and distinct flavours through their wine offerings.  There are no comparisons for a French Bordeaux or Châteauneuf-Du-Pape but the same can be said for an Italian Borolo or Chianti.  Whether a French wine is preferred over an Italian wine or vice versa is a matter of personal taste.

To simply say that one country is superior to the other and ignore the offerings of the other would be a travesty.  Such a person would be denying her/himself the opportunity to indulge in some great tasting wines.

Sláinte mhaith

Hello and Welcome

Let me begin my first post by confessing what I am not.  I am not a vintner, sommelier, restauranteur, or involved with any profession associated with the wine, spirits, or food industry.  I do not pretend to know anything about the growing of grapes or the creation of wine.  I am simply an individual with a passion for wine and one who appreciates the skill and artistry of those who create it.

I began taking more than a casual interest in wine in 2003, after listening to a presentation by a sommelier associated with one of the wineries in Niagara.  This individual can be credited or blamed, for what has become a passion and thirst (pardon the pun) for knowledge and of course, good wines.

The inspiration for this blog came from encouragement and prodding from friends and family, who for some reason like to hear me babble on about this wine or that wine and have been subjected to me sticking this wine or that wine under their noses and down their throats wanting their reaction to what I have presented to them.  My wife is one of this group and as my retirement draws closer, I think from her perspective, it will give me something to do and keep me out of her hair.

I have read lots of wine reviews from the various experts and find them helpful when deciding on which new wines I would like to explore.  You may find that you share a similar palette of one reviewer or another.  If you do, then that individual may provide you with great insight as to selections you may enjoy and which ones to avoid.

On the other hand, you may be like me; someone who does not consistently share the same tastes or opinions of any particular reviewer and thus have to draw your own conclusions based on the vintner and reviewer notes. Possibly you simply do what my wife does and make your selections based on whether or not you like the label.  Surprisingly, she has discovered some great wines this way. Ultimately, what is important is that you discover wines that you enjoy.  Don’t allow a prestigious reviewer likes or dislikes intimidate your own personal taste.  What is important is that you discover wines that you enjoy.