As I mentioned in my last blog, perhaps the most consistently BC red wine I tasted on my Okanagan wine tour last week was Syrah. But that begs the obvious question – which winery makes the best one?

Well, read on for my reviews (in alphabetical order)…and conclusion!

1. Burrowing Owl – this is now their best and most consistent wine, and the ’09 is another example. Purple/red, classic peppery, black fruit with appealing smokiness, ripe but not jammy, and no oak in site. For $33 at the winery, it definitely competes!

2. Cassini Cellars – Another very, very strong offering from this up and coming winery, the ’09 is riper than Burrowing Owl’s, less smoky, but still French in style (with no oak or jam). And at $29…this is a very, very good wine.

3. Church and State – in my experience, rarely do ‘Award Winning Wines’ live up to the hype, but the ’09 Coyote Bowl Syrah (a “wine of the year”) is an exception. Dark purple, it is the second ripest Syrah in my tasting (next to Marichel), with gorgeous pepper, earth and light smoke. It also has some tannin, which is ripe so doesn’t show up until the end. Winery price is $34.95 ($40 elsewhere), so not cheap…but is it really the best?

4. Hillside – this Naramata winery is just plain solid! Nothing fancy in this 2008, just peppery, earthy, medium bodied black cherry fruit. At $24.95, it is the cheapest so far!

5. Marichel – Richard Roskell is an artisan who is committed to Syrah and Viogner, Rhone style, in Naramata! He makes two Syrahs – one mixed with Viognier which, at about $17, is an unbelievable bargain in fruit forward, unoaked red wine. Just gorgeous! But his estate Syrah is serious…and at $40 it better be. Dark, brooding, the ripest of all the OK Syrahs I tasted, but still avoiding the jamminess of Shiraz. I really like it…just had the 2006 vintage, and it is aging really well, and the 2008 seems destined to do the same.

6. Moon Curser – former Twisted Tree winery in Osoyoos continues to make good value Rhone style wines. The 2010 Syrah is dry and has the most tannin of any Syrah I tasted, but there is also lots of fruit…I bought a couple to see what they taste like in a few years. At $24.95, worth the risk.

7. Nichol – Ross Hackworth has the oldest Syrah vines in BC and makes the most Rhone-style wine. What does that mean? Well, as in the 2009, expect a leaner style, more pepper and smoke, but still very ripe fruit (and no oak or greenness). The “kicker” here is what happens as this wine ages…it takes on the meaty, secondary flavours of a great North Rhone wine, becoming a dead ringer for a Crozes-Hermitage by age 8. And it can last 10 years in a good vintage. Not cheap at $34.95, but worth it for sure!

8. Orofino – the lone Similkameen entrant, I tried their Scout Syrah for the first time and was impressed! The ’10 is very ripe and a touch tannic, but the peppery black fruit easily accommodates that. And at $28.99…it competes!

9. Painted Rock – what a disappointment, unfortunately. A Lieutenant Governor’s Award winner, maybe, but really tannic, I can taste the oak…and at $40? Nope…not for me.

10. Quinta Ferreira – finally, another disappointment here. I liked – and bought – the 2008, even thought it was a bit tannic, but the 2009 is really tannic, woody and not at all fruity. Regardless of price, this is not my style of wine.

So there you go…10 Syrahs…and which is best?

Well, how about two, because there are a couple of different styles here. Best truly Rhone style Syrah is still from Nichol. I don’t know how Ross does it, but if you like Crozes-Hermitage/Hermitage – and want to spend half as much money – buy the Nichol. An absolutely amazing wine and so consistent from year to year.

But the other – even though it is the most expensive – Marichel. The ripeness and density of fruit is fabulous, like a hypothetical cross between an Aussie old vine Shiraz and a Rhone wine. Plus, really artisanal winemaking from Richard.

Honourable mention to Burrowing Owl, Cassini Cellars, Church and State and Hillside.

Next week, tune in for a Pinot Noir review!



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  1. heatherem2 Says:

    The Cassini is my favourite at the moment. If you get a chance, try the 2009 Township 7 syrah. It’s the best vintage in years in my opinion.

    • sbwineblog Says:

      Thanks for the comment! I actually just retried the ’09 T7 syrah and while it is better than earlier this year, to me it is still a bit too tannic. The style of their red wines seems to have changed over the last couple of vintages….i really enjoyed the Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot from 2002 – 2006, but not since then.


  2. heatherem2 Says:

    The 2006 Cab – definitely fantastic. My co-worker was always a massive fan of the ’06 syrah, but I found it a bit soft to be my favourite. I guess that’s why I like the ’09. cheers!

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