Syrah at Canada House
The only link I could find between Canada and the Languedoc is Syrah, so that is what I tasted, amongst other things, at the recent trade tasting, Taste Canada 2022. And I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Syrah. There were some shining examples of how well Syrah can perform in a challenging climate, and they came mostly from British Colombia rather than Ontario.
My good friend and fellow MW Barbara Philip, who is based in Vancouver, had pointed me in the direction of some names that were unfamiliar with them. So thanks to Barbara I made a very good start Le Vieux Pin winery, in the Okanagan Valley with Severine Pinte and three delicious Syrah. Flint Wines are the U.K. importers of Le Vieux Pin
2020 Cuvée Violette 13.9°
From six different vineyards. Syrah co-fermented with 2.5% Viognier, and thirteen months in barrel. Medium colour. Quite a perfumed nose, and palate. Perfumed and elegant. Lovely fruit with a balancing streak of tannin. A great start to my tasting. I liked this a lot.
2018 Equinoxe 14.4°
18 months in barrel. Quite a deep colour. A rounded nose. Quite firm fresh youthful fruit. Good structure and balance. Nicely peppery. Youthful potential. A more serious wine with more ageing potential.
2013 Equinoxe 13.5°
Apparently quite a hot summer, but cooler weather for the harvest. A little colour development. Quite perfumed fruit. Quite fresh and elegant on the palate, with some acidity as well as supple tannins. Still youthful, but drinking nicely.
Painted Rock 2016 Syrah 14.3°
Medium colour. Some dry tapenade on the nose and on the palate medium weight. Some black fruit, rounded with a slightly earthy note on the finish.
Poplar Grove Winery 2018 Syrah 14.9°
From the southern part of the Okanagan valley which is pretty near desert and a natural continuation of Washington State. Deep young colour. Ripe nose, with black tapenade fruit, which reminded me of the Languedoc. A ripe palate, and quite fleshy with a tannin streak. 14 months in oak, one third new. Still youthful.
Stag’s Hollow Winery, 2019 Syrah, Amalia vineyard
2019 was a cool vintage. Light colour. Quite a fragrant perfumed nose and on the palate, quite fresh and fragrant. Lightly perfumed fruit with elegant tannins. I liked this a lot. They also made a Dolcetto which was quite ripe and savoury, but not really Dolcetto.
Diamond Estates Wines & Spirits
2016 Creekside Broken Press Syrah, VQA St David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula 13°
2016 was a good vintage. A story about a broken press at the harvest accounts for the name of the wine. 3% Viognier in the fermentation and from three different vineyards. Medium colour. Nicely rounded nose. Lightly leathery note on the palate, but rounded with good fruit and mouthfeel. Nicely evolved.
ICellars Estate Winery Bench 2019 Syrah
Medium colour. Nicely leathery notes. Quite firm but supple fruit on the palate. Lots of nuances.
I was told that the grapes were handpicked, and carefully sorted. A cold soak for six days before fermentation in stainless steel vats, which took two weeks. Gentle pressing. Fermentation in barrel and oak aged for 24 months. In small barrels, some new. A lovely finale to the Canadian Syrahs.
But there were some other highlights.
I suddenly spotted my fellow MW Olivier Humbrecht, of Alsace fame, and last seen by me in Georgia on an MW trip. So what was he doing in Canada? Consulting for Phantom Creek Estate, and helping them with their Riesling and Pinot Gris. And delicious they were too.
Quails Gate, where I stayed when I went to British Colombia in the last century, had a fine range of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. My friend Barbara had also recommended Stratus Estate, for some Cabernet Franc and some wonderfully original white wines, with exotic blends of Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Semillon, and maybe Viognier and Gewürztraminer.
Bill Redelmeier of Southbrook Organic Vineyards was showing what is probably Canada’s only orange wine, Estate Skin Fermented White, VQA Ontario, from that very Canadian variety Vidal. It is very suitable for orange wine as it has thick skins. Bill began experimenting about ten years ago. The juice spends about 30 days on the skins. There were notes of orange and some fresh tannin. Very intriguing and original.
And I could not resist some sparkling wine from Nova Scotia, from Blomidon Estate – after all how often do you get a chance to try wines from Nova Scotia? And when I had walked out of Canada house, I suddenly realised that I had not tried a single Ice wine, but I cannot say that I am sorry about that. The Syrah were really quite a revelation.
Le Vieux Pin Equinoxe is one of the top BC Syrah IMHO, but at over $100CAD shelf price, it's beyond affordability for most and arguably not good value when compared with Northern Rhone or other New World examples.
I wouldn't consider Poplar Grove in the southern part of the Okanagan Valley, but I'm nitpicking.
So-called "orange" wines are becoming more mainstream and there are many producers, in BC at least, that are "dabbling" in an effort to appeal to the "natural wine" consumer. One of the best examples was Free Form White by Haywire in Summerland, BC, 100% Sauv Blanc if I'm not mistaken. It earned a mention in Simon Woolf's Amber Revolution. Unfortunately, it is no longer produced in it's original iteration.
I live and drink in BC and can certainly attest to the improvement in quality over the past 30 years. Quail's Gate 1994 Pinot Noir was one of the first BC wines to achieve some renown, at least locally.
BC has not been spared the acceleration of global warming over the past 15+ years.
I agree with your positive assessment of Nova Scotia sparklers. A BC winery in the Fraser Valley, BC is growing l'Acadie Blanc grapes.
Thanks for taking the time to attend this event, sample these wines and offer your thoughtful comments.
Always looking forward to you posts.