Panel Tastings

No tasting approach is perfect but wine competitions are usually judged by panels for good reason.  An experienced, interested, articulate group of wine tasters judging properly under optimal conditions, tends to reduce the variation in opinion due to fatigue, mood, personal preferences etc. that can result from that of a single palate even if it is a superior one.

The idea for BC Pinot Noir began in January 2011 with a series of nine pinot noir tastings with our then panel.  Due to time constraints the project was put on hold until the launch of this web site in the Summer of 2013. Pinot noir panel tastings begin again in January 2014.  For personal reasons the tastings were paused again in December 2015 and resumed in January 2018

Panel members and guest panelists are listed below.


Current Panel

Lee Cross

Lee has an acute wine palate, is an accomplished amateur chef and has been drinking wine with interest for over 30 years. She is a long standing member and past board member of the Vancouver American Wine Society.


Jacquelin George

Jacquelin George is formally trained as a chemical engineer, and has been passionately involved with food and wine for more than 25 years.   Jacquelin holds the WSET Diploma.

Most recently she has been sharing her knowledge and passion by offering wine education to industry professionals and keen amateurs of all levels via her consulting company Barrel Tops.

Her travels have taken her to all corners of the wine world including the classic regions of Europe, and to most of the new world.   She has extensive experience as an amateur garagiste winemaker and has won Canada’s top award for amateur winemakers.

Her quest to taste the world’s best Pinot Noirs is an ongoing adventure.


Brent Gushowaty

Brent’s serious interest in wine started on his wedding day when a friend suggested letting a red wine “breathe” for an hour and then discovered to his surprise that he was able to taste the difference.

Though mostly self-taught, his interest in wine took him to London in the early eighties to the Wine Department of Christie’s Auction House where a six month series of tutored tastings with the likes of Jancis Robinson, Michael Broadbent, Stephen Spurrier, Serena Sutcliffe and others, made wine a lifelong pursuit.  He has made wine trips to Germany, California, and the Willamette Valley and toured the French wine regions extensively.  He holds WSET Advanced (Distinction).

In British Columbia, Brent worked for a number of years as a wine agency representative, founded Balance Wine Consultants, managed a wine bistro in Victoria and founded the Victoria Wine Society.  He has taught wine appreciation at North Island College, tutored numerous private tastings and was a wine consultant at SIP Wines VQA in Richmond for seven years.

Brent also contributes wine reviews to Canada’s largest wine review web site nataliemaclean.com and is a serious amateur chef.  He began BCPinotNoir.com in 2011.


Ariel Kirk-Gushowaty

Ariel is an art photographer, writer and film-maker.  She holds a BA in Philosophy and Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto, and a certificate in Photography from Langara College.  Her work has been shown in Canada and Japan.  She has toured a number of French wine regions, has an acute palate and brings a precise, articulate but unrestrained sense of metaphor to the descriptions of the wines she tastes.   Her work can be found at arielkg.viewbook.com and aantennavision.blogspot.com


Eric Urquhart

Eric has a keen interest in wine but is also fascinated with all things fermentable and the conditions and processes of fermentation. He has a diploma in food processing from BCIT, a BSc Biology and Masters of Pest Management centred on biological control using fungi and a PhD centred on modes of action of yeast-like fungi for bio-control.

Not surprisingly, Eric’s approach to wine also includes a more technical viewpoint.  He is as interested in the how and why of food, wine and cooking as much as the flavour and savour.  This focus gives him an excellent understanding of the biochemistry of  winemaking and other processes.  He has been making wine, cider and sourdough bread for the past 20 plus years and his approach helps him to develop his excellent recipes and delicious home made wines.   Likewise, his wine tasting approach looks first for technical flaws (and if present, identifying the problem), then flavours and overall balance.

Eric’s interest in B.C. wines dates back to 1984 and he has watched with great interest the changes which have occurred in the wine industry in B.C. and the Pacific Northwest.  He was a wine consultant at SIP Wines VQA for almost a decade.

Eric has an enviable ability to sense, identify and articulate scent and flavours in wine and is also blessed with an almost photographic taste memory.

His homemade ice cream is to die for.


Past Guest Panelists

Valerie Stride
After taking her first wine tour ever on Vancouver Island in 2011, Valerie knew she had fallen in love…with wine.

A certified teacher, Valerie brings organized attention to detail and that very much includes wine tasting.  For Valerie wine is a diamond – multi-faceted and incomparable – a combination of art, science, love, history, culture, competition, survival, and mystery.

When Valerie is not teaching, she can be often be found with her nose inside of a wine book or ISO tasting glass, working for a B.C. winery, or writing about wine and wine theory on her website, The Demystified Vine  (www.demystifiedvine.com).

Valerie currently holds the WSET Advanced certification and in the summer of 2014, she traveled  to Santa Barbara, California, on scholarship as an attendee for her second Wine Bloggers Conference.  Her future plans include taking both her Diploma and Cicerone certifications.

Valerie joined us for our 22nd tasting.


Eric Hanson

Eric is a retired biology, chemistry, history teacher who now teaches science methods classes to student teachers at UBC and mentors them during their practicum.

In 1978 he had the good fortune to teach in Adelaide, South Australia, smack dab in the middle of the wine country. In that year Down Under, with hundreds of wineries at his doorstep, he became immersed in the enchanting world of wine visiting all the South Aussie wineries, including the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale.

Since then, Eric has worked on air at CISL Radio and hosted a daily wine program. He has also been a wine writer for the BCLDB and worked at SIP Wines VQA in Richmond. Eric has also taught night school wine appreciation classes throughout Metro Vancouver, including Richmond, Burnaby, Surrey, New Westminster, Langley, Vancouver, Capilano University, and UBC for the past twenty-five years. He writes a regular wine column, Sips Happen, with the Richmond News.

Eric says he feels compelled to conclude that he has a passion for wine!

Eric joined us for our 19th and 20th tastings.


Josh Decolongon

Josh’s venture into wine began with a birthday bottle of BC syrah. His subsequent detour into science education led him to probe the realms of the oenological, and he made a decision to take wine courses with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust on a whim.

He is currently studying at the diploma level of WSET and finding himself fascinated by wine as a crossroads of art, science, business, culture and food. This is natural for a student whose year end project in the first year of university involved mathematics and muffins.

Through his new found love for wine, Josh eventually began leading UBC’s Wine Tasting Club as well as becoming the wine columnist for the university’s student newspaper. He also writes in his spare time, documenting his adventures-in-alcohol by blending wine tasting with his musings and ideas on his blog (www.joshlikeswine.com). Josh has also completed the introductory course with the Court of Master Sommeliers and hopes to become a Certified Sommelier in the near future. Besides wine, his other interests involve photography, science, languages, cooking, music, and – as blasphemous as it may be – beer and spirits.

Josh joined us for our 11th Tasting


Past Panelists

Juliana Garcia

Juliana moved to Canada from Bogota, Colombia in 2004 to attend the University of Calgary. After receiving her Masters in Political Science, she pursued a career with the Latin American Research Centre in Calgary and learned quickly that this wasn’t for her.  Juliana decided to take some time off to fulfill one of her dreams and set sail on the Mediterranean Sea.

Anchored off the shore of Southern France, she spent her time visiting vineyards and tasting new wines. In doing so, she rediscovered her passion for wine and decided that it would become her new career.  After a few months of languishing in the wine regions of France, she jumped at an opportunity to complete her WSET Advanced certification in London, England.

Juliana returned to Canada in 2012 and worked at Marquis Wine Cellars for over a year. Most recently she became part of the sales team at Free House Wine & Spirits in Vancouver.  She is known for the bubbly personality, is fluent in Spanish, English and German, and has visited wine regions in seven countries.


2011 Panel

Lee Cross

Brent Gushowaty

Ariel Kirk-Gushowaty


John Levine
John had a long and innovative career in the restaurant business, and his accomplishments there included amongst others, introducing fresh pizza to Vancouver through John’s Pizzarama and creating the very successful Brother Jon’s restaurant in Gastown.

He was deeply interested in fine wine, long before it became popular and was amongst the earliest wine writers and wine educators in Vancouver.  He also had a radio show in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

He was the past president of the International Wine and Food Society Vancouver branch and founded the Vancouver American Wine Society.  In 1979 while on the board of the Playhouse Theatre he got the idea to start what would become the Vancouver International Wine Festival, by inviting his friend Robert Mondavi to come to Vancouver and do a couple of tastings.  He was the founding chairman and helmed the festival for the next ten years.  It grew to be the largest consumer wine show in North America. In 2014 175 wineries will be participating.

John was also the Senior Wine Consultant at SIP Wines and was inducted into BC Restaurant Hall of Fame (pioneer category) in 2012.

John unfortunately passed away in 2012 and is greatly missed by everyone who knew him.  His vast wine tasting experience, wonderful stories and irascible intelligence are very much missed on our panel.  Of the many tributes to John that poured in perhaps the most elegant and fitting was that of Kettle Valley Winery who renamed it’s best single vineyard pinot noir John’s Block in his memory.

His ashes were scattered at the vineyards of and become part of the terroir, at Kettle Valley in the Okanagan, The Robert Mondavi Estate in Napa and La Tache in Burgundy.


Kelly McCarry

Kelly holds a WSET intermediate certificate and is a graduate of the Baking and Pastry program Art Institute of Vancouver.  She was a also a wine consultant for four years with Village Wines Dunbar.  She is passionate about food, wine, travel, and animals, and her original inspiration for food and wine began after a trip to Europe – pastries in Paris, in particular…

Eric Urquhart

Mark Wright

Mark has been in the wine trade since 1985 starting part-time at the B.C. estate wine store at the Hudson’s Bay.  He went on to the manage the international wine store at Dundarave, the Dunbar VQA wine store for eight years, and Jake’s Crossing Liquor Store in Port Moody.

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