I managed to snag a couple of samples courtesy of Stag’s Hollow in the Okanagan. Finding any wines from British Columbia at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario is rare as finding Ontario wines at the SAQ in Quebec!
The first is a 2018 Syrah from the Okanagan Valley. It has a black cherry colour. As for its aroma? It is heady black cherry, blackberry, blueberry with a bit of licorice. On the palate I would say mild but broad based and smooth tannins. Lots of black fruit on the palate with a touch of pepper on the moderately long finish. In this case I feel like I am in the Northern Rhône in France as the fruit is held back very much in the French style whereas many Okanagan Syrah’s are more fruit forward. I am not saying a French style of Syrah from the Northern Rhône is the better of the two. Just different. I will say there is a bit of proud elegance to this Syrah. I might even be persuaded to call this a classy wine. True to the Northern Rhône there is white wine here in the blend that being 9.2% of the aromatic Viognier.
The grapes were from the Amalia Vineyard, Osoyoos West Bench.
My thought as to food pairing would be for lamb on the grill coated with pesto served with a melody of baked butternut squash, organic sweet potatoes, heirloom carrots tossed with extra virgin olive oil, crushed toasted almonds and maple syrup. I have a source for Ontario organic lamb so I am sure there are organic lambs to be had in the Okanagan. Speaking of food this wine is built for food which will bring the best out of it. The winery suggests cured meats, steak, lamb brisket heavily seasoned dishes with black pepper, aged cheeses, sausage, grilled meat or for the adventurous grilled eggplant, Asian dishes with plum sauce, stir fried pork, red wine braised octopus, venison or veal seared tuna. I can’t take issue with these suggestions.
As for music pairings a must with Chet Baker jazz particularly with his vocal numbers.
The grapes were hand harvested and destemmed which might help explain the relatively mild tannins. Each lot was pressed individually into a combination of French oak barriques, hogsheads and puncheons of which 14% were new.
383 cases were made. The winery suggests it can age over the next 5 years. Although a delicious wine I would reduce that to three years.
All said and done a great Okanagan take on a Northern Rhône Syrah wine. Restrained and elegant, Nothing is out of whack here.
There is another Syrah from Stag’s Hollow called a 2018 Renaissance Syrah also from grapes grown in the Amalia Vineyard but instead of a Northern Rhône style it is in the Southern Rhône style which I would hazard to say is a bit more full bodied and aggressive.
So on the nose it is a bit more “aggressive” than the White Label Syrah reviewed above. The blackberry, black cherry and red plum is more intense that the White Label nose. On the palate the acids and tannins are greater than the White Label but balanced and controlled. Instead of pepper we get in the White Label version we have some spiciness and earthiness. I can’t find much fruit though as once again it takes on a French rather than Okanagan profile, I will venture to say there is an elegance here. I was not expecting as Southern Rhône Syrah’s and wines in general are more in your face type of wines. The smaller blend of Viognier (1.2%) here as opposed to the 9% in the White Label Syrah might explain the slightly different profiles of the wine.
Decanting the wine will often soften the wine but strangely here give it a half hour and it becomes more aggressive and Southern Rhône in temperament. Quite frankly this wine is still an infant and will start hitting its stride in 2023 and last until 2027. I wish I could give assurances of greater longevity but I have had a couple of unsatisfactory ageing experiences with a couple of Okanagan Syrah’s (Not from Stag’s Hollow) that were tremendous when first tried but stinky and tossable after 5 years in the cellar.
Let us bear in mind that 2018 was not an ideal growing season in the Okanagan particularly for reds with forest fire smoke in August and a cool and wet September. Both these wines are excellent but one can only imagine what an ideal growing season could produce.
As for food this Renaissance Syrah is made for food and the food suggested for the White Label above applies equally here.
Do I have a favourite. No. Stylistically quite similar and pardon me different from the more immediately accessible Okanagan Syrah’s I have tasted in the past. Different does not mean better or worse. My curiosity leads me to a wish to visit the Okanagan over a 5-day period and really dig into Syrah’s and other wines to get a sense of the region. The LCBO isn’t providing any inventory. There are no media tours to the Okanagan I am familiar with and there does not appear to be any governmental funding to promote trips by wine journalists who simply can’t afford the trip. Wine writing is a money losing profession.
( Stag’s Hollow Winery, Okanagan Falls British Columbia, $38, 13.5%, 750 mL, Robert K. Stephen Set The Bar Rating 92/100).