Yesterday was the start of the wine fest unofficially, at least it's my start. Spring judging marks the beginning as 30+ wine makers and industry people got together to peer judge the best of varietal wines for 2011. I was lucky enough to participate again this year and it is always one of the highlights of the festival for me. It is an amazing eclectic group of industry people a real brain trust of wine makers with a ton of knowledge, just pitting my taste buds against the rest of the panel is a thrill. About 340 wines were tasted by 4 panels of 8 people separated into varietal categories. I was on the pink team and we started with a flight of 11 chardonnays all oak finished at 9:30 in the morning this sure wakes up your taste buds. your goal is to choose the best expression of the variety using standard criteria such as color, clarity, nose, taste and finish as well as varietal character. so you start by eliminating anything that doesn't fit and then spend some extra time on those that are close. Scores for each wine are averaged to determine the winners all tastes are blind and winners will be announced next week. After Chard's we were given 15 Pinot Noirs a category that I personally find very hard to judge as there are as many different styles as there are wine makers, nonetheless I found a winner. we followed with 11 Gewurtztraminers, 10 Other red varietals which include everything from Gamay to Malbec with Sangiovese and Zweigelt thrown in another tough category. Well as the pink team it only made sense that we would get Blush/Rose a big group of 16 wines again with a broad spectrum of styles and Grapes. I am amazed how this category is growing and changing it is no longer your Grandma's afternoon tipple and has graduated to a serious class of wines that pair well with a variety of foods and should occupy a place in every cellar.Next up a flight of 12 Cabernet francs which were very impressive it was difficult to pick a winner from such a good line up. This variety is really starting to help define the Okanagan terroir every year there are more single varietals made from this grape. With the end in sight we were served up a final helping of 9 Ice wines and late harvests, these also are made from a mix of different grapes. If you have been counting that is 84 different wines all before 1:00.
Next week Wine Fest starts in earnest and there are plenty of events to choose from so head out pick up some tickets and support this industry. As the weather warms up there is nothing better than sitting on a
winery patio with a glass of this years spring release