B.C. Syrah wines take on the world

Jay Drysdale consults with Michelle Bouffard and David Walker, two of the celebrity wine taster at Judgment in Osoyoos, pitting B.C. wines against international favourites.  - Steve Kidd/Western News
Jay Drysdale consults with Michelle Bouffard and David Walker, two of the celebrity wine taster at Judgment in Osoyoos, pitting B.C. wines against international favourites.
— image credit: Steve Kidd/Western News

The third annual Osoyoos Celebrity Wine Festival wrapped up this weekend, raising $70,000 for the United Way and spreading the word about B.C. wines to 1,200 vinophiles who converged on the Osoyoos for the four-day event.

“Every year this festival manages to produce magical memorable moments that just can't be found anywhere else,” says festival founder and president of Black Hills Estate Winery Glenn Fawcett, “Tasting fantastic B.C. wine in Canada's only desert with the beautiful Osoyoos backdrop produces a world class experience not easily forgotten.”

On hand for the event were 17 wineries, 15 celebrities and 43 media to partake in the events, which ranged from wine tastings and a beach party to a concert by country music star George Canyon. The festival is also the only wine festival to include a wine film festival, the Vinos, which was won this year by Thomas Pound and Simon Taylor, who took home three cases of B.C. wine and $1,500 for their short film, The Grape Down.

One of the featured events was Judgement in Osoyoos, where local wine aficionado, Jay  Drysdale, put four B.C. Syrahs up against four internationally recognized peers: two from Australia and one each from California and France.

“The whole goal of this event was to put B.C. in a different perspective. We always applaud and appreciate the increase in quality of B.C. wine, but at the same time, where does it sit on the global market?” asked Drysdale. This is the second year he has held the competition, which last year pitted B.C. Cabernets against some of the best in the world.

“I have chosen four B.C. wines that, in a way, are singular to their terroir and vineyard. So all the B.C. wines chosen are all single vineyard expressions. Three out of the four internationals are single vineyard as well and one is a blend of a few regions,” he continued. “But all of these names are quite well-known and quite well scored internationally.”

Tasting the wines were a panel of four well-known wine writers, comparing their professional evaluations with those of the audience, who were asked to rate the wines in order of preference.

Drysdale wanted the tasters to look at B.C. wines in a different context, taking them out of the local scene and seeing how they fit in on the world stage.

“My goal is that if you have a tough time telling them apart, then, in a way, you are able to recognize where B.C. wine quality is beginning to go,” he said. “As an emerging region, for B.C. to be able to gain that blip on the radar, we’ve got to go after the big boys.”

First place was taken by one of the Australian Syrahs, then California, and the other Aussie entry in third. Fourth place, however, was a tie between two of the B.C. entries, a 2008 vintage from Dead Man Winery and a 2006 from Jackson-Triggs.

“This isn’t a fair fight because some of the wines we will taste today have been planted for a hundred years and our history started in the 70s, said panelist David Walker, author of 100 Wines, adding that the competition was still  a great experiment and a great exercise to take part in.


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