In a record number of wines entered for this year’s Best of Varietal Wine Awards kicking off the 19th annual Spring Okanagan Winefest last night, it was some of the pioneer wineries from the Central Okanagan who came out on top.
Of Central Okanagan wineries that took top prize in each of the 24 categories, Gray Monk Estate Winery of Lake Country picked up two, for its 2012 Pinot Gris and its 2012 Ehrenfelser.
It was one of the first estate wineries in the province and is still run by the same family, headed up by George and Trudy Heiss, who started the winery in 1972, and now own and maintain more than 100 acres of vineyard.
Another pioneer, CedarCreek Estate Winery, located in the Mission area of Kelowna, won for the best meritage blend for its 2010 Cabernet Merlot.
It was purchased in 1986 by Ross Fitzpatrick as Uniacke Wines and renamed, and it’s still run by the family today, with son Gordon now at the helm.
Mission Hill Family Estate, located in West Kelowna, took top prize for its 2011 Reserve Riesling.
It was a winery that had a chequered past when it was purchased by the Anthony Von Mandl family in 1981, but he proceeded to re-model it into an internationally-recognized winery that has now been completely rebuilt.
Although those wineries were selected as the best in their categories, the judges mentioned other wines in each category that achieved a certain score, and reached consensus amongst judges as being runners-up.
That included Mission Hill Family Estate’s 2011 Reserve Chardonnay and Sandhill Vineyards’ 2011 Chardonnay in that category; as well as Calona Vineyards’ 2011 Artist Series Unoaked Chardonnay.
Mission Hill was also mentioned for its 2011 Reserve Riesling Icewine in that category, for its Quatrain in the Red Blend category, its 2012 Five Vineyards Rose and its 2011 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.
Sandhill and CedarCreek were also mentioned in the Merlot category for their 2010 Merlot wines and CedarCreek for its 2012 Pinot Gris, 2010 Shiraz Cabernet in Red Blend and its 2012 Platinum Block 3 Riesling.
Sandhill was also noted for its 2010 Small Lots Barbera in the Other Single Red Varieties.
Arrowleaf Cellars of Lake Country received mentions for its 2011 Solstice Pinot Gris, 2009 Solstice Pinot Noir, and 2012 Bacchus in the Other Single White Varieties category.
In the Riesling category, The View Winery in East Kelowna was listed as a runner-up, while in the rose category, Spierhead Winery in East Kelowna was mentioned for its 2012 Pinot Noir Rose and Volcanic Hills Estate Winery from West Kelowna for its 2012 Rose.
The wine festival continues until May 12 with hundreds of events up and down the valley, as well as special tours and tastings at many of the wineries in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys.