The judgment of BC, 2019

How well do the wines from Canada’s British Columbia do when they are tasted blind alongside some international benchmarks? Jamie Goode and Treve Ring take part in the fifth Judgment of BC, and share their verdicts

For the last four years the BC Wine Institute has sponsored a tasting that they’ve dubbed the ‘Judgment of BC’. It’s based on the famous Judgment of Paris tasting that Steven Spurrier organized in the 1970s that helped put California wine on the map, and which has been repeated with many emerging or new world regions who want to demonstrate that their wines are the qualitative peers of some of the world’s most famous. And blind tasting with experts seems to be the best way of defeating prejudice.

This year was the fifth and final instalment, and focused on the varieties that BC is acknowledged to be best at. A panel of 35 judges, including Steven Spurrier, tasted four flights of 10 wines: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Syrah. The BC wines did very well indeed.

Treve Ring judging

We tasted through, ranked the wines, and then handed in our sheets. And at the end of the tasting, the group ranking order was revealed.

Here are the notes and scores exactly as written for Goode and Ring. It’s always interesting to compare these, both with each other and also with the group scores. Ring’s scoring is tougher than Goode’s, but aside from the actual score, there’s some agreement.

Each flight had four international benchmarks in it. As well as ranking the wines we were asked to try to identify the non-BC wines in each flight. Goode got three of four right with the Pinot Noir, one with the Chardonnay, none with the Riesling and all four with the Syrah. Ring got one right with the Riesling and Chardonnay, two right with the Syrah, and three with the Pinot Noir.  

Treve Ring notes:

I was fortunate to participate in the first Judgment of BC in 2015, during Spurrier’s first visit to BC’s wine regions. In that Vancouver hotel boardroom, we tasted Chardonnay and Syrah, with some BC producers and wines (selected by blind panel tasting) reappearing in this, the final Judgment. I feel the program had certainly run its course, and I was happy to bookmark the first and last tastings in my memory bank. “It’s not a competition”, moderator DJ Kearney repeated. Yet it’s hard for folks not to turn this comparison tasting into one, especially with the local team claiming top spot in three of four categories. The issue is, of course, that it’s not a fair “competition.” Some of BC’s top wines were strategically mixed with some lauded examples from around the globe. But they certainly were not the top wines from those international regions. Granted, it would explode BC Wine Institute’s budget if they were buying multiple bottles of top red and white Burgundy to infiltrate into the tastings. But if we’re not comparing apples to apples (the bests with the bests), then it becomes just another blind tasting exercise, albeit an interesting one at that.

I found the flights quite enjoyable, with Pinot Noir the clearest for provenance, and Riesling the trickiest to place. My personal preferences did not mirror the group (in Chardonnay my #1 was the overall #10 place), but that came as no surprise to me. What did surprise is now clear, overall, the BC signature was on wines: Fruit-forward, but fresh. The wineries’ house styles are stamped darker than ever, more legible and confident with every vintage. Also sharpening focus is the subregionality of BC. Naramata tastes like Naramata, Lake Country like Lake Country. That’s a very good, and quite new, thing for this young wine region, showing its proper maturity and trajectory.

Spurrier noted that BC’s strength is that we can clearly express the grape variety through our unique terroir. My view is that we are learning now to clearly express our unique terroir through the grapes.

The majority of the panellists were BC-based, and locavore-leaning. I have to wonder, if it were a room full of international journalists, would the ranking results be similar?

Pinot Noir

Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir Dundee Hills 2015 Oregon

Group rank: 3

JG: Ripe with lovely structure to the sweet berry fruits. There’s some cherry brightness here with a bit of spicy oak. Nice richness with some polish and a luxurious feel. This is a rich, ripe Pinot in a new world style but it has balance, and a nice savoury edge that seems a little more old world. Classy stuff in this richer, more polished mould. 93/100 Non-BC My rank = 5th

TR: Darker, black fruit, lovely savoury aspect. Fine tannins, very well integrated Dark earth, morello cherries, fine spices, light candle was. Bright acidity and vibrance through the palate. Non-BC 92+ My rank = 3rd

Tightrope Pinot Noir 2016 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank: 8

JG: Haunting floral aromatics here with lovely cherry fruit. Ripe, sweetly fruited palate with red cherries, plums and some herbs. Very expressive with good balance. Ripe red fruits with a lovely generosity to the core of the fruit, and amazing floral complexity. New world in style but quite beautiful. 94/100 My rank = 2nd

TR: Lighter hue, delicate and fresh (but not enough to be coastal). Somewhat tart notes with cherry and raspberry. Tight, fine, energetic spicing, with a savoury, almost sandy note on the mellow finish. A little age here? 91 My rank = 4th

Sperling Vineyards Pinot Noir 2016 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 4

JG: Lovely sappy, floral, leafy edge to the restrained sweet red and black cherry fruit. Has freshness and some beautiful notes of decay, with a pleasant undergrowth edge to fleshy but restrained fruit. Quite old world in style, and drinking beautifully now. 94/100 Non-BC my rank = 3rd

TR: Lovely perfumed nose, dark shaded and perfumed with violets, light black pepper. Lovely balance. Elegant. Ripe, in a controlled way. Tobacco lines the finish. Well done. Non-BC 92+ My rank = 2nd

Shaw & Smith Pinot Noir 2016 Adelaide Hills, Australia

Group rank = 7

JG: Some nice undergrowthy complexity on the nose, which shows sweet ripe fruit. Fresh  palate with a savoury, spicy, slightly gingery minty edge to the red fruits. Grainy, quite taut and spicy on the palate. Tastes like a ripe, slightly oaky old world Pinot. 92/100  Non-BC My rank = 6th

TR: Earthy hue, with green / branchy notes. Ripe fruit. Wine starts off quite pretty, but lacks some complexity. 89 My rank = 5th

Cedar Creek Platinum Block 2 Pinot Noir 2016 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 10

JG: Restrained and midweight with sweet cherry and plum fruit. Juicy and plummy with a sweet core. A little monodimensional with compact, sweet fruit. Has a liqueur-like quality to it. Very pleasant but not profound. 90/100 My rank = 9th

TR: Quite a strange nose: musk, bug spray, baby powder, talc. Shorter on the finish. Up front. Somewhat stunted / stuck. 88 My rank = 8th

Arrowleaf Cellars Archive Pinot Noir 2016 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 1

JG: A beautifully elegant Pinot Noir. Not heavy, but really well proportioned, showing floral, spice-tinged cherry fruit with very fine structure and subtle green hints. Sleek and enticing, this is what Pinot does best: real elegance and poise. Very fine. 95/100 My rank = 1st

TR: Green, wet, herbal, somewhat sour notes, but nice fresh green edged middle. Whole cluster? Tight and grippy on the finish. 89- My rank = 6th

Louis Jadot Beaune Grèves 1er Cru 2015 Burgundy, France

Group rank = 6

JG: Roast coffee, spice and mint on the nose, alongside ripe black fruits. This is concentrated, spicy and quite powerful, with lots of oak supporting the ripe, slightly jammy black fruits. Big, ambitious and oaky, this is somewhat over done. Structured and tannic, I reckon this is a high-end Burgundy that’s been given a little too much winemaking attention. At the moment, it’s a one-glass wine. 90/100 Non-BC My rank = 10th

TR: Very polished, cherry, raspberry, fine earth. Fine grippy black tea tannins. Lovely structure, with tight and long striated tannins. Great energy. Very salty, savoury, nut shell. Some age. Great presence. Non-BC 93 My rank = 1st

Quails’ Gate Richard’s Block Pinot Noir 2017 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 9

JG: Aromatic and enticing on the nose with ripe black cherry fruits and fine spicy notes. Concentrated and fleshy on the palate with ripeness and structure. A big, fruit-driven style. Lots of fruit here, and some tannic structure too. Modern, polished and enticing, it’s a crowd pleaser of a Pinot that some will love. 92/100 My rank = 8th

TR: Softer, (swampy), ripe, generous mid. Fine, lightly grippy / tobacco-lined tannins finish bitter and a little firm. Dark cocoa, grip closes out the finish.  Trying too hard. BC 88 My rank = 9th

Meyer Family Vineyards McLean Creek Road Pinot Noir 2016 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 5

JG: Haunting floral red cherry nose with lovely delicate green sappy notes. The palate shows ripe, sweet fruits but also freshness and delicacy on the finish. Has a broad, sweet mid-palate. Quite new world in style, but with some elegance and poise, and layers of flavour. Sweet fruit dominates. 93/100 My rank = 4th

TR: Wet, some stewed fruit notes, savoury / green edged. Smoke taint. Tastes of franc. Big black tea, earthy. Though some muddled fruit in the core, nice amount of freshness. 88+ My rank = 7th

La Crema Pinot Noir 2016 Monterey, California

Group rank = 2

JG: Fleshy, ripe and floral, but also with some nice greenness. Very sweetly fruited with lush cherries and berries, and then a subtle green framing. A little bit jammy, but with some elegance, too. Such a fruit-driven, open, accessible style of wine. Drink young, I reckon. 92/100 My rank = 7th

TR: Highly perfumed / musky. Ripe, bug spray purple, violets, potent florals. More like syrah, finishing with notes of violets / pastilles. Overt. Non-BC 88 My rank = 10th


Meyer Family Chardonnay Tribute Series Donovan Tildesley Old Main Road Vineyard 2016  

Group rank = 1

JG: Rich, toasty nose with lots of citrus and peach, as well as a hint of matchstick. The palate is powerful and dense with sweet pineapple and citrus fruit. Has fresh acidity and good structure. A real mouthful of a wine with presence and freshness, but the flavours are fighting with each other a bit at the moment. Ambitious. 93/100 Non-BC My rank = 3rd

TR: Ripe, round, buttery, with salted nuts, stones. Lovely mouthwatering savoury component. Very big frame, but very well handled. Impressive. Non-BC 92+. My rank = 2nd

Laroche Chablis 1er Cru La Chanterie 2016 Burgundy, France

Group rank = 6

JG: Fresh, quite delicate and fruity with a mandarin edge to the citrus fruit. Juicy and lemony with a pleasant citrus drive and good acidity. Shows a slight stony minerality and finishes short and nutty. 89/100 My rank = 10th

TR: Subtle, salted, nutty edged, tight and taut. Edgy, with a nutty / nutmeal / oatmeal note. A bit awkward. 89- My rank = 5th

50th Parallel Estate Chardonnay 2016 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 2

JG: Delicate nose of toast, spice and pears. Has some matchstick minerality. Very assured with ripe but balanced pear and citrus fruit with subtle toasty, bready hints and a nice structural quality, wrapped around a mineral core. This is serious. 95/100 non-BC My rank = 1st

TR: Popcorn, flax, slight lick of reduction buffering a ripe, fruity core. The wood is evident in the middle. Too overt at this young stage. BC 87 My rank = 9th

Bethel Heights Chardonnay Eola-Amity Hills 2015 Oregon

Group rank = 10

JG: Light and fruity, but with compact citrus and pear fruit and a nice acid line. Fruit-driven and direct with nice length and crisp, pure, compact fruit.  It’s almost Chablis-like in its fruit purity: there’s no obvious sign of oak here. 92/100 My rank = 5th

TR: Lovely, proper and well handled reduction, with nuts, flax, nutshell. Lemon pith, salty / savoury / grippy spicing. Super smart. Mouthwatering. Non-BC 93 My rank = 1st

Culmina Chardonnay Dilemma 2014 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 9

JG: Very fruity with herbs and cabbage hints alongside mandarin, lemon and apple. Has a slight sulfidy quality, with fresh, open fruit at its core and lots of detail around the edges. It’s appealing but not totally clean. 90/100 My rank = 8th

TR: Deeper hue, caramel note. Some earthen / flax / oatmeal notes. Very potent and oak creamy around a core of lemon verbena. Great salty / savoury edge through the finish. Doesn’t fit together at present, sadly = disjointed. 89+ My rank 4th

Chatron et Trebuchet Pouilly-Fuisse 2017 Burgundy, France

Group rank = 5

JG: Fresh and open with accessible citrus and pear fruit. Nice freshness. An easy, refreshing style of Chardonnay with some charm. Midweight and fruit-driven. Finishes bright, but has a slight caramel/syrup quality that emerges with time in the glass. 89/100 My rank = 9th

TR: Slight cardboard / earth / dusty meets white floral / lemon. Pretty but hollow, and quite lean, though the middle is silken. BC 88- My rank = 6th

Tantalus Chardonnay 2015 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 7

JG: Bright, fruity and detailed with a spicy edge to the crisp mandarin, pear and green apple fruit, with a candied richness and some toast and spice on the finish. Well made with well integrated oak and a sweet fruit quality. Easy, modern, new world style. 91/100 My rank = 7th

TR: Strange windex / chemical note to start. Young, some pineapple, tropical, nutmeal. Sharp edged. Bitter finish. Disjointed at present. 87 My rank = 7th

Craggy Range Kidnapper’s Chardonnay 2017 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

Group rank = 3

JG: This is a really attractive vibrant, pure style of Chardonnay with some layers of complexity under the sweet peach and pear fruit. Has a lovely, unforced, well integrated acidity that keeps it bright, and well balanced, neatly poised fruit. Gives some pleasure, but also has a grown up side to it. 93/100 Non-BC My rank = 3rd

TR: Potent rubber, grit, savoury note leads to ripe orchard fruit, and crushed stones / elastic. Some bitter edged wood framing, finishes hot. 87- My rank = 10th

Nk’Mip Cellars Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay 2017 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 4

JG: Ripe peach and pear fruit with some citrus brightness. Has some toast and hazelnut richness, and also a bit of structure. Some oak present. Modern and quite polished with lots of ripe fruit. Holds itself together quite well. 92/100 My rank = 6th

TR: Orange, medicinal white cherry, lemon. Quite full and hefty in the mouth. Buttery / caramel creamy. Alcohol higher and warming on the finish Cali? Non-BC 87 My rank = 8th

Monte Creek Ranch Chardonnay Reserve 2016 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 8

Good balance to this wine. Lovely taut pear and citrus fruit with some nuts and spice in the background. Lovely acidity and the oak is really well integrated with the fruit. Has a classy character. Quite serious. 94/100 My rank = 2nd Non-BC

TR: Salted. Earthy, nutty, lovely savoury reductive edge. Very well handled use of lees / reduction / textures, though very lean. IN 90 My rank = 4th


Chateau Ste Michelle Cold Creek Riesling 2015 Washington State, USA

Group rank = 7

JG: Limey and intense on the nose. This has some petrol development, as well as honey and toast. Spicy and intense with nice focus to the fruit. Has a little sweetness on the finish. Appealing but a little angular and developed. 89/100 My ranking 10th

TR: Savoury nose. Edgy, with lemon verbena, broken stones, touched with a hint of sweetness. Brown butter drawn long through the finish. Non-BC 91- My rank = 1st

Tightrope Riesling 2017 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 4

JG: Lovely purity here. This is linear with high acidity and amazing laser-sharp lemony fruit. Pure and fine with nice detail. Lovely acidity. Dry and pristine, with a sense of harmony too. 93/100 My ranking 2nd

TR: Sharp lemon leaf, then bitter verbena, tight, nervy on the palate. Yellow fruits. Bit watery core. Tastes too overmade. Bitter finish. BC 88 My rank = 9th

Rieslingfreak No 3 Reverence of Riesling 2018 Clare Valley, Australia

Group rank = 8

JG: Very bright, pure and fresh with good intensity. Lovely acidity, and pure lemony fruit to the fore. Has a focus and transparency to it. Long lemony finish. 92/100 My ranking 5th

TR: Lean, some light baby barf / lime leaf edge. Dry, tart, with light grip around the sides. Edgy, and well handed for style. Good minerality and vibrancy. BC 90 My rank = 5th

Cedar Creek Platinum Block 3 Riesling 2018 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 2

JG: This is delicate and transparent with a touch of sweetness as well as high acidity. Open and a bit appley, with lemony zip and a twist of mandarin. Has some sulfidic hints, too. Stony and bright on the finish. Very high acidity. 90/100 Non-BC My ranking 8th

TR: Shell. Some sweeter coconut notes, pear, lime. Very juicy mid, but very well structured / framed by tight grippy sides. Orchard fruit. Well handled, sculpted and formed. 89+ My rank = 6th

Culmina Decora Riesling 2014 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 5

JG: Dry and stony and quite complex with some sulfidic hints. Linear and a little austere with some structure and chalky hints as well as very bright acidity. Quite compact and dense. 90/100 Non BC My ranking 9th

TR: Earthy, savoury with  broken stones and nut shells. Tight grip / lime pith. Energy and vibrance, dry-ish. Well defined. IN 91 My rank = 2nd

Nik Weis St Urbans-Hof Wiltinger Alte Reben Riesling 2014 Mosel, Germany

Group rank = 1

JG: Full yellow colour. Some botrytis here? It’s rich and full of flavours of lemons, apricots and peaches. Dry, with high acidity. Very alluring with all that flavour. Complex, spicy and intense. 91/100 Non-BC My ranking 7th

TR: Very perfumed, ripe and expansive with honeysuckle, white honey, white florals. Baby powder / talc. Juicy. Well handled. Synchromesh? 90+ My rank = 3rd

Upper Bench Riesling 2017 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 6

JG: Complex and rounded with nice spicy detail to the concentrated lemon and lime fruit. Has nice acidity and lots of flavour intensity. Good acidity. Very stylish. 93/100 My ranking 3rd

TR: Dry, bitter edged with lemon / lime sharpness, stones, and earthy edged. Lovely juicy energy on the palate, though feels a bit muted. Non-BC 90- My rank = 4th

St Hubertus & Oak Bay Vineyards Family Reserve Riesling 2014 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 3

JG: Open and appealing with apples, herbs and citrus fruit. Rounded with nice savoury hints of green tea and dried herbs. Has some sweetness, but overall it is dry. 93/100 Non-BC My ranking 4th

TR: Energy, mouthwatering on the palate, with fine tension wrapping around a very ripe core. Some coconut shell, pear. BC 89 My rank = 7th

Nigl Dornleiten Riesling 2015 Kremstal, Austria

Group rank = 10

JG: Lovely aromas of mandarin and pears. Has a rich, harmonious palate with fine detail and some stony complexity. Dry but with fruit sweetness. Lovely mid-weight, harmonious, layered Riesling. 94/100 My ranking 1st

TR: Sweeter, disjointed, with some overt and offputting wilted floral perfume. Ginger through the finish. Lacks drive and energy. 88 My rank = 8th

Martin’s Lane Fritzi’s Vineyard Riesling 2016 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 9

JG: Nice fruit here. Has a compact, taut citrus character with some melon and pear richness. Rounded mid-palate with a juicy quality and good acid, as well as a hint of sweetness. 92/100 My ranking 6th  Non-BC

TR: Sweet pear, applesauce, yellow fruit. Sides are sharpened, but core is plump, leaving all disjoined on the finish. High acid. BC 88- My rank = 10


K Vintners MCK Syrah 2015 Washington State, USA

Group rank = 10

JG: Meaty and rich with some olive and herb savouriness as well as lovely focused black cherries. Has a slightly wild, exotic side. Nice mid-weight wine with plenty of interest and complexity. Subtle oxidative hints, and some savoury spiciness on the finish. 92/100 Non-BC My ranking 7th

TR: Sea water, swampy / weedy, salty. Earthy with celery salts, radish. Huge grip. So weird. DNPIM. Non-BC 84- My rank = 10th

Tightrope Winery Syrah 2016 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 1

JG: Has ginger, herbs and cured meats on the nose, with some woody spiciness. Fresh but also quite rich with some bright red fruits as well as crushed berries and spice. I really like the freshness here. Maybe a little too much spicy oak, though? Nice bright fruit profile. 91/100 My ranking 9th

TR: Smoked meats. Structure, black fruited, charcoal, intensity and balance, with acidity in line with intensity and fruit. Quite solid. Non-BC 92 My rank = 3rd

Stag’s Hollow Syrah 2016 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 3

JG: Supple, bright and concentrated with fleshy red cherry and raspberry fruit, and some cedar spiciness, as well as some freshly roast coffee. Bright and quite exotic. Polished with lovely harmony to the tannins and a fresh finish. More red fruit than black. 92/100 My ranking 8th

TR: Peppery black fruit, light musky note, ripe core, peppery, dried herbal finish. Well executed. BC 89 My rank = 5th

Jamet Syrah Collines Rhodaniennes 2015 Northern Rhône, France

Group rank = 8

JG: A fresh, focused, midweight elegant style. Has a bit of rustic meatiness lurking in the background, but overall there’s a lovely weight to the fruit. Bright with good acidity framing the red and black cherries. Supple, elegant and multidimensional. Not heavy, but very drinkable. 94/100 Non-BC My ranking 2nd

TR: Anise, meaty, earthy, savoury edged. Tart dark fruit is housed by grippy sides. Hint of dark wild raisin. Freshness rules. Cooler climate. Characterful. Quirky and memorable. Non-BC 93 My rank = 1st

Le Vieux Pin Cuvée Violette Syrah 2016 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 2

JG: Superb balance here. Shows black cherries and pepper, with some lushness to the fruit and a generous, smooth mouthfeel. Ripe but still has freshness. Meaty and satisfying with good depth. 93/100 My ranking 3rd

TR: Sweet violet perfume! Grippy sides, lovely structure. Riper, purple / savoury fruited. Good intensity, but savoury edged, finishing with some charming charcoal notes. Non-BC 92 My rank = 2nd

Saint Cosme Crozes-Hermitage 2016 Northern Rhône, France

Group rank = 4

JG: There’s some mint and pepper here adding a savoury edge to the black cherry fruit. Juicy and focused with some tannic grip, and notes of tapenade and cracked black pepper. Quite a stern, savoury style with nice intensity. Serious stuff. 95/100 Non-BC My ranking 1st

TR: Ripe black cherry, blackberry, some cola. Glossy. Quite polished, with a lot of oak, drying tannins finish. Still held lean. BC 89+ My rank = 4th

CC Jentsch Cellars Syrah 2016 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 9

JG: This is really lovely, with bright red cherry and plum fruits, a hint of pepper, some cedar spice and a nice sense of elegance. Sweetly fruited and more-ish with some richness to the mid palate (high-ish alcohol?). Nice fruit. 93/100 My ranking 5th

TR: Super perfumed, sweet musk, bug spray. Very purple fruited, slick and glossy and easy. Tannins negligible. Too made. BC 88 My rank = 6th

Painted Rock Syrah 2016 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 7

JG: Ripe and fleshy with bright raspberry and cherry fruit. Has a nice sweetness with a bit of grip and some subtle herby hints. Nice fruit. A subtle reductive edge, too. 91/100 My ranking 10th

TR: Weedy, green. Whole bunch? Overwhelmingly herbal, with some pine notes too. Thankfully good acidity to buffer that, and draw this to the finish. BC 87+ My rank = 7th

Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz 2017 Barossa, Australia

Group rank = 5

JG: Polished, lush but also quite fresh. Lots of fruit: luxurious sweet black cherry and blackberries with some sweetness to it. Ripe and rich, it reminds me of a really good Barossa Shiraz, with its fruit profile. Some floral hints. Subtle tar and cedar on the finish. Very good, in a rich style. 93/100 Non-BC My ranking 4th

TR: Rustic. Overripe and blousy, with smoked wood / meats. Hot finish. BC 86 My rank = 8th

Time Winery Syrah 2014 Okanagan, Canada

Group rank = 6

JG: This shows lovely sleek, ripe black cherry and blackberry fruit with smooth tannins and nice freshness. Subtle olive and cured meat savouriness complement the dense core of sweet fruit. Fine peppery notes. Ripe and rich but stays in balance. Plenty of oak, too. 93/100 My ranking 6th

TR: Musk, smoke, thick. Drags along the plate, with huge wood, huge intensity. So overt. BC 86 My rank = 9th