(photo: Black Press Chairman & Founder David Black, attired in the tour’s themed “Western” wear, enjoyed the tour.)

(photo2: Laughing Stock Vineyards Cynthia & David Enns with the Lt. Governor Judith Guichon (centre).

Last week the Okanagan had the pleasure of welcoming back Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon on her annual visit to wine country to present the coveted Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in British Columbia Wines.  Arriving on Thursday July 24th, Her Honour arrived via bus along with her entourage of guests including members of the Government House Foundation as well as an impressive array of Members of the Consular Corps ranging from Russia to Ecuador. To be eligible for the competition, wines must be made from 100% grapes and grown and processed within British Columbia. 12 wines were chosen by a panel of 7 distinguished judges (that included Sid Cross, Tim Pawsey, John Schreiner and Treve Ring) from an astounding 436 wine submissions from 119 British Columbia wineries – quite a coup for the winners!
I happily travelled along with the merry crew over the three days, winding their way through our bucolic wine trails beginning in Oliver and then continuing through Okanagan Falls, Naramata, Penticton, Summerland and onto Kelowna.  The bus did not stop here though – their last destination was in Lillooet to present the final wine award to Fort Berens Winery.  It was so heart warming to observe the pride and obvious thrill for the winners to accept the award from Her Honour personally.  Lieutenant Governor Guichon, a rancher from the nearby Nicola Valley, was very earnest in expressing her admiration for the winners.  A self-confessed novice in the wine world, she is a passionate advocate for the preservation of agricultural land and noted that “the grapes have kept us in agriculture” and that “the land has been well cared for and stewarded by the vineyard owners.“  We must remember that our wineries are in fact grape farmers that happily make up a great many acres of British Columbia farmland.
New to the Okanagan this year was the chance to host the Government House Foundation Gala Ball. The Gala was held at the Laurel Packinghouse in Kelowna and was western-themed this year, complete with elegant cowboy dress code and a country band, designed to honour Lieutenant Governor Guichon’s ranching background.  The Gala has been hosted in Victoria in the past but the Foundation expressed the desire to reach out to other communities this year to help spread the word about the commendable work that the Foundation is doing. Government House Foundation was initially created “to foster the preservation of Government House and its grounds; to enhance its decor, character, maintenance, historical and cultural values; and to provide funding for the Lieutenant Governor’s programs and awards”.  Significant programs and projects are funded by the Government House Foundation including the wonderful Write To Read Project that is working to increase the level of literacy among aboriginal people in British Columbia through book donations and the creation of libraries to place within the communities.  To read more about the Foundation’s work go to: http://www.ltgov.bc.ca/

Congratulations to the Wine Award recipients this year!  

8th Generation Vineyard
 – Riesling 2012
Bonamici Cellars -
 Merlot Cabernet Franc 2012
Fort Berens Estate Winery
 – Riesling 2012
Hester Creek Estate Winery
 – Block 2 Reserve Merlot 2011
Howling Bluff Estate Winery -
 Summa Quies Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Sémillon 2013
Kraze Legz Vineyard & Winery -
 Skaha Vineyard Unoaked Chardonnay 2013
Laughing Stock Vineyards – 
Portfolio 2011
Okanagan Crush Pad Winery
 – Haywire Canyonview Pinot Noir 2011
Pentâge Winery 
- Syrah Reserve 2010
Quails’ Gate Winery 
- Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay 2012
Ruby Blues Winery – 
Viognier 2013
Wayne Gretzky Okanagan
 – The Great Red 2011

~ Jennifer Schell