Guide to Canada’s Best Wines 2020 – Syrahs

Announcing Canada’s Top Syrahs

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Category Overview by Michael Godel

Having been anointed the syrah slinger for the Guide to Canada’s Best Wines it occurs to me that the one Canadian category I’ve not really waxed on much about is, in fact, syrah. That makes this short column all the more meaningful and encourages some deep introspection. The time has come to really consider a Canadian perspective in a global context but also our relationship with the most melodramatic of grape varieties. You see syrah is an enigma, more often than not a pitchy, cimmerian, obsidian and dark as night red of meaty, ferric and hematic tendencies. Not always, mind you, and in Canadian winemaking hands it comes out every which way but loose.

What can be said with alleged if unequivocal surety is that syrah crafted in Ontario is surely apposite and antithetical to that which emerges from vineyards in British Columbia. A specific western peppery spice and in many cases unfettered eucalyptus also separates B.C., syrah from California’s rangers, but who would argue that in almost every case it remains unique unto itself. The notable Niagara exception is the Lincoln Lakeshore where some pretty heady syrah can be fashioned from the heat magnifying floor at the foot of Niagara’s escarpment benches and in such close proximity to the lake. While the “double L” is quickly cementing a reputation for northern Rhône challenging syrah there too are some hot spots higher up into the shadow of the Escarpment and also on the flats of the Niagara Peninsula that have recently shown some crack-vivid varietal success.

What we can assert from the WineAlign critics’ recent six-week tasting schedule that included several dozen syrah is how high quality and also highly rated does not come cheap. Only two wines in the top 25 cost less than $30 and both of those (Road 13 and Pentâge) are just barely below that threshold. Ontario accounts for two in the top 10, three in the top 12 and just six total within that magic 25. The Okanagan Valley is the clear winner in this single-varietal category with the aforementioned big, bold, savoury and structured style of syrah. The best value bottles chosen, in my opinion, are CedarCreek Syrah 2018, C.C. Jentsch Syrah 2016 and those two under $30 wines. Quails’ Gate Boswell Syrah 2017 is the outright number one, “massive, thick and deep,” writes David Lawrason, “intoxicatingly perfumed,” says Janet Dorozynski and from yours truly, “seriously meaty…concentrated…and mysterious.” As for the top Ontario example, Tawse Syrah Collection Guy Lafleur 2018 stood above. “The concentration is impressive and acidity plays at the centre position to the flowing fruit on the right.”

Painted Rock Estate Grown Syrah 2017 needs mentioning, what Sara d’Amato calls “well-made and consistently memorable.” John Szabo M.S. adds “a genuine force of flavour.” And it’s about time we get something straight. Niagara’s Kacaba knows Syrah, in fact they should receive serious consideration for the title of Ontario’s top Syrah specialist. Two vineyards (with plantings that date back to 1997) contribute and in these tastings it was their Kacaba Signature Series Reserve Syrah 2016 that really impressed the critics. “This is seriously credible Ontario syrah with an Escarpment’s bite and a mineral feel that’s not just sensorial but very, very real.” As are so many Canadian made syrah, surely one of the country’s most important red varieties, with only cabernet franc, pinot noir and gamay as serious contenders.

Return to the complete Guide to Canada’s Best Wines.

The top 10 Syrahs in Canada:


Quails’ Gate Boswell Syrah 2017, Okanagan, BC VQA ($70)

Painted Rock Estate Grown Syrah 2017, Okanagan Valley VQA ($46)

Burrowing Owl Syrah 2018, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($44)

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Syrah 2017 ($40)

CedarCreek Syrah 2018, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($35)

Tawse Syrah Collection Guy Lafleur 2018, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($66)

Church & State Coyote Bowl Series, Syrah 2017, VQA Black Sage Bench, South Okanagan ($61)

C.C. Jentsch Syrah 2016, Okanagan Valley ($32)

Kacaba Signature Series Reserve Syrah 2016, Niagara Escarpment VQA ($50)

Black Hills Syrah 2018, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($46)

More top Syrahs:

Stratus Syrah 2017, Niagara On The Lake VQA ($49)
Pentage Syrah 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($28)
Mt. Boucherie Reserve Syrah 2018, BC VQA ($52)

Nk’mip Cellars Qwam Qwmt Syrah 2017, Okanagan Valley, BC VQA ($40)
Rust Wine Co. Syrah Okanagan Valley 2017, Okanagan Valley ($36)
Tightrope Syrah 2017, Okanagan Valley VQA ($35)
Redstone Syrah Redstone Vineyard 2017, Lincoln Lakeshore VQA ($40)

Deep Roots Syrah 2018, VQA, Okanagan Valley, Naramata Bench ($34)
Moon Curser Syrah Contraband Series Bartsch Vineyard 2018, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($32)
Road 13 Vineyards Syrah 2018, BC VQA ($29)

Redstone Syrah Redstone Vineyard 2018, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore ($40)
Nk’mip Cellars Qwam Qwmt Syrah 2018, Okanagan Valley ($40)
Laughing Stock Syrah 2018, Okanagan Valley VQA ($43)
Kacaba Proprietor’s Block Syrah 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($33)

Stag’s Hollow Syrah Amalia Vineyard 2017, Okanagan Valley VQA ($31)
Moon Curser Syrah 2018, Okanagan Valley VQA ($27)
Sandhill Single Vineyard Syrah ‘hidden Terrace Vineyard’ 2018, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($46)
Icellars Syrah 2017, VQA, Vinemount Ridge ($40)

Church & State Syrah 2018, VQA Oliver, South Okanagan ($37)
Meldville Barrel Select Syrah 2018, Niagara Peninsula ($27)
Peninsula Ridge Reserve Syrah 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($20)

Red Rooster Rare Bird Series Syrah 2018, BC VQA British Columbia ($40)
Gold Hill Syrah 2015, VQA, Okanagan Valley ($35)

Backyard Vineyards Simply Social Syrah 2018, British Columbia VQA ($30)
Rust Wine Co. Syrah Lazy River Vineyard 2017, VQA Similkameen Valley ($36)

indicates the wine received a 5 star value rating from two or more writers.

Return to the complete Guide to Canada’s Best Wines.