THIS SPECIAL SECTION CELEBRATES THE WINNERS OF THE 21ST NATIONAL WINE AWARDS OF CANADA. It is organized annually by WineAlign —Canada’s only national independent wine reviewing and wine rating outlet — and led by co-head judges David Lawrason (Ontario) and Anthony Gismondi (B.C.). They are joined by a cast of about two dozen wine professionals from Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., who spend one week judging the wines blind in a controlled setting. This year almost 1900 wines and ciders were entered for evaluation. Editorial contributions on these pages are by Anthony Gismondi and David Lawrason. Their full reports — along with lists of all the awarded wines and reports by other WineAlign experts — can be found in the NWAC 2022 section of the WineAlign website.
CEDARCREEK ESTATE WINERY
In 2022, CedarCreek Estate Winery — an East Kelowna winery located in the northern Okanagan Valley — topped all 251 producers at the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada. CedarCreek’s journey began long before the Okanagan was on the wine map. The winery’s roots go back to 1980, but it was 1986 when the Fitzpatrick family bought it, changed the name and planted some of the earliest Pinot Noir vines in the valley. The winery is now part of Anthony von Mandl’s portfolio, with winemaker Taylor Whelan building on the blocks laid by previous winemakers Tom DiBello and Darryl Brooker.
In the five years since von Mandl initiated a massive refit — aimed at organic, regenerative and sustainable viticulture — the wines have achieved greater heights. From certified organic yeast to wild ferments, wild malolactic fermentation and wines bottled unfined and unfiltered, Whelan pursues the most natural paths possible. And it shows in his wines. These are supercharged, vibrant wines — which accounts for the winery’s impressive 2 Platinum, 4 Gold and 8 Silver awards at this year’s National Wine Awards of Canada.
Says von Mandl: “It is a testament to the legacy we continue to build at CedarCreek, shattering the world’s perception of this still young and emerging wine region by crafting wines of exceptional quality in the Okanagan that can rival the best in the world.”
This award goes to the winery with a production of 10,000 cases or less that chalked up the highest aggregate score for its five top-scoring wines. This year that winery is SpearHead from the Okanagan. The SpearHead 2019 Coyote Vineyard Pinot Noir took a coveted Platinum Medal, but incredbily, the next seven wines also struck Gold, followed by three Silver medals and five Bronze. Sixteen medals overall are the kind of consistency that is tough to beat. Bill Knutson, a Vancouver lawyer, and Marina Knutson are the majority owners of SpearHead. “When we embarked on this project by planting our initial vineyard in 2008,” Bill Knutson explains. “Our ambition was to create a small winery that would become known for quality.”
The winemaking team is led by Grant Stanley. Although focused on pinot noir, SpearHead bottles many different versions based on individual vineyard sites and clones. Eighty percent of the 15-acre Home Vineyard in East Kelowna is planted to Pinot Noir, with four French Dijon clones, the Pommard clone and two California clones.
Says Stanley: “My first vintage in the Okanagan was in 2003. That vintage [with hail damage to the vineyard] taught me a lot about the power of mother nature. Every vintage since then has confirmed at every stage that, no matter what you do, the best grapes always come from the best vineyard sites, managed impeccably.”