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Local wines win on world stage

Winter work in a winery involves barrel tasting wines, so the jubilant Calona Wines winemaking team toasted their recent chardonnay win with an aging merlot from the barrel: left to right: winemakers Stephanie Leinemann and Sydney Simpson, technician Chantal Koutsantonis, and winemaker Howard Soon.  - Judie Steeves/Capital News
Winter work in a winery involves barrel tasting wines, so the jubilant Calona Wines winemaking team toasted their recent chardonnay win with an aging merlot from the barrel: left to right: winemakers Stephanie Leinemann and Sydney Simpson, technician Chantal Koutsantonis, and winemaker Howard Soon.
— image credit: Judie Steeves/Capital News

The Okanagan Valley produces some of the world’s best chardonnay wines.

That was proven this week as again, local wineries brought home some of the top medals from the prestigious Chardonnay-du-Monde international wine competition in France.

Both Sandhill Wines of Kelowna and Quails’ Gate Estate Winery of West Kelowna won gold medals in competition with wines from 42 countries who submitted a total of 872 wine samples that were judged by 300 international expert judges.

In all, 58 gold medals were awarded this year and 183 silver medals, with most of the top medals going to French wines.

About a dozen medals came to Canada, three of those to Kelowna’s Sandhill and Calona Vineyards for the 2011 Sandhill Small Lots Single Lot Chardonnay, which won gold, the 2011 Sandhill  White Label Chardonnay which won silver along with the 2011 Calona Vineyards Artist Series Unoaked Chardonnay.

Two more went to Quails’ Gate, with a gold medal for its 2010 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay and a silver for its 2011 Quails’ Gate Chardonnay.

It’s not the first time either winery has won a medal at this particular competition, but Sandhill winemaker Howard Soon points out that 2011 was the second coolest grape-growing season in 16 years, which meant it was generally a difficult year in the vineyard.

However, he says this proves that the best vineyards can still ripen grapes, even in difficult years.

Sandhill brought home a gold medal last year for its 2010 Sandhill Chardonnay.

However, there’s very little of the Small Lots produced this year with only 630 cases bottled and available at the winery. There were 4,000 cases of the Sandhill White Label, but it’s just being released, so may not be generally available yet, and only 2,000 cases of the Artist Series.

The latter chardonnay was produced from grapes grown in four different vineyards, while the Sandhill wines were from a single vineyard.

Soon notes the winery brought the first gold medal from this competition to Canada in 1997, and he says they’re still making chardonnay the same way.

Both he and Quails’ Gate operations officer Tyler Galts agree such wins are good for Canada and for the Okanagan wine industry.

“Winning such an award against the top wines of the world puts us on the world map,” he commented.

“It shows we may be small, but we’re very good,” he commented.

Such recognition brings visitors from further afield to visit the Okanagan, he noted. Because the B.C. wine industry is so small compared to world production, the industry concentrates on bringing people here to visit and taste the wines, rather than concentrating on exporting wine, he explained.

Galts said the winery won a silver medal in this competition in 2008 and a bronze in 2009 as well, and added, “Both pinot noir and chardonnay ripen well on our site.”

 

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com

 

 

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