Announcing the Best Performing Small Winery of the Year

La Frenz Reclaims Canada’s Best Performing Small Winery of the Year 

by Co-Head Judge Anthony Gismondi

Consistency is the hallmark of any successful wine producer, which explains how Jeff and Niva Martin and the team at La Frenz Winery have found themselves back at the top of the chain again as The Best Performing Small Winery of the Year at the 2021 National Wine Awards of Canada. The winery previously took home the title in 2017 and is thrilled to have won such an important accolade again.

La Frenz with BSWOTY logo copy

La Frenz Tasting Room

This time the win comes as Jeff and Niva are stepping back, just a bit, to let the next generation Elise Martin and winemaker Dominic McCosker and team lead the way into the future. It’s been a fun ride for the family that began in 1994 when Jeff arrived in West Kelowna to take over the winemaking at Quails’ Gate.

Before all that, Jeff worked at the age of eighteen for the renowned Australian producer McWilliams as a trainee winemaker. He was given a lifetime of experience in short order before earning one of the first degrees in enology from Charles Sturt University. After fourteen years of working with many vineyards at McWilliams, he was named chief red winemaker for the McWilliams. Then, a short sabbatical in California got him to Napa Valley, where a chance stop in the Okanagan “opened a door” that couldn’t be closed.

Niva and Jeff Martin

Niva and Jeff Martin

Jeff and Niva returned to B.C. in 1994 with their two young daughters for what was termed “a working holiday” and never left. In 1999, the Martins pursued a lifelong dream and opened La Frenz Winery on a very quiet Naramata Bench alongside six other wineries. Australian winemaker Dominic McCosker arrived in 2014, allowing Jeff to spend more time in the vineyards. Today, that job is in the capable hands of Elise Martin, the next generation of the Martin family.

Elise and Dominic

Elise Martin and Dominic McCosker

The winery has become a tight team of late, and its performance at The Nationals is proof it is all in good hands. The winery, named after Jeff’s German grandfather, remains small at less than 10,000 cases, but the results in 2021 are big. La Frenz grabbed two platinum medals, six gold and five silver medals along with the Best Performing Small Winery mantle again.

La Frenz Winery Tasting Room

La Frenz Tasting Room

That’s the good news. The bad news is the word has been out for years about La Frenz, so if you want to get any wines, you will have to join the club and get in line to get your allotment of La Frenz wines. For the record, the Best Performing Small Winery of the Year is awarded to the top scoring winery that produces 10,000 cases of wine a year or less. The top 5 wines from each winery are used to calculate the winner. Congratulations to everyone at La Frenz.

Anthony Gismondi interviews Jeff Martin about winning the award.

And, congratulations to all who made it to the Top 10 Small Wineries in Canada list.

La Frenz’s Winning Wines:


La Frenz Liqueur Muscat

La Frenz Liqueur Muscat

La Frenz Reserve Ensemble 2019
La Frenz Reserve Chardonnay 2019
La Frenz Cabernets Rockyfeller Vineyard 2018
La Frenz Freedom 75 Vineyard Riesling 21b 2020
La Frenz Tawny Port
La Frenz Sauvignon Blanc Wits End Vineyard 2020
La Frenz Semillon Knorr Vineyard 2020
La Frenz Vivant Reserve 2019
La Frenz Syrah Rockyfeller Vineyard 2018
La Frenz Vintage Port Style 2019
La Frenz Pinot Noir Desperation Hill Vineyard 2019
La Frenz Reserve Pinot Noir 2019

A note from the National Wine Awards of Canada organizers: We continue to wrestle with the name of this singular award: Best Performing Small Winery. The word ‘small’ makes it sound diminutive and somehow lacklustre but that is not our intention. It would be tidy if the concept was to award Estate wineries, but that implies 100% ownership of the process which is far too difficult for us to enforce and ‘boutique’ seems so last century. The goal is to honour smaller wineries, those producing 10,000 cases or fewer, and within Canada there are hundreds. If you have a better descriptor please send it along and we will consider a change next year. 


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