B.C. Wine Culture

Steven Spurrier. Supplied photo

August 25, 2015, was a momentous day for British Columbia wine. That was the day the legendary Steven Spurrier came to the Okanagan Valley to lead a tasting known as the Judgment of B.C. It pitted local Chardonnays and Syrahs against some of the world’s best. And by the time the Judgment came down, the 2013 C.C. Jentsch Syrah had defeated powerhouse wines from Barossa, California and the Rhône Valley.

It wasn’t as propulsive a moment as the 1976 Judgment of Paris that hurtled California wines onto the world stage. But it helped establish B.C. as a wine producer to watch.

Now two of the forces behind that important event are gone, and the loss is immeasurable.

On March 9, the wine world lost one of its most dynamic, charming and influential leaders, the British wine merchant, educator and writer Steven Spurrier. He was 79.

Spurrier will forever be remembered for the famous wine tasting known as The Judgment of Paris. On May 24, 1976, he set up a blind tasting of French and California wines, 10 Chardonnay and 10 Cabernet Sauvignon, for a panel of illustrious French judges. To almost everyone’s shock, the California wines won in both categories, forever changing the world’s perception of New World wines. The event was immortalized in the 2008 film Bottle Shock as well as a documentary produced by the team behind the Somm series, to be released this summer.

Chris Jentsch. Supplied photo

Then on April 2, B.C.’s wine community lost one of its most positive, optimistic, generous and enthusiastic leaders. Christopher Carl Jentsch, co-owner with his beloved wife Betty of C.C. Jentsch Cellars in Oliver, passed away suddenly at the age of 58. He was a longtime viticulturalist who only recently turned his hand to making wine. Almost immediately, he saw the kind of success most winemakers only dream of when the second vintage he’d ever produced won the Judgment of BC.

Throughout a storied career, Spurrier’s motto was “Drink for mood and not for food.” Though our mood is sombre right now, we’ll raise a glass to that.

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