2014 Best Varietals
Okanagan wineries win awards frequently on the world stage, but there’s nothing quite like winning at home.
That’s one reason the Best of Varietals Awards at the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival is so hotly contested. Wineries who rub shoulders in the Golden Mile, or on Naramata Bench, or up on Bottleneck Drive are all vying for home turf bragging rights. It’s a bit like winning the Stanley Cup at your home rink; it’s just that much more satisfying.
Every year, the Wine Festival society puts together a cadre of highly qualified judges, most of them sommeliers, wine critics and wine writers, who vote for the best of the best in each category.
For us, this is in many ways the best event of the festival. The Westjet Consumer Wine Tasting in Kelowna and the Bacchanalia in Penticton are, of course, much larger and have all the buzz of a real crowd scene.
The Best of Varietal Awards is much smaller, and many of the attendees are the winemakers themselves. However, at the BVAs, it's much easier to get to the wines, and it has the significant advantage that one can hobnob with the best winemakers in the valley, in a relatively small and intimate setting.
Another reason I like this event is that it gives one perspective on who is shaking up the industry in the Okanagan. It gives you a good idea of which wineries are worth visiting during the 10-day wine festival, and for those who live here, which wineries to see regularly.
Many of the winners are producing small lots of wine that are sold mainly at their winery, and quite a few are snapped up almost as soon as they are released. For many of us, this award show is the only chance we get to taste some of the great wines from the smaller boutique wineries.
This year, many of these small wineries did extremely well in the competition, which is a completely blind and unbiased taste test by independent judges. La Frenz won two Best of Varietals and was a finalist in four more. Ruby Blues won two Best of Varietals and was a finalist in three others. The Silk Scarf winery in Summerland struck gold twice for best Viognier and best Shiraz. And Quinta Ferreira was a highlight, winning for Best Merlot and Best Meritage (Merlot Dominated). I'm a big fan of the Meritage style, as my introduction to wines was in Bordeaux, and for me, Quinta Ferreira's 2009 Obra Prima was one of the best of show.
Another winery that excelled this year was Poplar Grove, which scored two wins for Best Pinot Gris and Best Meritage (Cabernet Dominated). Both wines were excellent, and the Meritage was one I'll be trying again very soon.
Finally, the awards this year highlighted the really interesting work being done by Moon Curser Vineyards. It's a bit hard to put this winery head to head with others, because they are almost in a class of their own, producing varietals that are grown in very few Okanagan vineyards. For example, in the 'Red Single Varieties - Other' Category, Moon Curser actually swept that category completely. They won for best varietal with the 2012 Carmenere, and the runner-ups were their 2012 Tempranillo and 2012 Tannat.
2014 Best Varietals
St Hubertus and Oak Bay Estate Winery, 2012 Oak Bay Vineyard Chardonnay
Cassini Cellars, 2011 Cabernet Franc
Mission Hill Family Estate, 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Ruby Blues Winery, 2013 Gewurztraminer
Hybrid Single Varieties
Arrowleaf Cellars, 2013 Snow Tropics Vidal
Inniskillin Okanagan, 2012 Discovery Series Tempranillo Icewine
Late Harvest or Dessert Wine
Arrowleaf Cellars, 2013 Vidal Special Select Late Harvest
Sandhill Wines, 2011 Small Lots Malbec Phantom Creek Vineyard
Quinta Ferreira Estate Winery, 2009 Merlot
Wild Goose Vineyards, 2013 Mystic River Pinot Blanc
Poplar Grove Winery, 2013 Pinot Gris
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery, Optimum Pinot Noir
Red Blends, Other
Covert Farms, 2010 Amiticia
Red Meritage Blends - Cabernet Dominated
Poplar Grove Winery, 2010 Legacy
Red Meritage Blends - Merlot Dominated
Quinta Ferreira Estate Winery, 2009 Obra Prima
Red Single Varieties, Other
Moon Cursor Vineyards, 2012 Carmenere
Lang Vineyards, 2012 Farm Reserve Riesling
Cedar Creek Estate Winery, 2013 Pinot Noir Rose
La Frenz Winery, 2013 Rattlesnake Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
8th Generation Vineyard, 2012 Integrity
Syrah/Shiraz Based Blends
Ruby Blues Winery, Red Stiletto
2009 Silkscarf, 2009 Shiraz Reserve
Silkscarf Winery, 2013 Viognier
Volcanic Hills Estate Winery Magma White
White Single Variety - Other
LaFrenz Winery, 2013 Knorr Vineyard Semillon