Chef Awards



  • Chef: Jesse Friesen
  • Restaurant: Pizzeria Gusto
  • Pairing: Thirty Bench Riesling

Best of Show

Tawse 2014 Spark Brut


  • Chef: Melissa Makarenko
  • Restaurant: Resto Gare Bistro & Train Bar
  • Pairing: Closson Chase Chardonnay

Best of Show

Nichol Vineyard 2014 Pinot Grigio


  • Chef: Barry Saunders
  • Restaurant: Inn at the Forks/Era Bistro & Catering
  • Pairing: Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve Shiraz

Best of Show

Thirty Bench 2012 Riesling

James-Chatto-by-George-Whiteside-high-resCulinary Report
by James Chatto by National Culinary Advisor

“Great to be in Winnipeg in the summer,” joked Jim Cuddy from the stage, and indeed it felt like shirtsleeves weather coming in from the airport as this beautiful and improbably persistent autumn lingers. Our destination was the huge and sprawncy, brand new South Building of Winnipeg’s Convention Centre, made extra-glamorous for our GMP gala. Scott Russell was again our wise and witty emcee; the band was almost an orchestra with Jim Cuddy joined by Ed Robertson, Alan Doyle, Barney Bentall, Geoffrey Kelly and Matthew Harder from Spirit of the West and Rebecca Harder on accordion. Together they gave us some of the best music of the entire campaign.

Click Here to Read More

david-new-2014Wine Report
by David Lawrason, National Wine Advisor

It was most fitting that the city at the centre of the country seemed to bring everything together so well – from the equal representation of wines from east and west, to a great group of convivial judges, to the only liquor board in Canada that actually gives back to GMP and our Olympic athletes instead of exacting taxes on the wines we pour.

Yet again, a sparkling wine took top honours for The Best of Show – the third time in this 2016 campaign.  The bristling, intense Tawse 2014 Spark Riesling Brut emerged as a strong winner among the selection of wines from BC and Ontario.  Borrowing from German tradition that uses riesling in traditional method sparkling instead of chardonnay and pinot noir as used in Champagne, this makes all kinds of sense in Niagara where riesling is so prominent.

The first runner-up this night was a quirky, amber-shaded pinot gris estate-grown at Nichol Vineyard on the Okanagan’s Naramata Bench. Some might have expected a sweetish rose but this is a dry, impeccably balanced expression of B.C.’s number one white grape (that turns purple-grey as it ripens)

The third runner-up was back to Niagara and a gorgeous, maturing 2012 Riesling from Thirty Bench, an Andrew Peller owned winery that is leading Ontario with this variety.

These winners, and every wine poured this night in the spacious new RBC Convention Centre were sponsored by the Liquor Mart stores operated by Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries. No other liquor board in the country shows this kind of generosity, which makes life so much easier for the participating chefs and wineries, allowing them to send their best.

On this glorious autumn afternoon I was joined by seven Winnipeg wine authorities to taste and talk through the wines, and rank our favourites.

First, a good friend and judge at National Wine Awards of Canada; Ben McPhee Sigurdson, wine columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press.  For the first time (and finally) Carolyn Herntier who focuses on Canadian wine for the Liquor Mart stores was able to participate. Christopher Sprague, the man behind the great wine list at 529 Wellington and co-ordinator of the GMP silent auction was also on hand.  Andrea Alby, Sylvia Jansen and Gary Hewitt are talented tasters and educators at Banville and Jones, one of Manitoba’s fine wine stores.  Sean Dolenuk plies his talents at Boutique Del Vino. And finally, Domer Rafael who manages the wine program for the Rossmere Golf and Country Club.

For the full story on how the wines fared with the winning chefs, please see James Chatto’s Culinary Report

Here are the Winnipeg wines in serving order as suggested to the judges:

Jackson- Triggs Brut Cuve Close
Niagara Peninsula, ON

Tawse Spark 2014 Riesling Brut
Niagara Peninsula, ON

Thirty Bench 2012 Riesling
Niagara Peninsula, ON

CedarCreek 2015 Pinot Gris
Okanagan Valley, BC

Nichol 2015 Pinot Gris
Naramata, Okanagan Valley, BC

Closson Chase 2014 Chardonnay, Closson Chase Vnyd
Prince Edward County, ON

Nk’Mip Cellars  2015  Dreamcathcer
Okanagan Valley, BC

Sandhill 2015 Viognier Osprey Ridge Vineyard
Okanagan Valley, BC

Trius 2014 Cabernet Franc
Niagara Peninsula, ON

Cave Spring 2012 Cabernet Franc
Niagara Peninsula, ON

Mission Hill Family Estate 2013 Reserve Shiraz
Okanagan Valley, BC


  • Chef: Norm Pastorin
  • Restaurant: The Cornerstone
  • Pairing: Burrowing Owl Chardonnay, VQA Okanagan Valley, BC
  • Chef: Jesse Friesen
  • Restaurant: 295 York
  • Pairing: Steller’s Jay Brut VQA, Okanagan Valley, BC Sumac Ridge
  • Chef: Melissa Makarenko
  • Restaurant: Resto Gare Restaurant
  • Pairing: Winnipeg Blue Bomber Premium Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon VQA Niagara, Ontario Strewn

James-Chatto-by-George-Whiteside-high-resCulinary Report by James Chatto

What a way to kick off the new Gold Medal Plates campaign! It was a very busy night in Winnipeg with the Jets home opener (they won!) and many eyes on Kansas City for the Jays game (we know what happened there). But our sell-out crowd gave their full attention to the awesome show we put on at the Convention Centre, emceed by the eloquent and witty Curt Harnett. Rocking the room were our musical stars Barney Bentall, Matthew Harder from Spirit of the West, Rebecca Harder, Devin Cuddy and Sam Polley.
This is GMP’s 10th anniversary and there was plenty of talk about the event here 10 years ago when chef Makoto Ono won the gold medal and then went on to win the first ever Canadian Culinary Championship. And of course anticipation of the Rio Olympics was also strong among the 15 Olympic athletes – and everyone else who showed “a splash of colour” in their finery.

Our expert judges certainly looked splendid, led by Senior Judge Barbara O’Hara (a Chef of Distinction herself and owner of Dessert Sinsations Café), Jeff Gill (a chef, chef instructor and Director, Food Services at Red River College), Christine Hanlon (journalist, food writer and co-author of The Manitoba Book of Everything), Mike Green (writer, broadcaster and top-five finisher on MasterChef Canada) and last year’s Winnipeg champion, Chef Luc Jean.

A new component of our events this year is an afternoon tasting of all the wines, spirits and beers poured during the evening, hosted by David Lawrason. It was a huge success, with David and his posse of wine judges joined by whichever culinary judges wish to be present. From our point of view it was a great opportunity to get to know the chefs’ paired beverages before encountering them in the actual competition, and a merry, casual, conversational chance for Winnipeg’s wine professionals to hobnob with the food gurus, something that happens less often than one might think. Huge kudos to David for coming up with this idea!

I have no hesitation in saying the calibre of the dishes was higher than ever in Winnipeg – plates full of imagination and finesse – and the quality of the wines (and one whisky) chosen by the chefs was seriously impressive. It was a pleasure critiquing such talent and in the end the judges were unanimous in their decision.

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  • Chef: Luc Jean
  • Restaurant: Jane’s
  • Paired Wine: Lighthouse Riesling, Pelee Island, ON
  • Chef: Norm Pastorin
  • Restaurant: The Cornerstone
  • Paired Wine: Quails’ Gate Chardonnay VQA Okanagan
  • Chef: Edward Lam
  • Restaurant: Yujiro
  • Paired Wine: Henry of Petham Baco Noir 2013 VQA Ontario


  • Chef: Kelly Cattani
  • Restaurant: Elements the Restaurant, by Diversity
  • Paired Wine: Blue Mountain Pinot Noir
  • Chef: Tim Palmer
  • Restaurant: The Velvet Glove at The Fairmont Winnipeg 
  • Paired Wine: Quails’ Gate 2012 Gewurztraminer
  • Chef: Chef Simon Resch
  • Restaurant: Terrace in the Park
  • Paired Wine: John Howard’s Traveller’s Series 2011 Megalo Maniac Riesling


  • Chef: Östen Rice
  • Restaurant: Wasabi Sabi
  • Paired Wine: Gray Monk Gewürztraminer
  • Chef: Jamie Snow
  • Restaurant: Amici at Niakwa
  • Paired Beer: Half Pints Bulldog Amber Ale
  • Chef: Michael Schafer
  • Restaurant: Sydney’s at the Forks
  • Paired Wine: Dominus Vobiscum Lupulu


  • Chef: Michael Dacquisto
  • Restaurant: Dacquisto
  • Paired Wine: Gray Monk Estate Winery Gray Monk Riesling
  • Chef: Cameron Huley
  • Restaurant: 12 Resto Bar
  • Paired Wine: Henry of Pelham Estate Winery 2007 Reserve Riesling
  • Chef: Michael Schafer
  • Restaurant: Sydney’s at the Forks
  • Paired Beer: Russell Brewing Company Russell’s Blood Alley Extra Special Bitter Ale

Best Of Show


Blue Mountain Brut, VQA Okanagan Valley, BC

Burrowing Owl Chardonnay, VQA Okanagan Valley, BC

Sandhill Small Lots Sangiovese VQA Okanagan Valey, BC

David Lawrason - Wine Advisor10th Anniversary Uncorks With a Winning Night in Winnipeg

By David Lawrason, National Wine Advisor

Gold Medal Plates launched its milestone 10th season at the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg on October 16, uncorking the city’s strongest yet selection of Canadian wine in the process. And it was very fitting that the Best of Show Wine Awards should go to a sparkling wine – Blue Mountain Brut, a traditional method, very complex brut that bristled with tension, minerality and excellent length.

In fact it was the clear winner with four first place votes by a panel of eight judges who assembled to taste through the line-up for two hours in advance of the culinary competition. We moved through a total of two sparklers, four whites, five reds and Forty Creek Copper Pot Whisky, each judge ranking their top five.  In second spot came the richly detailed yet firm Burrowing Owl 2013 Chardonnay, followed by the lean, sour red fruit-laden Sandhill 2012 Small Lots  Sangiovese, narrowly edging Osyoos Larose 2010 Grand Vin.

The Best of Show Wine Award is designed to highlight the generous donations of Canada’s wineries. In ten years I am estimating that about 150 wineries have donated up to 2000 cases in support of our Olympic athletes.  In recent years in Winnipeg, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries has stepped up to cover all the wine costs; the only liquor board in the Country to make this generous gesture.

This year the Best of Show judging is being expanded to include several wine professionals in each city – journalists, buyers for liquor boards and private stores and top sommeliers.  The aim is to expose the Gold Medal Plates wines to key influencers as a way to thank the wineries, and to promote Canadian wine in each of the country’s major cities.  Gold Medal Plates is the country’s largest consumer showcase for Canadian wine.

An impressive group of judges was assembled with the help of good friend and co- judge at National Wine Awards of Canada; Ben McPhee Sigurdson, wine columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press.

The roster included repeat visits by Aaron Alblas, who guides purchasing and education for Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries,  as well as Christopher Sprague , the man behind the great wine list at 529 Wellington.  Christopher has joined Gold Medal Plates to help procure rare wines for our silent auction.

Sylvia Jansen, a recent WSET Diploma grad, and Gary Hewitt are key buyers and leading educators at Banville and Jones, one of Manitoba’s fine private wine stores.  Sean Dolenuk, who recently joined a group of leading Canadian sommeliers in Argentina plies his talents at Boutique Del Vino.  Domer Rafael who manages the wine program for the Rossmere Golf and Country Club, rounded out the roster.

Well not quite. This year the Culinary Judges are being invited to attend the pre-event wine judging. Barbara O’Hara,  a leading pastry chef in Winnipeg, was delighted to sit in on the judging. “It truly allowed me to better tune into the food and wine pairings later in the evening.  It also gave the culinary judges a chance to mingle with the community, which does not often happen.

“Winnipeg has a very strong and diverse wine community” said Ben McPhee-Sigurdsen, “with great people working in restaurants, private stores and the Manitoba Liquor Board.  It’s very important for us to get together like this.”  Many of the GMP judges are in the Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Association of Sommeliers.

Out on the competition floor, Burrowing Owl 2013 Chardonnay took a gold medal paired with a fine salmon recipe by Norm Pastorin of The Cornerstone. “ I knew what dish I would prepare as soon as I was invited to compete”, said Norm, “ but not the wine. I encountered the Burrowing Owl Chardonnay two months later and I knew that was the wine I wanted”.

The Silver medal went to Sumac Ridge Stellars Jay, paired with cured Bay scallops by Chef Jesse Friesen of 295 York.  And the bronze went to a robust, rich Pondview Cabernet Sauvignon from Niagara, labeled for the Manitoba as Winnipeg Blue Bomber Premium Reserve matched to a duo of lamb by Chef Melissa Makarenko of Resto Gare.

On this night many eyes were on smart phones checking the progress of the home opener of the Winnipeg Jets, and on the Toronto Blue Jays as they played Game One of the American League Championship. Both favourites lost, but it was a winning night for Canadian wine in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg Wines and Spirits
(in tasting order)

Blue Mountain Brut, Okanagan Valley
Stellar’s Jay Brut, Okanagan Valley
Quails Gate 2014 Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris, Okanagan Valley
Quails Gate 2014 Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley
Burrowing Owl 2013 Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley
Quails Gate 2013 Merlot, Okanagan Valley
Jackson-Triggs Okanagan 2013 Merlot Reserve, Okanagan Valley
Winnipeg Blue Bomber Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (by Pondview), Ontario
Osoyoos- LaRose 2010 Le Grand Vin, Okanagan Valley
Sandhill 2011 Small Lots Sangiovese, Okanagan Valley
White House 2014 Vidal Moscato, Ontario
Forty Creek Copper Pot Whisky, Ontario


  • 2012 Lighthouse Reisling
  • Quailsgate Chardonnay
  • 2012 Henry of Pelham Cabernet Merlot


  • Blue Mountain Pinot Noir, VQA Okanagan Valley
  • Quails’ Gate Gewürztraminer, VQA Okanagan Valley
  • Sandhill 2011 Chardonnay BC


  • Charlevoix Microbrewery, Dominus Vobiscum Lupulus, Baie-Saint-Paul, Charlevoix Québec
  • Tantalus Vineyards 2008 Pinot Noir, Burlington ON
  • Gray Monk Estate Winery 2011 Pinot Gris, Lake Country BC


  • Gray Monk 2010 Pinot Gris, Lake Country BC
  • Cave Spring 2008 Riesling, Niagara Peninsula ON
  • Henry of Pelham Off Dry 2008 Riesling, Niagara Peninsula ON