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Somm Smackdown 2020

B.C. Wine Institute names Andrew Forsyth the first-ever Wines of British Columbia Top Sommelier 2020

B.C. Wine Institute names Andrew Forsyth the first-ever Wines of British Columbia Top Sommelier 2020

British Columbians have always known there is something magical about this province, and it is in no small part attributable to our world class wines and mind-blowing cuisine. After a challenging and exciting three-part competition that swept the finest wine regions in western Canada, The B.C. Wine Institute (BCWI) has awarded the inaugural title of Wines of British Columbia Top Sommelier 2020 to Andrew Forsyth, sommelier of L’Abattoir Restaurant in Vancouver, affirming once again the province’s position among the world’s finest wine destinations.

The Chef Meets B.C. Grape Somm Smackdown Competition Series Finale this October came together between BCWI and the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS) B.C. with a singular mission: to recruit and challenge the best and brightest sommeliers in B.C. and Alberta. The region’s best answered the call to compete in a three-part innovative competition involving written exams, blind tastings, virtual dinners, and the ultimate B.C. wine pairing challenge—and the results were outstanding.

“Chef Meets B.C. Grape Somm Smackdown brought the B.C. wine industry together to celebrate our world class B.C. wine, food and hospitality,” said Miles Prodan, president and CEO, B.C. Wine Institute. “We’re excited to collaborate with CAPS to highlight B.C.’s incredible wine country and showcase the amazing talent in our industry, the sommelier and chef community, and the incredible 100 percent B.C. wines in our own backyard.”

The competition kicked off with top sommeliers completing written and blind tasting challenges in Victoria, Vancouver and Calgary. The top three from each city moved on to compete for “Best B.C. Wine Pairing” in a virtual multi-chef collaborative Chef Meets B.C. Grape Somm Smackdown dinner series, and this is where things got interesting.

Sommeliers were tasked with pairing 100 percent B.C. wine with local creations prepared by top chefs in a three-course dinner—a task requiring unbelievable know-how and precision, given the exquisite flavours of B.C. wine and gourmet fare. Wine pairings and dinner packs were delivered to esteemed wine and food critics with pre-recorded videos on how to prepare and assemble the dishes, and eager food and wine lovers tuned in to the live event via a Zoom link. The competition was fierce—chefs critiqued the dishes and sommeliers defended their wine pairings, while the judges tasted along and voted for “Best B.C. Wine Pairing”.

Phantom Creek Estate Winery / Wines of British Columbia

Finally, the competition came down to winning sommeliers from each virtual event who competed in a three-round finale in the Okanagan, pairing B.C. wines with plates created by acclaimed B.C. wine country chefs.

 The sommelier finalists included:

  • Adriano Cartuliares, Sommelier and Wine Director, 10 Acres in Victoria
  • Andrew Forsyth, Sommelier, L’Abattoir Restaurant in Vancouver
  • Jean Taylor, Diploma Wine & Spirits Education Trust, Canadian Wine Scholar and Store Manager for Calgary Co-op Wine Spirits Beer

Votes were accumulative over the three days, with Forsyth coming out on top with the highest overall percentage of votes across all three rounds.

In round one, Forsyth’s pairing of 1 Mill Road Vineyards’ Home Block Pinot Noir 2018 with Quails’ Gate/Old Vines Restaurant Chef Roger Sleiman’s sablefish with soy marinade, celeriac puree, fennel and beurre rouge helped bring this sommelier to overall victory.

Forsyth paired LaStella Winery’s Moscato D’Osoyoos 2019 with Phantom Creek Estate Winery Chef Sarah Fiore’s melon salad with habanero vinegar in round two, and for the finale, Adriano Cartuliares’ brought Le Vieux Pin Winery’s Equinoxe Syrah 2011 together with The Restaurant at Poplar Grove Chef Rob Ratcliffe’s aged duck breast with rye berries and macadamia nut in round three.

“It feels amazing to win, especially with the extraordinary palates I had judging me and the two talented somms that I got to compete against. It’s an incredible feeling,” said Forsyth.

In addition to taking home the title of the very first Wines of British Columbia Top Sommelier 2020, Forsyth also secured a spot in the fourth annual Wine B.C. BootCamp for an all-inclusive four-day, three-night educational trip in B.C. wine country, slated to go ahead in spring 2021.

For more details on the Chef Meets B.C. Grape Somm Smackdown, visit Wines of British Columbia online or on FacebookInstagram or Twitter.