Favourites from the National Wine Awards of Canada
Judge’s Pick Favourites
Each week between now and the announcement of the results of the NWACs after Labour Day, WineAlign will feature each of the 18 judges, their thoughts on Canadian wine, and their personal favourite wine of the competition. Selection of a wine does not necessarily mean it was a top medal winner, and the scores (if given) reflect the opinion of the judge, not its final mark in the competition.
Janet Dorozynski, Ottawa
Janet Dorozynski is a principal critic and partner in WineAlign.com. By day, Janet is the Government of Canada’s chief wine guru, where she is responsible for managing the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada cellar and overseeing a program to assist Canadian Embassies to serve and promote Canadian wine, beer and spirits. She also works with the industry on trade issues and international business development, and prior to this, worked for many years in numerous capacities in the international and Canadian wine industry.
Janet has taught about wine and the business of wine and for many years and is an accredited educator with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET). She holds the WSET Diploma, is a Professional Affiliate of Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) and has been tasting and reviewing wine, as well as judging at wine competitions across Canada, the US, Europe and South America since the late 1990s. Follow her on Twitter @WineTrackMind
Janet’s thoughts on wine in Canada appeared in her Canada Day blog on WineAlign.
Laughing Stock Vineyards Syrah 2011, Okanagan Valley: I’ve been a fan of this wine and have watched, with delight, the evolution of BC syrah over the past several years. Although initially sceptical, we are seeing that that Syrah is well suited to several growing areas in British Columbia, in particular the warm and dry South Okanagan, and that it tends to ripen and perform well in comparison to other red varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon.
Although 2011 was a cooler vintage in the Okanagan, fans of Northern Rhone reds will find this wine hits a high note and I would say that I even prefer Syrah from the cooler vintages. Made from fruit from the Perfect Hedge Vineyard in the deep south of the Okanagan Valley, the blend of 94% Syrah and 6% Viognier was co-fermented before spending 16 months in French oak (40% new). Certainly lighter in body and texture than some of the blockbuster reds that BC is known for, this wine is nonetheless very complex and pretty, with ripe tannins and black fruit and floral notes and a pleasing long finish. Great to have a glass on its own or to enjoy with grilled lamb.
Gurvinder Bhatia, Edmonton
Gurvinder Bhatia of Edmonton left a career practicing law to pursue his passion for wine and food. He is the wine columnist for the Edmonton Journal and Global TV Edmonton, contributing editor for Tidings magazine, wine consultant to numerous restaurants, an international wine judge and the owner of Vinomania, recently named one of Canada’s 20 best wine stores. Gurvinder was also the wine columnist for CBC Radio Edmonton for 11 years. He travels the world in pursuit of great quality wines with a sense of place from producers who are passionate about their craft.
On Canadian Wine
The Canadian wine industry has come a long way in the past two decades. In the 90s and early 2000s, in too many instances, there seemed to be a disconnect between the grape, the vineyard site and the resulting wine in the bottle.
At this year’s National Wine Awards of Canada, there was a great sense that we’ve arrived as a wine producing nation as collectively, the wines are showing more than ever before a sense of place and a clear connection to the land. The improvement is due in large part to a better job of identifying and matching grape varietals with particular vineyard sites and improved viticulture.
I was also impressed with the diversity of grape varietals and styles presented, clearly representing the diversity in the soil conditions and microclimates that exist throughout our country’s many wine growing regions. The focus of Canada’s wine producers will and should remain on varietals such as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet Franc, but we are also seeing great examples of Gamay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and other wines when they are grown in the right conditions.
Diversity existed before, but it was often based on growing what wineries thought consumers wanted to drink, regardless of whether the vineyard sites were appropriate for those grapes. But now, diversity is largely based on an actual understanding of what grows best where, resulting in much better quality wines.
One of the benefits of being a cool climate wine producing country is the potential for growing quality sparkling wines. From BC to Nova Scotia, producers have gained a better understanding of the connection between grape varietal and vineyard site and both producers and consumers have learned to embrace the natural acidity in the wines resulting in bubbles comparable to the best in the world.
Two very different wines stood out to me in the sparkling category for their elegance, complexity, vibrancy and depth:
Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Rosé Brut NV, Niagara ON: A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay showing wonderful complexity on the nose with aromas and flavours of baked bread, apple pie, raspberry, strawberry, and rhubarb with a pleasant edginess, lively full bubbles, and a long length.
Road 13 Sparkling Chenin Blanc ‘Home Vineyard’ 2009, Okanagan BC: Fresh, vibrant and seamless showing apple, pear, citrus and fresh brioche, very focused with racy acidity, amazing depth and complexity, a touch of nuttiness and a long, uplifted finish.
Any special occasion would be fortunate to be celebrated using either of these wines. But don’t wait for a special occasion. Pop the cork, celebrate life and make a toast to the Canadian wine industry. We’ve arrived.
Photo credits from NWAC: Jason Dziver Photography