Pinot Noir, Chardonnay & Gamay – Medal Winners from NWAC 2022

Announcing the Results from the 2022 National Wine Awards of Canada

The 21st running of the National Wine Awards of Canada wrapped up on June 23 in Niagara. Category results will be rolling out throughout the rest of July, with the final Platinum, Best Performing Small Winery, and Winery of the Year announcements coming at the end of this month. We hope you will stay tuned to follow the results and become engaged in anticipating the final results.


Platinum Pack Case 2022 with Light


We’ve asked a few of our judges to summarize their impressions of each category. Today we present Pinot Noir, Chardonnay & Gamay (Burgundian varieties):

Pinot Noir

Category Overview by Judge Michael Godel

Just when thoughts had been creeping in over doubts that pinot noir is not the most viable red grape to nurture in Canadian vineyards, along came the covey of varietal wines at the 2022 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada. The dozens poured at the judging table over five days in June apprised our collective contemplation and never before had panels spent so much time deliberating which wines were the finest in flights where eight or nine out of 10 could all have easily medalled. This is a sign of good times ahead for the fickle, finicky, oft times curmudgeonly and always challenging grape. Winemakers, consumers and yes, even wine judges want to believe in the sanctity, viability and promise of pinot noir. Though we may have all questioned these convictions before, for now all is hopeful, positive and propitious.

The judging week saw many flights, all intriguing and the cross section of wines was experienced through sensations of love and thunder. There were the lithe, transparent, high-toned, red berry, lime-scintillant examples and there were darker, brooding, seriously ripe and often tannic iterations too. Beauties and beasts, belles et bêtes, charming and bold…love and thunder. Good pinot noir can succeed both ways, so long as an equanimous state is acceded. The question on every judge’s mind was a consistent one, perhaps even more so as it pertains to this category than any other in the competition. Does this pinot noir express itself with harmony and balance?

At this year’s Nationals the medal winners were in fact those that achieved this necessary state of varietal bliss. There were 97 pieces of hardware dished out and if that is not a record haul I for one would be shocked. It was the second largest give away for any category in 2022 (after chardonnay) so congratulations to the makers for crafting and sending their best. Four Platinums were awarded, to Meyer Old Block Pinot Noir McLean Creek Road Vineyard 2020, BC VQA Okanagan Falls; SpearHead Coyote Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019, BC VQA Okanagan Valley; Fort Berens Pinot Noir 2020, BC VQA and Hidden Bench Pinot Noir Felseck Vineyard 2019, VQA Beamsville Bench. There were 16 Golds (13 BC and 3 ON), 37 Silver (27 BC and 10 ON) and 40 Bronze (24 BC, 14 ON and 2 QC). Overall British Columbia took home 67 per cent of the medals and Ontario 29. Those two Québec Bronze are a sign of things to come.

So, what is the number one takeaway from the 2022 Nationals with regards to Canadian pinot noir? The answer lies in the way winemakers approach their product. Lowest of low cropping to achieve density and concentration is no longer the launching point towards making great pinot noir. Aggressive pressing, intense macerations and long wood aging, especially in newer (and smaller) vessels all lead to astringency and imbalance. All these things are fading into the rear-view mirror, slowly but surely being replaced by, first and foremost, sustainable and regenerative agriculture resulting in healthier vines. In the winery there is less handling, more finesse and attention paid to detail leading to more purity and also clarity in the wines. This is what pinot noir needs. If the most suitable and only the most suitable sites are used, the future will move from optimistic to auspicious. The number one takeaway? Canadian pinot noir has long been searching for and is now beginning to find inner peace. Let’s just hope it keeps on this path, despite, and in spite of, climate change.


Category Overview by Judge Treve Ring

On the first morning of judging this year, I had 2 Chardonnay flights, and in both the panel and I awarded Gold medal scores. It’s indicative of the strength of the category, proven by an outstanding 4 Platinum Medals this year (split between Ontario and BC), and a treasure chest full of Gold and Silver awards.

When asked what is Canada’s signature grape, Chardonnay is a quick answer from me. From coast to coast, the grape can sing, be it off the vibrato of limestone, or the powerful grip of glacial deposited stones. The world’s most famous and transplanted grape is particularly suited to Canada’s cool climate, able to withstand both desert conditions in the South Okanagan, and deeply frozen winters, like Prince Edward County.

The 2019 and 2020 vintages dominating the categories were both strong for the grape, with a near 50/50 draw between the main growing provinces of British Columbia and Ontario on the podium. It’s no surprise that the annual International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4c) in Niagara is now one of the must-hit wine events on the international circuit, drawing widespread attention and sell-out crowds.

Canadian Chardonnay’s high quality and consistency is rewarding, and as evidenced by this year’s results, highly awarded.



Category Overview by Judge Janet Dorozynski, Ph.D., DipWSET

I love tasting and then seeing the gamay winners unveiled every year. It is a variety that is near and dear to my heart (yes, I coined the hashtag #gogamaygo as a rallying cry for gamay in Canada and globally in 2012) and it is always heartwarming to see new wineries hopping on the gamay train. Newbies, along with stalwart gamay producers, continue to up their gamay game and prowess and make better wines with each vintage.

One of this year’s multi gold medal winners is Malivoire, who first planted gamay in 1998 to make rose, and then realized there is something special and multi-faceted about the grape. Under winemaker Shiraz Mottiar, the winery continues to reach new heights with each of the seven different gamay they make. This year Malivoire took home an impressive four gold medals for gamay. Their “Le Coeur” gamay, this time for the 2021 vintage, took gold once again as did the 2020 vintage at last year’s Nationals. Quite an accomplishment and kudos to them.

Gold also went to gamay newcomer, Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards for their 2020 Lava Bomb Gamay from the Okanagan Valley, a winery that I did not even know had ventured into gamay. As for the rest of the medals, Ontario has the edge over British Columbia here but perhaps not surprising since BC gamay acreage is less than 200 acres while estimates put Ontario (which does not have published acreage data) at around three times that amount. #gogamaygo 



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