Trends and Winners from Gold Medal Plates 2016
Canadian Wine Report – November 2016
by David Lawrason
This autumn Canadian wine, cider, beer and spirits were served to almost 4,000 Canadians in ten cities from coast to coast during the 11th season of Gold Medal Plates. A total of 97 different producers were involved, many of them supplying more than one product, and some to multiple cities. It was the job of local judging panels to pick a Best of Show wine, cider, beer or spirit in each city.
But before we get to the list of winners and the runners-up, a word of explanation about Gold Medal Plates and how and why Canadian wine is involved.
Gold Medal Plates is a national chef’s competition held in support of Canada’s Olympic athletes, raising $11 million dollars for athlete training and coaching since 2005. The competitions run in ten cities with the winning chef in each city competing in the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna, B.C. on February 3rd and 4th, 2017.
The competitions are staged as public events, with attendance ranging from 400 to almost 800 people, depending on the city and venue size. Money is raised by guest attendance, and by auctioning athletic/culinary trips to destinations around the globe.
Back in 2008 Gold Medal Plates decided that it was only fitting that Canadian wine should be served at the events – that GMP was all about promoting Canadian excellence in cuisine and sport, so why not wine as well? I was hired to help implement a program whereby the competing chefs would seek the support of Canadian wineries, and use a single wine paired with their dish.
We also approach wineries for donations to the other aspects of the event – VIP Receptions, VIP tables and the all-guest Celebration which features athlete presentations, entertainment by top Canadian musicians, and live auction of the trips. This year we were assisted in this solicitation of wines by the Canadian Vintners Association and their partners in three provinces: The B.C. Wine Institute, Wine Marketing Association of Ontario and Wines of Nova Scotia.
To provide some post-event and social media recognition for the donations by the wineries, cideries, brewers and distillers, we created a Best of Show judging that includes all the participating beverages in each city. I travel to each city as the Chief Judge and assemble local judging panels. Often, the panels include fellow judges from the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada: Heather Rankin in Halifax, the whole WineAlign crew in Toronto, Ben McPhee-Sigurdsen in Winnipeg, Brad Royale in Calgary, Gurvinder Bhatia in Edmonton and Treve Ring and Sharon McLean in Victoria (along with special U.K guest and honorary Canuck, Dr. Jamie Goode).
Trends in 2016
The Gold Medal Plates chefs choose their own wine pairing partner, because the success of the pairing is part of the scoring process. With up to 100 chefs participating it was interesting to see what they are thinking in terms of pairings.
The trend that stood out to me was the strong leaning to Canadian pinot noir. There was pinot in every city except Winnipeg, several had two, and Calgary led with five (all from BC). I was not surprised given pinot’s reputation as a wine that reaches across the food spectrum from stronger fish dishes, through poultry and into red meats. And pinots also did well in the wine judges voting with five placing as either Best of Show or Runner-up.
Sparkling wine once again made a strong showing, with three capturing Best of Show honours. Two of those were from Nova Scotia. But the bubblies were not simply poured as reception wines. Chefs in Ottawa and Winnipeg choose to match their dishes with sparkling wine, which is daring in the context of a culinary competition – and both did very well.
There were about the same number of beers and spirits poured this year, all from local brewers and distillers, but there was an increase in the representation of craft ciders, again paired with chef’s dishes, not served at receptions.
It perhaps cannot be called a trend because it is really a rule of thumb, that chefs went largely with local wines – from wineries they knew. But in Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and St. John’s, where there is not really any ‘local’ wine, the selection was nicely pan-Canadian. Winnipeg had almost and equal split of wines from west and east.
So here are the results of the Best of Show competitions in ten cities, plus runners-up. The wines will be assembled in Kelowna in February for another judging to determine Gold Medal Plates Wine of the Year. The runner-up will be invited if for any reason the winner can’t participate. The winning winemaker will earn a week’s stay in a villa at Borgo San Felice in Tuscany.
Complete city-by-city reports, with all beverages listed, can be found at www.goldmedalplates.com. There you can read all about the winning chefs and their dishes in James Chatto’s Culinary Reports. Click on individual city and scroll to Wine Report and Culinary Report.
Tinhorn Creek 2012 Oldfield Cabernet Franc, Okanagan Valley, BC
Sandhill 2012 Small Lots Sangiovese, Okanagan Valley, BC
L’Acadie Vineyards 2010 Brut Prestige Zero Dosage, Nova Scotia
Gaspereau 2015 Riesling, Nova Scotia
Benjamin Bridge 2009 Brut, Nova Scotia
Southbrook 2013 Witness Block Cabernet, Four Mile Creek, ON
Hidden Bench 2014 Nuits Blanche, Beamsville Bench, ON
Tawse 2012 Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc, Lincoln Lakeshore, ON
Tawse 2014 Spark Limestone Ridge Riesling Brut, Twenty Mile Bench, ON
Nichol Vineyard 2014 Pinot Gris, Okanagan Valley, BC
Orofino Scout Vineyard 2014 Riesling, Similkameen Valley, BC
EauVivre 2014 Pinot Noir, Similkameen Valley, BC
Moon Cursor 2013 Syrah, Okanagan Valley, BC
Pearl Morissette 2013 Cuvee Redfoot Riesling, Creek Shores, ON
Culmina 2015 Unicus Gruner Veltliner, Okanagan Valley, BC
50th Parallel 2014 Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, BC
Blue Mountain 2014 Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, BC
Meyer Family 2014 Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, BC
Sea Star Estate 2015 Blanc de Noir, Pender Island, BC
Haywire 2013 Canyonview Vineyard Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, BC
VP of Wine
The Canadian Wine Report brings you News and commentary on Canadian wine from a national perspective. Which means that the subject matter, events and tastings have elements or implications beyond provincial and appellation boundaries.