The Judges Personal Picks
In June the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada were held in Niagara. Eighteen judges assembled from across Canada to blind taste their way through 1,100 wines. Each week between now and the announcement of the results of the NWACs after Labour Day, WineAlign will feature each of the 18 judges, their thoughts on Canadian wine, and their personal favourite wine of the competition. Selection of a wine does not necessarily mean it was a top medal winner, and the scores reflect the opinion of the taster not its final mark in the competition. This week the we start with the ‘Chief Judges’:
Anthony Gismondi, Vancouver
Anthony Gismondi is a principal critic and partner in WineAlign.com, and Chief Judge of the National Wine Awards of Canada. He has long been the wine columnist for the Vancouver Sun; his website GismondiOnWine is one of the busiest wine sites in Canada; and he can be heard every Thursday on “The Best of Food and Wine” with Kasey Wilson on CFUN. As former Executive Editor of Wine Access he was instrumental in launching and developing the software and judging methodology for the Canadian Wine Awards. The same system now powers the National Wine Awards of Canada.
Mission Hill 2009 Compendium
Osoyoos, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
I’ve been watching Compendium literally come together for years and I have to say that this wine is finally beginning to express the unique flavours of the south Okanagan. The latest Compendium blend is 40/35/20/5 mix of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot. The grapes come off specific blocks in Oliver and Osoyoos and end up in 100 percent French oak for 14 months. Nose is remarkably floral with a strong sense of minerality and a hint of seashore. The attack is sleek and sophisticated. The tannins are small firm and chalky; the flavor profile is very Bordelais with tobacco, black olive savoury notes throughout. An impressive young red wine that will only continue to improve in the bottle for the next five to seven years. A product of more than a decade of serious work in the vineyard this is the New Okanagan.
David Lawrason, Toronto
Co-chief Judge David Lawrason is a principal critic and the VP of Wine for WineAlign. He is wine columnist for Toronto Life and Ottawa magazine, a WSET instructor with Fine Vintage Ltd, and National Wine Advisor to Gold Medal Plates, a chef competition held in ten cities that raises funds for Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes. He also reviews Ontario wines for www.winerytohome.com. He tastes thousands of Canadian wines every year and as visited all of Canada’s wine appellations.
Norman Hardie 2011 County Pinot Noir
Prince Edward County, Ontario
We were coming down to the final rounds of the competition, on the last morning. It was my second group of pinots – a category that had been displaying frustratingly wide stylistic variation (as expected). And there in slot 2905-6 sat a demure pinot that moved me. I wrote “a lovely, lifted nose of cherry, vanilla light wood smoke and mint”. It was “elegant, utterly charming and juicy” with an internal character I could only sum-up as “pinosity”, which has something to do with a vibrant, mineral core most often encountered in pinot noirs from Burgundy. And the length was excellent. I sent my score sheet to the backroom with a score of 93. Followers of my work will think I favourited this wine because I know Prince Edward County pinots well (having lived nearby for five years). But I was not even conscious of this being a County wine (whereas with others I was certain they were PEC). And what’s more I did not know it was Norman Hardie’s pinot until I sat down to write this piece and put at a name to #2905-6. This just spoke to me as being everything I love about pinot noir – a grape that on rare occasions captures a state of grace.
On Wine in Canada
We are witnessing flashes of real brilliance across the country. Our best winemakers have several vintages under their belts, they have maturing vineyards to work with, and they remain full of enthusiasm and drive to do better. There are successes from all provinces and an ever growing list of sub-regions and appellations, whether they are “official” VQA appellations or not. The associations and political bodies who define and regulate Canadian wine need to create a national system that clearly identifies those regions for consumers, embraces their individuality and works to clear all political obstacles that impede Canadians from freely ordering and shipping those wines within the country.
Photo credits from NWAC: Jason Dziver Photography