National Wine Awards, Locavores…and More

Earlier this summer I judged the National Wine Awards of Canada (NWAC or The Nationals), an annual wine competition ran by WineAlign that welcomes all wines produced across Canada and made from Canadian grapes. 2014 was the 14th annual Nationals, first launched by co-founders Anthony Gismondi and David Lawrason, who both remain as head judges today.

This year, my colleagues and I judged 1335 wines under 209 separate brands, the largest number of entries in the competition to date (see what that looks like). Of course, we can only judge what is entered into the competition by the wineries or agents. As expected, the majority of wine submitted was from British Columbia and Ontario wineries, but there are ever-rising numbers from Quebec and Nova Scotia. For the first time, we also welcomed an international judge to take part, one of the most travelled and knowledgeable (plus likeable!) in the wine writing world. Dr. Jamie Goode joined us for 5 nights in Penticton, his first visit to the Okanagan Valley and initial exposure to the wines and terroir of BC. On the competition, the experienced Dr. Goode had this to say: “Judging The Nationals was a really good experience. Any competition is only as good as its judges, and all those I tasted with had consistent palates and showed excellent judgment. The organization was also first rate, allowing judges to concentrate on doing their job. And the wines? I found plenty to love, and this confirms the impression that I’d gained from previous travels in wine country that Canadian wines are going places.”

Personally, I love to see the wineries, and our wine industry gain confidence year after year. Each year at The Nationals the wines become more dialed in, more precise and site-driven rather than sloppy and market-dictated. Yes, there will always be a customer for merlot, but it doesn’t mean you need to plant it in your – often entirely unsuitable – site. Every year I see more experimentation, to great results. Viognier, marsanne, roussanne, albarino, semillon, chenin blanc, melon de bourgogne, lemberger, touriga nacional, nebbiolo, sangiovese and many more. #GoGamayGo! Our country and terroir are wide and diverse, and winemakers are becoming keyed into the opportunity and possibilities.

There are a lot of different awards out there, all with differing goals, focus, judges and levels of credibility. Having judged at various awards across North America, I can say with certainty that the professionalism, procedure and protocols of the NWAC (as well as its international counterpart, the World Wine Awards of Canada) are top tier. The winners were released in early August, though due to our country’s stunted interprovincial wine shipping laws, not all are available for purchase in BC. The wines selected below are some of my picks, judged blind during the competition, that are available for British Columbians to purchase. DRINK This – some of the best in the nation.



Gamay 2012
Okanagan Valley, BC
*$24  +675900

This gamay gains my appreciation with air in the glass, allowing all the pure cherry fruit and dusty raspberries to really shine. Good structure props up the orchard fruit without distracting from it – lovely summer strawberries, cherries and fine grained tannins finish with a silky raspberry note. Pass the albacore tuna. #GoGamayGo. 89 points


Cellar Dweller

Nk’Mip Cellars
Qwam Qwmt Syrah 2010
Okanagan Valley, BC
*$35  +561415

Oliver’s NK’Mip {In-ka-meep} Cellars is North America’s first aboriginal owned and operated winery, and has set the precedent world wide for successful, Native run businesses. In their premium Syrah, toasted red cedar, cherry and twine aromas lead off before a juicy and generous palate, dense with medicinal cherry fruit, structured, finely rasped tannins and fresh, ripe cassis and blackberry seed. Great spiciness and freshness throughout. 91 points



St Hubertus Estate Winery
Riesling 2012
Okanagan Valley, BC
$16  +345009

The little riesling that could! While a little over the $15 limit for the Budgeteer category, I think I can be forgiven since this little Riesling took a Platinum medal at The Nationals, ranking in the top 1% of wines entered into competition. The Gebert families have tended East Kelowna’s original Hughes Vineyard for more than 25 years, serving as the most recent caretakers of the land which saw some of the first Okanagan grape plantings in 1928. The Geberts farm sustainably, and produce only wines from estate fruit under their St. Hubertus and Oak Bay labels. The grapes for this riesling were planted from 1978 to 2000. Buoyant lime, stone and juicy pear, with tight green apple, racy lemon acidity and a skiff of lees. A bit of residual sugar is the perfect foil to that lovely acidity. 90 points.



Blue Grouse Estate Winery
Estate Ortega 2012
Vancouver Island, BC

Not familiar with ortega? This cross between müller-thurgau and siegerrebe has become the premier white grape for the Islands. Ortega ripens early and easily, is not overly frost-sensitive and achieves high must weights, which is why it is typically used for sweeter wines and blending in its native Germany. Our Island ortegas are peach perfumed, light, crisp, limey whites – making them a terrific match for our local shellfish. Blue Grouse’s, with its fresh, striking label, is lean and steely, with crisp, citrus herbed fruit, bitter-kissed wildflowers anise and stone. Nice orange pith on the finish. Lower alcohol and subtle. 88 points.


No Wineos

Forbidden Fruit Winery
Caught Apricot Mistelle Ven’amour 2013
Similkameen Valley, BC
$27 for 375ml

I’m stretching to fit this into the No Wineos category for this week’s DRINK This, since – of course – we only judge WINE at the National Wine Awards of Canada. However, this is not made from my most revered of fruits, grapes, but rather, 100% apricots. And not just any apricots, but 3 different types of organic apricots. The result is a fluid, fortified nectar of pure apricot fruit, spiced with orange and baking scents. Would be lovely chilled with a fruit tart or cheeses. 89 points.


Each week Treve highlights 5 timely and tasty picks. Her weekly choices include Locavore (BC wines), Cellar Dweller (wines to lay down for a while for maximum enjoyment), Budgeteer (wallet-friendly bottles under $15), Adventurer (wines for geeks, enlightening or pushing the envelope) and No Wineos (a non-wine pro-alcoholic beverage). So what are you waiting for? DRINK This!


DRINKing Guide: How to use our purchasing information.
*Asterisks denote wines that are only available at the winery or select private liquor stores. All other wines are available through BC Liquor Stores. The price is suggested retail price, and may fluctuate depending on source. Wines are scored out of 100 points.


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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