Anthony Gismondi on Wine
Thursday, August 22 2019

Mining for Platinum

By: DJ Kearney
What it takes to be the best of the best in Canada

Would it surprise you to learn that awarding platinum medals is a delightfully effortless part of wine competition judging?

It goes without saying that platinum medals are highly coveted and scarce. They’re only given to truly outstanding wines that are supremely well-made, and expressive, and clearly stand tall against all other competitors.

Here’s the thing about excellence: it is immediately obvious. Just like the feel of luxurious 4-ply cashmere, the scent of expensive leather, the sound quality of high-fidelity speakers, the texture of a perfect croissant; profound quality announces itself. Identifying tip-top wines is just the same. Like slipping behind the wheel of a Ferrari, you know you are in for something special.

Of course, wine experts need to recognize all the right quality indicators, but that’s exactly what decades of experience cultivates in judges. Here’s how it works for me: each blind flight of wines will get my full attention, as I silently evaluate along with my fellow judges. A platinum contender will immediately stand out with highly expressive and interesting aromas. I will scribble some notes, then taste the wine. I am looking for fruit clarity and intensity; the balance between acidity and fruit and oak if present; length, ageability, complexity, and a sense of place (in other words, terroir). I’ll retaste the wine several times, mentally benchmarking it with other outstanding wines I have ever scored in the 94+ range, then discuss with my panel. In most cases, all judges will have independently identified a platinum contender, and we lock in our high scores and push it through to the next round with immense satisfaction. The best wines will be evaluated in the final round by a larger group of judges, and inevitably there is a high degree of agreement and consistency of scores. Quality wines reveal themselves from start to finish.  

What a thrilling range of wines in the BC platinum parade this year! Zesty riesling; a trio of rich, show-stopping chardonnays; Meritage blends, both red and white; fruity, gutsy pinots; meaty, peppery, streamlined syrahs; and a few outliers like touriga national and marsanne. It’s a great time to buy a few cases and enjoy the perks of platinum.

Here is the list of BC PLATINUM high achievers:

This past June eleven women and eleven men (gender parity is important to WineAlign, setting it apart from other competitions) sat down to taste 1,827 wines over 5 days, from 259 wineries. Out of all these wines, only 23 impressed the judges enough to score platinum points. Of those 23 top wines, 16 are from British Columbia. 

Here are this year’s NWAC Platinum Award Winning Wines

Full list of BC platinum medal winners: 

Moon Curser 2017 Touriga Nacional $39-$47; The Hatch 2016 Dynasty Red $47-$54; Meyer 2017 Tribute Series Joannie Rochette Old Main Rd $33 winery direct; Blasted Church 2017 Pinot Noir $32-$37; Ursa Major 2016 Syrah Eagle Nest Vineyards $46 winery direct; Quails' Gate 2017 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay $40; Mission Hill 2017 Terroir Collection No. 8 Jagged Rock Vineyard Chardonnay $51 winery direct; Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery 2016 Meritage Reserve $42; Harper's Trail 2018 Silver Mane Block Riesling Thadd Springs Vineyard $19; Nk'Mip Cellars 2017 White Meritage Merriym $33; Black Sage 2016 Merlot $35; Howling Bluff 2016 Pinot Noir Century Block $35 club members; Mission Hill 2017 Perpetua Chardonnay $56 winery direct; Daydreamer 2017 Amelia $35-$45; Road 13 2017 Marsanne $21 winery direct; Hester Creek 2017 Syrah Viognier $29 winery direct.

Written By:
DJ Kearney
DJ Kearney

DJ Kearney is a Vancouver-based wine educator, wine writer, judge, presenter and classically trained chef. She has trained hundreds of professional Sommeliers for the International Sommelier Guild during a decade as a non-stop travelling instructor throughout western North America. A diverse background in wine, food and geology makes DJ uniquely qualified to guide the discovery of the world’s wine regions, the understanding of terroir, the sharpening of palates, and the chemistry of food and wine harmony. She appears on radio and television regularly, moderates and presents at wine festivals throughout North America and judges several major wine competitions. DJ holds the WSET Diploma, the ISG Sommelier Diploma and is in the Master of Wine program as an exam-ready candidate.