The 20th Anniversary Top 20

September 28, 2016


For a festival celebrating its 20th anniversary, it’s apropos that a record number of wines were submitted for consideration in Cornucopia’s annual top wines awards.

With 167 exceptional wines on the table, determining the winners of Cornucopia’s 20th Anniversary Top 20 Competition was not for the faint of heart (or palate). DJ Kearney, international wine educator, wine writer, festival presenter and head judge, led the diverse panel of experts from Whistler and Vancouver. Each judge is recognized as a leader in their field within the B.C. food and wine industry, and includes wine directors, wine instructors, food and wine writers, sommeliers and restaurateurs. The panel gathered for the day in a blind tasting session at Whistler’s Quattro Restaurant on September 19.

“To receive 167 high-caliber entries is an indication of the festival’s stature among B.C.’s wine and food festivals,” says DJ Kearney, Cornucopia Top 20 chief judge. “With the finalists reduced to 20 wines in honour of Cornucopia’s 20th anniversary, it was even harder than usual to determine the best of the best. Don’t think I’m complaining, though — I led a crack team of Whistler and Vancouver experts who fearlessly blind tasted and evaluated the record number of entries on-site in Whistler. I’m looking forward to seeing the crowds arrive for the festival and make their own discoveries among the blockbuster lineup of wines at this year’s event.”

With characteristics such as colour, aroma, flavour and finish taken into evaluation; the scores were tallied and the top 20 wines were chosen.  Judges were put to the test.  Paul Street, VP of Food and Beverage for Whistler Blackcomb was one of the 14 on the panel. “It was an honour to judge the Cornucopia Top 20 under DJ Kearney, with such an experienced panel of judges from both Whistler and Vancouver. The wines were excellent, and I was pleased to see such a great mix of domestic and international wines represented. It’s too bad we couldn’t have awarded more of the wines, but this leaves more opportunity for discovery by Cornucopia attendees!”

Eric Blouin, judge and Cornucopia Ambassador agreed, “It is so great to be able to host this competition here in Whistler with a full Whistler hospitality crew on the tasting panel. With a record 167 wines submitted, you can definitely see that there’s some excitement in the industry for Cornucopia’s 20th Anniversary.”

Eric Griffith, of Whistler’s Alta Bistro noted, “The tasting was set up professionally with DJ Kearney overseeing to allow for a blind tasting and it was a real test to taste so many wines systematically and assess their merits in a short time.  The panels were moderated very well and the tasting groups were able to focus in on the wines which were the best in the flights – there was a lot of agreement concerning the the best of each grouping and which wines were considered for the Top 20.  I felt that our group did a good job finding the best, no wines that weren’t meant to be top were left behind.  The wines voted into the Top 20 are definitely worth finding and buying for enjoyment this Fall at Cornucopia!”

As in previous years, the judges recognized the Top 20 wines and awarded three wines as the Top Bubble, Top White and Top Red.

Without further ado, the Top 20 wines for 2016 are:

Top Bubble – Haywire The BUB 2014
Top White – Quails’ Gate Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay 2014
Top Red – Kaiken Reserva Malbec 2013

Best of the Rest, in alphabetical order:

  • Barossa Valley Estate Shiraz 2014
  • Black Hills Nota Bene 2014
  • C.C. Jentsch Cellars Cabernet Merlot 2014
  • C.C. Jentsch Cellars Syrah 2014
  • Ceretto Barolo DOCG 2011
  • Ceretto Langhe DOC Arneis Blangé
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling 2014
  • Culmina Family Estate Winery Dilemma 2014
  • Foxtrot Vineyards Foxtrot Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013
  • Hardys William Hardy Shiraz 2014
  • Harper’s Trail Pioneer Block Dry Riesling 2014
  • Howard Park Miamup Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
  • Mascota Vineyards Unanime 2012
  • Pegau Plan VSIG
  • Tantalus Chardonnay 2014
  • Villa Maria Taylors Pass Vineyard Chardonnay 2013
  • Villa Maria Taylors Pass Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012

Cornucopia participants can congratulate the winners and sample these wines during the festival at Crush Grand Tasting, and Cornucopia Trade Tasting (exclusive to industry professionals).

An enormous thank you to Cornucopia’s expert judges:

  • DK Kearney, Head Judge
  • Andre St. Jacques
  • Daenna Van Mulligen
  • David Brownridge
  • Eric Blouin
  • Eric Griffith
  • Geoff Weddell
  • Joanne DiGeso
  • Kurtis Kolt
  • Luc Trottier
  • Michael Kompass
  • Olivia Halla
  • Paul Street
  • Samantha Rahn
Judges Daenna Van Mulligen, Geoff Weddell and Michael Kompass Photo: Julie Zoney


Flight of White at the Top 20. Photo: Julie Zoney