Lieutenant Governor Awards for Excellence in BC Wines

I was fortunate to be back judging the Lieutenant Governor Awards for Excellence in British Columbia Wines again last month, one of BC’s most coveted wine awards. Unlike many competitions that reward wines by category, the BC LG’s select only the top 12 wines from the hundreds entered, tasted and retasted blind by a small panel of BC wine professionals. The results, always a surprise at reveal, could show a dozen rieslings, or a dozen reds, or 6 sparkling rosés, or…. Whatever is showing best from the wines entered. Our judging panel isn’t tied to categories like region (BC has 5 designated viticultural areas) or grapes (over 80 are commercially grown in the province) or price (winning wines ranged from $18-$42).

In 2002, BC’s then-Lieutenant Governor Iona Campagnolo wanted to begin an awards program to recognize our province’s budding wine industry. To be eligible for the competition, wines must be made from 100% grapes and grown and processed within British Columbia. 12 years ago there were 87 grape wineries in operation in BC, and the panel of wine judges travelled to the Okanagan to taste the wines. The inaugural panel (most are still judges today) decided on a dozen or so wines that were worthy of the honour of the newly titled Lieutenant Governor Awards for Excellence in British Columbia Wines.

Now the judges meet annually at Victoria’s historic Government House to taste and blindly evaluate submissions. Today, however, we’re hovering around 250 licensed grape wineries in BC. Though entries continue to rise over the years (this year was a record-breaking 436 wines submitted from 119 wineries), the awards have been capped at the top 12 wines, making it ever challenging to crack the final dozen.

“The outstanding quality of wines in British Columbia impresses our wine judges each year and makes the selection increasingly difficult,” said the Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. “This year’s winners represent the best of the exceptional wines from our province.”

Later this month, Guichon will visit each of the wineries in person to present their award, along with a full Consular Corps busload. Ceremonies and festivities are repeated a dozen times, and for the first time ever, a winner from Lillooet – Fort Berens Estate Winery – will be recognized. That’s what I love about this competition – wineries that have recently opened (like the virtual Bonamici Cellars) stand shoulder to shoulder with industry veterans (Quails’ Gate Winery celebrates their 25th anniversary this fall), and all are equal under the blind tasting format.

Judging is democratic, and each judge tastes and votes singularly, before we tally results. In the final flight (of 55 wines!), we taste and score and taste and debate and taste for 4 hours to arrive at the end result. Of course, we’re 7 separate palates and some of my favourite wines didn’t make it into the top 12, but in the end, the highest scoring wines are the awarded wines.

All BC wineries are invited to submit their wines for judging, without an entry fee, in the aim of making the awards accessible to all – an admirable (and pricey) endeavour for Government House to embark on each year.  I look forward to seeing what surprising results next year’s BC LG’s will bring.

Following are the winners of the 2014 Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in British Columbia Wines, along with my brief shorthand judging notes from the final flights.


8th Generation Vineyard Riesling 2012, Okanagan Valley
Juicy and ripe pear, eraser, bright acid, lime blossom, great length, mid-sweet.

Bonamici Cellars Merlot Cabernet Franc 2012
Smoked, cured meats, salt. *Savoury. Intense, fresh acid to carry.

Fort Berens Estate Winery Riesling 2012
Big eraser, light petrol and stony spice nose. Lean and bracing palate, with great herbal spice, *anise & great length.

Hester Creek Estate Winery Block 2 Reserve Merlot 2011
Huge smoke, oak, big roasted black fruit.

Howling Bluff Estate Winery Summa Quies Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Sémillon 2013
Predict SB/Sem blend. Stone, flint, lees, cream, butter. Assertive and confident flint, minerality, meadow flowers on the finish.

Kraze Legz Vineyard & Winery Skaha Vineyard Unoaked Chardonnay 2013
Unoaked. Lemon, citrus, green apple and herbs. Fresh and spicy. Bright, crisp fruit and a lovely pear, pure finish.

Laughing Stock Vineyards Portfolio 2011
Cassis, dusty black cherry, red fruit and fresh palate – bright & juicy and well balanced. Fresh finish.

Okanagan Crush Pad Winery Haywire Canyonview Pinot Noir 2011
Branch, olive, earthy, high toned & lifted cherry fruit. *Savoury.

Pentâge Winery Syrah Reserve 2010
Earth, bramble. *Fresh, spiced black cherry, lovely balance, subtler style. Juicy finish.

Quails’ Gate Winery Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay 2012
Huge wood, toast. Powerful style. Big fruit.

Ruby Blues Winery Viognier 2013
Pear, honey, spice, beeswax, ripe lime & lime pulp. Vibrance.

Wayne Gretzky Okanagan The Great Red 2011
Black cherry, cassis, dark flower petals. Polished and softer.


Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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