International sommeliers have high-praise for Okanagan wine

The fourth-annual Judgment of BC brought 40 top wine professionals to the Okanagan from around the world.

DJ Kearney holds up the the top sparkling wine overall, the Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut NV from California, and the top B.C. sparkling wine, the Blue Mountain Vineyard Blanc de Blancs 2010 R.D., chosen by the judges. Image: Carmen Weld

The takeaway at the annual Judgment of BC event Wednesday evening was that wine professionals around the world are celebrating B.C. wine.

The fourth-annual event brought 40 top wine professionals from around the world and across the country to Kelowna, including international Master Sommeliers James Tidwell and Isa Bal, and Master of Wine Rhys Pender (regarded as the highest professional qualifications in the wine industry).

Those wine experts took part in a blind tasting of B.C.’s celebrated wine categories, traditional method sparkling wine and Bordeaux-style red blends. Some of B.C.’s best was tasted alongside global benchmarks in their categories.

“B.C. did very, very well,” said DJ Kearney, judge, wine educator and global wine expert.

“This is not about win or lose, good or bad. The fact B.C. wines were chosen were exemplars, superbly made wines that are really representative of what we do here in B.C. There was a lot of identity in these wines, in addition to tremendous skill in both farming and winemaking.”

The Poplar Grove Winery 2014 The Legacy from the Okanagan Valley took top spot overall in the red-blend category.

“It had that wonderful crossover character with old-world structure and quality and new-world fruit generosity and weight, and our signature acidity. It is so well made and so well balanced, a worthy winner,” said Kearney.

In the sparkling wine category, the Blue Mountain Vineyard Blanc de Blancs 2010 R.D. from the Okanagan came in fourth overall behind two champagnes and a California sparkling made by a champagne house.

“In my mind they lead the way in high-quality sparkling wines. It is very champagne-like. While we are not trying to emulate champagne, it has fabulous concentration and complexity and length and a beautiful terroir quality. It has a chalkiness to it that I am sure made a lot of people think it was champagne,” she said.

Related: B.C. takes the throne during 2018 All Canadian Wine Championships

Related: Okanagan wineries impress on Expedia.ca list

On top of the wines being rated overall against each other, the panel of judges were also challenged to see if they could pick out which wines were B.C. Wines. Kearney said 60-70 per cent of the judges were able to pick out the B.C. wine.

“We had a discussion at the end about how you identify B.C. wines and it is this very special thing that we do that is so unique and so specific to our wines. As soon as you lock into it, it is memorable,” said Kearney.

“That is the conjunction of high natural acidity and tremendous fruit ripeness. Impeccable phenolic development. It takes a very specific climate to do that. We have a signature savoury, herbal component.”

Inspired by the legendary Judgment of Paris in 1976, as famously depicted in the Hollywood blockbuster “Bottle Shock,” the inaugural Judgment of BC hosted in 2015 by the BC Wine Institute in honour of Steven Spurrier’s visit to British Columbia, has become a pivotal event for the BC Wine Industry.

“The purpose of the Judgment is to benchmark ourself. We are a young, emerging, fast-growing wine region, but we are on the edge of nowhere. We are so marginal,” explained Kearney. “The world is hearing about us bit by bit, but we are quite isolated. We are young, our vines are young so it is important for us to see, at least annually, how we fair against industry archetypes.”

Prior to the Judgment of BC event these wine professionals spent four days in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys attending educational masterclasses, regional tastings, panel discussions and interactive wine and food pairing experiences where they had the opportunity to learn, taste and celebrate the wines of British Columbia.

The top five red blend wines were;

  1. Poplar Grove Winery The Legacy 2014 from Penticton, B.C.
  2. Laughing Stock Vineyards Portfolio 2015 from Penticton, B.C.
  3. Blackbird Arise 2015 from the Napa Valley
  4. Dominus Estate Napanook 2014 from the Napa Valley
  5. Intersection Estate Winery Axiom 2014 from Oliver, B.C.

The top rate sparkling wines were;

  1. Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut NV from California
  2. Champagne Veuve Clicquot Brut NV from France
  3. Champagne Pierre Paillard Les Parcelles Bouzy Grand Cru Extra Brut XIII from France
  4. Blue Mountain Vineyards & Cellars Blanc de Blancs 2010 from Okanagan Falls, B.C.
  5. Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery The One 2012 from Okanagan Falls, B.C.

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The Poplar Grove Winery The Legacy 2014 from the Okanagan Valley won top spot in the red-blend category beating out wines from around the world. Image: Carmen Weld

DJ Kearney shows off the second place winner in the sparkling wine category, the Champagne Veuve Clicquot Brut NV from France. Image: Carmen Weld

The fourth annual Judgment of BC was held at Hotel Eldorado on Oct. 24, 2018. Image: Carmen Weld

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