Wine awards kick off Spring Winefest

The 18th annual Spring Okanagan Wine Festival kicks off with the awarding of top wines as judged by their peers.

The Okanagan’s top Pinot Gris—the second most-planted wine grape varietal in the valley—is made by winemaker Manuel Zuppiger

Only three local wines took top medals in the Best of Varietal awards this year.

The winners were announced Thursday afternoon at an event kicking off the 18th annual Spring Okanagan Wine Festival, which continues to May 13 with more than 85 events throughout the Okanagan.

Judges for these awards are the winemakers from among the 112 member wineries of the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society, who judged more than 360 wines last week for this year’s competition. In the fall festival, professional judges are brought in.

Judging Chair for the society Rhys Pender said the awards help showcase the depth in grape varietals now available in the valley and help consumers choose a favourite wine with confidence.

In all, 23 winners were announced in 22 categories, including CedarCreek Estate Winery, which took the top award for its 2011 Rose.

Arrowleaf Cellars was tops with its 2011 Pinot Gris and Sandhill took the Red Single Varieties category with its Small Lot Sangiovese Sandhill Estate Vineyard 2009.

Central Okanagan finalists included Ancient Hill Vineyards of Kelowna with its 2009 Pinot Noir; and Gray Monk Estate Winery with its 2011 Odyssey White Meritage.

Mission Hill Family Estate had two finalists in the Red Meritage Blends category, its 2009 Five Vineyards Cabernet Merlot and 2008 Compendium, while, in the same category, Sandhill’s 2009 Small Lots Two Sandhill Estate Vineyard.

The View’s 2011 Riesling and Mission Hill’s 2010 Reserve Riesling both were finalists and Mission Hill’s 2009 SLC Syrah was a finalist in that category.

Finalists in the Pinot Gris category were the 2011 CedarCreek and 2011 Gray Monk, while Sandhill was a finalist in the Viognier category for its 2011 Small Lots Viognier Osprey Ridge Vineyard. Sandhill was also a finalist in the Red Blend category with its 2009 Small Lots One Phantom Creek Vineyard.

In White Single Varieties, Gray Monk’s 2011 Ehrenfelser and CedarCreek’s 2011 Ehrenfelser were both finalists, while CedarCreek’s 2011 Gewurztraminer also placed in that category.

Both Mission Hill’s 2009 SLC Merlot and neighbouring Volcanic Hills Estate Winery’s 2008 Merlot were finalists in that category, while Volcanic Hills’ 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon placed in that category as well.

The wine festival continues with the Westjet Wine Tastings Friday and Saturday evenings at the Rotary Centre for the Arts and All You Need is Cheese…And Some Wine at the Lurel Packinghouse May 12.

Tickets are available from

A brochure listing all the events is available on the festival website at: or at local wineries, liquor outlets or tourism desks.