Last week I asked myself: 'How many times can you write about a wine competition?' The answer is: 'every year' because in the end, Canadian wine is changing quickly and yearly calibrations are necessary.
The 2015 WineAlign National Wine Awards results released late last month were the 15th such edition of "The Nationals," and while the owners of the awards have changed over time, my good friend and Toronto-based wine critic, David Lawrason, and I have been steering the ship since the beginning in 2001.
The main thrust of the awards is to provide consumers with relevant opinion on the latest in Canadian wine, but the underlying theme for participating wineries is all about measuring one's wines against their peers. We like to think the competition is a snapshot in time that reveals the current state of Canadian wine.
Today, I want to share some of the very best value B.C. wines to come out of the competition, which included 20 judges, 205 wineries and 1,411 entries from across the country. For all the results and medals go to www.winealign.com/awards/2015/07/27/2015-nwac-results.
There were some epic battles in the tasting rooms as cool-climate, Canadian-style wines have finally made it to the forefront of the awards. Fruit, freshness, liveliness, sense of place, balance, length and tension are the new hallmark of our best wines as oak, alcohol and gross intervention during the winemaking process fade into our historical background.
One of the most interesting aspects of 2015 is the parity that is coming to Canadian wine production. Faulty wines are now few and far between, and when it comes to the medals the best are spread wide and far.
To give you a sense of how wide the field is, the top three value wines from B.C. spanned six different and diverse grape varieties.
The top-rated wine of the competition was Deep Roots Winery 2014 Gamay, $22. This is an amazing red wine offering up a freshness and juicy minerality that's rare in red wines in B.C. It's as good as most pinot noir in the province.
No. 2 for B.C. is the Road 13 Vineyards 2013 Syrah Malbec, $27, which just blew the judges away with its intensity and structure and rich, black, icy fruit flavours. Winemaker Jean-Martin (J-M) Bouchard is on a roll and this winery remains on my short list as one of the best in B.C.
Finally, joining the top three, is the very consistent Church & State 2014 Trebella, $21.90. This Rhone-style white blend — a mix of marsanne, roussanne and viognier — offers rich fruit flavours flecked with honey and orange, and has shown exceptionally in each year since its release in 2011.
From here the wines flare out in price and varieties. The Tightrope Winery 2014 Riesling, $20 is an amazing value from a young couple, Lyndsay and Graham O'Rourke, following their dream on the Naramata Bench. They schooled themselves, literally and figuratively, in New Zealand, which helps to explain the electric style of their riesling full of citrus peel and green apple notes.
A real bargain in the shiraz theatre is the Jackson-Triggs Okanagan 2012 Reserve Shiraz, $14.79. Quietly spicy and fresh with an attractive black fruit style with a touch of Barossa that's ready to drink.
Over at Arrowleaf, a quiet north Okanagan winery that finished second in the nation, we have the delicious, pure-fruited Arrowleaf 2013 Pinot Noir, $19.95 that makes the statement, less is more.
The Kruger family celebrated 25 years of winemaking this year and the Wild Goose Vineyards 2014 Gewurztraminer, $19 shouts out the family motto: quality and integrity at a very fair price. If you love Indian food this is the label to grab.
Value exists at all levels but it's hard to pass it up when the wine is so good and the price is so low. Case in point: the Peller Estates Okanagan 2014 Family Series Pinot Gris, $12.99 rocked the pinot gris category, grabbing the top spot over 77 other wines, many that sell for $6 to $10 more per bottle.
If you haven't heard by now Mission Hill was awarded the coveted Canadian Winery of the Year based on its performance at The Nationals. One of the wines that helped land it all the accolades is the Mission Hill 2013 Reserve Riesling, $19.08. The "reserve" series is amazing value and for some reason the wines always seemed to express themselves in a friendly, genuine way that is difficult not to like.
A personal favourite of mine this year is the LaStella 2013 Fortissimo, $35. It scored well in the competition, shining a light on a red blend from the south Okanagan with a touch of Italy. The blend is merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon mixed with a touch of sangiovese. Fortissimo is said to be a nod to Tuscany, not so much for the style but the fact that they challenged the traditions of earlier Italian winemaking. It is fragrant on the nose with a beautiful savoury south Okanagan streak that feeds into its silky textures and black cherry fruit. Also getting some love was the Perseus 2013 Syrah, $25.
Winemaker Marcus Ansems hit a homerun with his Daydreamer Wines 2013 Amelia, $25.90 a very Rhone-y syrah from the Naramata Bench with fresh red/black fruit flavours and plenty of pepper. Mid-valley syrah is gaining traction. Nearby winemaker Senka Tennant continues to make consistent quality wines like Terravista Vineyards 2013 Figaro, $23.90, a blend of all three white Rhone grape varieties — roussanne, viognier, and marsanne. Buy it, drink it, and revel in it.
Finally, the latest Tinhorn Creek 2014 Gewurztraminer, $14.99 is just plain fun — plus it sells at a giveaway price. Tasted blind by 11 judges over two rounds, it was a definite favourite. Awash in aromatics from litchi to rosewater and orange blossoms, the palate follows the same themes adding balance and brightness to this off-dry spicy white. I'm thinking of a spicy curry, ribs, or even sweet and sour chicken.
So there you have it — some impressive B.C. wine values. Good luck hunting them down. Our advice is start with winery online sites and VQA wine stores for the best supply. After that, private wine shops, government stores and restaurants are likely to list a few of these selections. Phone ahead to avoid disappointment.
Anthony Gismondi is a globetrotting wine writer who makes his home in West Vancouver, British Columbia. For more of his thoughts on wine log onto www.gismondionwine.com.