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A year for British Columbia wines

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For the past decade I have been charged with the task of running the Wine Access Canadian Wine Awards. The late summer competition sees 16 of the country's most experienced wine tasters work their way through some 1,100 wines grown and produced in Canada as they seek to ascertain who made the best wines of the year.

In many ways it's the ultimate Canadian wine snapshot, and judging by the results in 2010 many British Columbia wineries remain among the best in the country. After five days of intense tastings it is safe to say the best wine in the country is estate-made and, in the case of modern-day Canadian vineyards, they are tended with a new respect for the land.

Many wineries are making a substantial commitment to the environment, reducing bottle weights, conserving and reusing water, growing organic fruit or just generally reducing their carbon footprint. Add to that more and more extensive international experience by our winemakers and viticulturalists and, as Martha Stewart would say, it is all good.

Something else I've noticed is the flood of screwcap-finished wines. Over 50 per cent of the entries in the competition were sporting twisted metal caps. In such a cool-climate region, there is no underestimating how much the screwcap closure, which helps to present the wine exactly as it was intended to be shown, has advanced the pristine nature of B.C.'s white wines.

As we head into the heart of winter and visitors flood into Whistler, I thought it might be useful to look at some of best B.C. wines you can buy. Of course, the wine world never stands still, so some of my picks reflect the best wines tasted since the late August showdown in Penticton.

The best labels are never easy to find so expect to see some in private stores, in B.C. VQA wine stores, government B.C. Liquor Stores and, of course, on many Whistler restaurant wine lists. We suggest you clip this list and keep it with you. You never know when it will come in handy.

Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc 2007, Oliver, Okanagan Valley $35

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 handily keep a decade. Impressive as always, especially with roast beef.

Jackson-Triggs Okanagan 2007 SunRock Vineyard Shiraz, Oliver, Okanagan Valley $35
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's syrah that will appeal to those who love the New World with a twist of France.

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