Results from the 2023 Nationals – Platinum Winners

Announcing the Results from the 2023 National Wine Awards of Canada

Today, we are very pleased to announce the Platinum winners! We will conclude the announcements this week with the Best Performing Small Winery tomorrow, and the Winery of the Year announcement on Friday.

Parsing the Platinum Medals at NWAC 2023

By Co-head judge David Lawrason

A platinum award at the 2023 National Wine Awards of Canada places a wine among the top one percent of 1,930 wines tasted. That’s a remarkable feat! Not only does this top award switch on the popularity and commercial spotlight, it vastly increases the chances of the winery taking the lead in the race for Winery of Year honours — and almost certainly places the winery among the Top 25 in the country. All this will be announced on July 28, if you haven’t figured it out already. Like hummingbird wings I can hear the whirring of rapid calculations being computed.

(Jump straight to the medal winners.)

Numerically a platinum medal is very close to gold. This year a minimum score of 93 was set to achieve platinum, and the upper limit for gold. But to score up into the 93+ realm a judge must be wowed by what’s in their glass. Reactions get more emotional. And not only must one judge feel that love, he or she must have three or four other judges on the panel who are similarly moved and be willing to say, Yeah, let’s go for this.

Over recent days we have rolled out the medal winners by grape/style categories. The detailed overviews presented by the judges, combined with the complete medal lists, provide evaluation of how various grapes and styles are doing in Canada. This list of platinum winners puts the exclamation point on those results. 

There are always long sideways glances from west to east, and east to west, to see how the other side of the country is doing at the NWACs. It has always been thus in this country of far-flung regions. I have long proposed that our wine industry is too small to be pre-occupied by the regionalism that is myopically and stupidly entrenched by our provincial liquor boards.

So, I am delighted the platinum haul was shared almost equally by B.C. and Ontario. Among the 19 medals awarded, B.C. got 10 and Ontario 9. My great hope for the future is to see Quebec and Nova Scotia join the list. With a platinum for fruit wine from Saskatchewan or Alberta for good measure.

Looking at overall medal counts, B.C. took 710 and Ontario 456. But what needs to be explained annually is that B.C. has more wineries than Ontario and, so, enters more wines: 147 from B.C. this year versus 84 from Ontario. When you view the results by the percentage of medals earned within each region, the quality equality between east and west is obvious: 62.4 percent of B.C. wines entered were awarded medals. For Ontario, the percentage was 63 percent. The quality is high in both regions.

So, you then shift your thinking to which grapes and styles are excelling in each region.

This year riesling topped the platinum list with five medals, four from Ontario, one from B.C.
Syrah and a syrah blend followed with four platinums, all from B.C.  This was equaled by pinot noirs, three from B.C. and one from Ontario. And chardonnay took three medals, two from Ontario and one from B.C.  These varieties account for 16 of the 19 platinum medalists, with sparkling, cabernet franc and a very surprising $14.95 pinot gris rounding out the list. Again, for detailed comment on these categories I refer you to the individual grape/style reports.

If there is one region of Canada that caught platinum’s glare it is the appellations of Niagara’s escarpment, with seven top medals: four for Beamsville Bench, and one each for Twenty Mile Bench, Vinemount Ridge and Niagara Escarpment. The sites occupy the cooler, limestone-laced, north-facing escarpment benches several kilometres from Lake Ontario. But at least as important as the terroir is that many vineyards in this area are now more than 30 years of age, and strutting their stuff.

Another observation is that 18 of the 19 platinum medals came from the 2020 vintage, one of the best to date in both B.C. and Ontario, with healthy, balanced and fairly generous crops.  Canada’s wine growing conditions are notoriously variable from place to place and year to year, rarely lining up as beautifully as happened in the Covid vintage of 2020. There were no platinums awarded to 2022 — whites or reds — and only one, to a 2021, which was a more problematic year in both B.C. and Ontario.

The one glaring omission on the platinum list was Bordeaux reds.  There were about 500 entries made from merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot — or combinations thereof. The largest cohort by a long Canadian kilometre. Yet only one Ravine Cabernet Franc from Niagara earned the big P. This doesn’t mean we can’t make excellent examples in Canada — there are many gold medalists — but rarely, it seems, are these wines outstanding. And given the international competition, and the international perspective our judges bring to the table, this fact needs to be heeded. Some of Canada’s most expensive reds are based on the Bordeaux model (as is true globally). But, still, I am not yet wholly convinced, and neither, it seems, are the judges.

I am also a bit surprised that the 167 sparkling wines entered only produced one platinum medal. This is a style that Canada’s cool climate is tailor-made to produce very well. And we are doing so, with gold medals spread across the country. There is ample acidity, tension and balance in Canada’s top sparklers, but perhaps there is not yet quite the finesse, for which Champagne is revered, to yet be classed as outstanding?

Then there are all the other categories of single white and red varieties and blends that together form a significant volume of what Canada is doing. Some are experimental, some are for fun and whimsy. Or, to serve to local, loyal consumers. Some involve winter-hardy hybrids that make all kinds of viticultural sense in Canada, but are still yet to win medals. I know that there are winemakers across Canada saying, Yeah, but I really like this wine (that didn’t score platinum, or gold, or even silver). And that they have customers who love it too. That is something to be cherished and commercially and locally exploited. 

But in the long run and, spread across the broader canvas, wine regions are defined by the wines they do best, year after year. Canada is only a few years along that track from the global, historical perspective. I am only hoping the National Wine Awards accelerate the process of defining what Canada does best. And this year’s platinum award winners are pointing the way.

And the Platinum winners are…

CedarCreek Aspect Collection Block 3 Riesling 2021

CedarCreek 2021 Aspect Collection Block 3 Riesling, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Corcelettes 2020 Syrah Corcelettes Estate Vineyard, Similkameen Valley, British Columbia

Deep Roots 2020 Reserve Chardonnay, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Eastdell Pinot Grigio 2021

EastDell 2021 Pinot Grigio, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Tete De Cuvée Rosomel Vineyard 2020

Hidden Bench 2020 Chardonnay Tête de Cuvée Rosomel Vineyard, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Hidden Bench 2020 Pinot Noir Felseck Vineyard, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Lake Breeze 2020 Syrah, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Megalomaniac N/V Bubblehead Limited Edition Brut, Niagara Escarpment, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Nostalgia Wines 2020 Syrah Family Collection Home Vineyard, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Privato 2020 Tesoro Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Ravine Vineyard 2020 Cabernet Franc, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Road 13 2020 Select Harvest GSM, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Spearhead Club Consensus Pinot Noir 2020

SpearHead 2020 Club Consensus Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Stag’s Hollow 2020 Pinot Noir Shuttleworth Creek Vineyard, Okanagan Falls, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Tawse 2020 Carly’s Block Riesling, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Tawse Riesling 2020

Tawse 2020 Tawse Riesling, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Thirty Bench 2020 Small Lot Riesling Wood Post Vineyard, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Two Sisters Vineyards 2020 Riesling, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Westcott 2020 Block 76 Chardonnay , Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

NWAC 2023 Sponsors: