Posts Tagged ‘washington state’

Syrah/Shiraz…France, Australia, North America…what’s the difference?

September 14, 2016

As usual, I have been drinking a lot of Syrah lately, and continue to be amazed at how different the style of the wine can be depending on where it is made/what winemakers want to do with it.

Most people are probably familiar with the Syrah/Shiraz differences…same grape, but made in a different way. Syrah is typically full of peppery black cherries, touch of earth, a bit lean (but not unripe) and no oak at all. Shiraz, on the other hand, is often a fruit bomb – blackberry jam, so ripe it almost appears sweet, and the oak appears as vanilla.

Syrah is most famous in France (northern Rhone, to be specific, where it makes such famous wines as Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas and Cote Rotie). And Shiraz, of course, is almost synonymous with Australia.

But both styles are also made elsewhere, and can be dead ringers for those made in these homelands. Washington State, for example, makes some great Rhone style Syrahs, and I am very proud to say that BC does as well! Cassini Cellars, Moraine, Quinta Ferreira, Moon Curser…all are very nice. And the best is by Nichol Vineyards, which at 8 yrs old is almost indistinguishable from a Crozes Hermitage.

Interestingly, when made elsewhere, Syrah can taste almost totally different!

One of my favourites is California, where many producers balance the Northern Rhone style with additional ripeness (but not the jamminess of Shiraz). Ojai is a good example. But this style also appears elsewhere, including in my home province, where Orofino makes a stunningly ripe wine!

I have also found that when Syrah is made in Italy, Chile and South Africa, it often takes on much more earthiness, and herbalness (if oak is used to age the wine). These wines aren’t my style, but some people swear by them, particularly because the latter examples can be great bargains.

In general, I find that oak — at least overt oak — doesn’t add to my enjoyment of Syrah, adding too much of the Bordeaux style herbs and woodiness.

But that is just me! The important thing is to know the different styles of Syrah, find out what you like, and then follow your style…it may appear in a whole bunch of places you never thought of!




March 26, 2014

Alright, alright…I know it is a popular topic to beat on, but given we just got back from a short trip to Seattle, I just have to blog on the subject of restaurant wine prices!

I have written about the subject before up here. Restaurants that charge 200% – 300% markup, wine “by the glass” at around $15 a glass that is often oxidized and/or under poured…you know the drill.

But it seemed like everywhere we turned last weekend, a better solution was staring me in the face (or in the mouth, as it turned out)!

It started the moment we got on the Amtrak Cascades out of Vancouver on Friday evening. I knew that they sold wine by the half bottle along with the prepared food, so with a five hour ride in front of us – and no kids to look after – I headed off to the Coach Café to see what the options were. And I couldn’t believe my eyes!

A half bottle of Coppola Merlot (a very nice wine from California, and the famous director of the Godfather movies) was $15! If you could find it in Vancouver, it would sell for about $25 in the government liquor stores. And, as per above, a glass in a restaurant would probably be $15. What a deal! And we didn’t even try the white wine – the regular Chardonnay from Chateau St. Michelle, a Washington winery that also makes great wine. Same price, same story….

Next up, dinner on Saturday night at what turned out to be a fabulous Spanish restaurant called Andaluca. I had checked out the wine list on-line and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! A very nice selection of Spanish wines – from Rioja, Ribera del Duero, etc. – and most of them in the $50 – $65 range! All of them highly rated by wine critics! In Vancouver, with the regular mark ups, there are many restaurants where the introductory wines start at $60…for a wine that sells for $12 retail.

But then I got to the restaurant and, looking at the menu, got an even better (or worse) surprise – all Washington State wines were 15% off! I almost fell out of my chair. A couple of quick searches on my Blackberry found a Rhone Blend called Midnight by Scarborough was rated 91 points by Parker…and $50! After the rebate, that meant it was $42.50! I leave you to guess what I did.

I could go on about the prices of wines in the private wine stores….or the deals on wine (and spirits) at Trader Joe’s…but I think you get the picture.

Our province – and its restaurants – could take a big lesson from what is going on in Washington State. At a minimum, deals on BC wines would be a great step forward.

But who is going to have the guts to take that first step?