Battle of the BC Syrahs

I was looking through my cellar book this week and realized I have already tried a number of my favourite BC Syrahs this year. That gave me an idea for this blog entry…why not review them all together after the fact in a kind of competitive format?

So that’s what I am going to do! The wineries/wines in question are Nichol (2009, 2004), Burrowing Owl (2008, 2007), Township 7 (2005), Cedarcreek (2007 Platinum), Nk Mip (2006 Qwam Qwmt), Church and State (2007 Coyote Bowl) and Marichel (2006).

One thing all of these wines had in common is that they are made in a true Rhone style. No jammy blackberry Shiraz here (not that there is anything wrong with that, as the Aussie section of my wine cellar shows!). But these wines are true to the French style.

No surprise — to me, anyway — is that after reviewing my tasting notes, the Nichol wines still come out on top. The ripe, peppery black cherries are great to drink young and, as the ’04 showed, they grow more complex as they age. At almost age 8, this could easily pass for a mid-weight Crozes-Hermitage from the northern Cotes du Rhone! Ross Hackworth continues to make the best Syrah in BC and at about $32 it represents great value.

After Nichol, though, it does get competitive! Burrowing Owl is definitely a contender for number two. Their Syrah is now the only red wine I can recommend given the price/value/style combination (oh for the days of the 1998 Merlot, maybe the greatest red wine ever made in BC!). Year in, year out, this is a stylish, peppery red wine with a bit of smoke to it, but little or no wood at all. And, interestingly, at $33 it is their cheapest red wine. It just doesn’t quite have the depth of flavour of the Nichol.

The Township 7 Syrah is a strange story. At one time a few years ago, it was my favourite BC Syrah, especially since the cost was in the mid $20. And the 2005 was one of those wines! They were actually riper than the Nichol wines, a touch less peppery and more fruity, but still not jammy. Not as long lasting, they were gorgeous young and the 2005 is still in great shape. But, alas, a style change at the winery in recent years (2007 onward) has resulted in woodier, less fruity wines that I can no longer recommend.

Marichel is a relative newcomer from Naramata and their Syrah is perhaps the ripest and richest of the bunch. Richard makes a gorgeous wine full of super ripe blackberries and cherries with slightly less pepper. It is almost Shiraz-like, but stops short of being jammy. My only quibbles — it is $40 (that’s pushing it for a BC wine) and it still doesn’t have a long enough legacy to know how it is going to age. But it is still definitely worth buying.

The Nk Mip was a bit of a revelation, quite frankly. I bought it on a bit of a whim without having ever tried it — loved the Pinot Noirs, and hoped for the best. And then when I opened the 2006 Qwam Qwmt(the reserve) — wow! Bang on French style Syrah, with lots of pepper and smoky black fruit. And $35 it is in the ballpark price wise…it will be interesting to see how it ages!

Church and State was another intriguing wine for me. Their Coyote Bowl vineyard makes some beautiful wines and this Syrah was the “pepperiest” of the bunch! At first I thought too peppery, but then the dark cherry fruit started to come through. It is also leaner than the others, which is something you often find in the northern Cotes du Rhone. Very good, if not great.

Last, but hardly least, was the Cedarcreek Platinum. I’m not usually a big fan of this winery, but bought the wine because it won a bunch of awards (even though it was $40). On tasting, it was good…but would have finished at the bottom of this tasting. Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice bottle of wine. But given the price and competition, it didn’t really stack up — not enough fruit, a touch of wood/cedar….

So there you have it — long live King Nichol, but kudos to the other wines as well! They show that Syrah is — along with Pinot Noir, which will be the next blog subject — the best red wine for BC.



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