Calona Vineyards winemaker Sandy Leier dressed up a little more than usual for her time in the barrel room Wednesday at the 81-year-old downtown Kelowna winery.
Instead of taste-testing aging wines or discussing their progress with barrel room staff, she had to stand in front of thousands of gallons of wine and face consular staff in B.C. from 18 countries to accept an Award for Excellence from Governor General Judith Guichon.
It was a task she was delighted and proud to take on and she made sure, in her acceptance speech, that she included everyone on the winemaking team, from grape growers to cellar hands, in her thanks.
That pride was shared by her mentor and head winemaker Howard Soon, who said it was a great day for them all.
He noted this is the 15th such award the winery has received since the awards were first presented in 2003, out of the total 114 that have been awarded in that time.
This year 402 wines from 109 of the province’s 214 wineries were submitted to the panel of wine industry professional who conducted the judging for the annual awards.
All has to be made from 100 per cent B.C.-grown grapes and be produced within the province.
Leier is a UBC grad with a background in chemistry, who started at the winery in 2008, and she said she feels confident, with this award under her belt, that she made the right career choice.
The winning Calona Vineyards Artist Series 2011 Pinot Noir was made from grapes grown by John Bullock at the Harvest vineyard in Kelowna and those grown at the Oliver vineyard of Jarnail Brar.
Pinot Noir is called the heartbreak grape because it’s so difficult to grow, she noted. It’s more susceptible to disease and weather and climate change than other grapes.
Guichon, who is a rancher, congratulated the wine industry on its successes at adding value to grapes, and noted the cattle industry has yet to learn how to add value in such a way.
The Lieutenant-Governor said she isn’t much of a wine drinker, but she will be more educated after this week, when she visits 10 other wineries throughout the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys to present the remainder of this year’s awards.
Just hours after the Calona Vineyards presentation, she and her entourage of 40 consular officials from around the world, plus staff from the Government House Foundation, made a similar presentation at Red Rooster Winery in Naramata, for the 2012 Reserve Viognier and the 2010 Reserve Syrah.
Red Rooster is also owned by Peller Estates Ltd.