TN: Syrah from anywhere but France

Notes from a tasting lunch, with a theme of Syrah from anywhere but France.

2012 Majella Sparkling Shiraz – mid colour, with a nose of sweet ripe black fruit with some pepper. Smooth on palate and surprisingly good.

1985 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi – something I came across in my cellar and threw out there in case it happened to show decently. It was sound but faded

2004 Clarendon Hills Syrah Brookman – dark wine with tar in the nose and a bit of raspberry. Excellent concentration and a fair bit of soft tannin. Nice.

1994 Swanson Syrah – this Rutherford winery produced a nice wine for my main offering. The nose was more Southern Rhone with what seems like Grenache notes, with nutmeg in the nose and a medium length smooth finish.

2005 Arcadian Syrah Sleepy Hollow Vineyard – dark wine with a black cherry nose, smooth on palate and while it had a medium length sweet finish, it was not what I would call a ripe wine.

2009 Le Vieux Pin Syrah Équinoxe – from a BC winery and the only Canadian wine that day. Dark wine with a nice blue fruit nose, great depth on palate, a very classy wine that sent us wondering of someone had cheated and slipped a Northern Rhone in.

2017 Melville Syrah Estate Donna’s Block – off to Santa Rita with this wine. Fairly dark, sweet nose, soft in the mouth and with a hint of green. This one stood apart as being different, but it was interesting and was a good addition to the tasting.

2010 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah The Contender – back up to Washington state (Walla Walla) for this one. Spicy briary nose with a tapenade hint, and enough of what we call garrigue to be confusing when tasted blind. Very nice.

2012 Dutton-Goldfield Syrah Dutton Ranch Cherry Ridge Vineyard – first time sampling this winery for me. Dark wine full of dark fruit, and a smooth long finish – struck me as fully mature now.

Penfolds Grandfather Rare Tawny – I pulled this out as a suitable finishing/cheese wine. Interesting nose with walnuts, figs and although sweet, it was nicely balanced with good acidity. Very tasty.


There are also Syrah wines in Germany and Austria, for example I had a very nice Syrah by Knipser (Pfalz) last month … and also one by Ziereisen (Baden) in summer.


Yes - I recently confused them in another Syrah tasting by bringing a Swiss wine. When asked it ot was a Rhone, I correctly said yes but that threw them for awhile.

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Big fan of le vieux pin


Lol I did the same thing at a blind tasting.
Mine was the Chappaz—love that wine.

Quite liked Reyneke Syrah from South Africa.
I can imagine there’s a lot more to explore there!

addition - an affordable Julien Schaal Shiraz 2013 had a few years ago was not too bad as well and rather cool climate (from memory).

One of the fantastic things about syrah is that it is a true ‘chameleon’ of a grape and can produce fantastic wines from so many different geographic areas. That said, if you prefer ‘cooler climate’ ones, or at least ones that express those qualities, the list of places becomes more limited.



There are crazy good syrahs from the Cape - I pondered pulling a Sadie Columella - maybe next time.

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Personally, I’m biased I know but the cool climate Syrahs from the Petaluma Gap are well worth in a line up.

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I was really impressed with their 2016 Cuvee Violette a few years ago. I only wish I’d bought more than one bottle. I think I told you, Bill, that I was not surprised to learn that Rasoul is working there. He had a fine palate!

Three Foxes in the Swartland (a since-dissolved venture of Chris Mullineux, Pascal Schildt, and Olivier Schildt) produced a 2009 syrah that held its own against top-flight Northern Rhones. (Which reminds me, I still have two more bottles. Time to open one…)

I have been buying a case of Violette every year since they started making it (I usually call Rasoul for his impressions of the wine before ordering). Lighter more forward style that drinks really well early on but also ages quite well. That and their killer Sauvignon Blanc which also see a case buy every year, and house standards here.

So maybe it’s time to open my '16 Violettes? It was pretty structured as I recall it from December 2019.

Yes - I am holding 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 and am now working on my 2016 which drinks quite well now (tried a couple of sample bottle and have 10 to go).

FYI the 2017 was a little lighter and started drinking earlier so feel free to start in on them if you have them.

Just had this last Saturday. Decanted 3 hours prior and did not love it at the tasing but on day 3 wine of the year. This is young and will benefit from time.

I am sure a future vacation will involve the Okanagan Valley–Le Vieux Pin will be a must-visit.

Melville Donna’s is like a meal in a bottle, and often has what seems to me like a basil oil and/or fresh oregano/thyme. It smells very floral and peppery, is highly concentrated, and the tannins are usually very ripe and fine albeit dense. My sense is that it’s a unique mix of cool climate, late harvest and whole cluster, it may well be a singular expression.

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John, hi. This Reynvaan was my bottle. I decanted it for three hours at home early that morning then served it from the bottle at Bill’s house a few hours later. It was everything I could have hoped for (one of my all time best Reynvaans period), and it got WOTN with 5 of the 7 tasters present. It didn’t need more time. Not being defensive, just contrasting our experience with yours.

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My impressions of the Melville are very different from Bill’s, but I don’t think he retasted it half an hour later like I did. At first it was a strange mix of fruit and raw root vegetables, and then it tanked into jammy overripeness, a characteristic closer to RAID ant killer than anything natural. Not like any Melville I’ve ever had. Could be a mercaptan problem.

Correct - I tasted the Melville and concluded that I didn’t much like it and that wasn’t likely to change with time so I went on to others.

We were in the Okanagan Valley in the summer actually and Le Vieux Pin was our favourite tasting by far. It was the least “laid back” tasting session so those in the group that are less interested in the winemaking process thought it was a bit dry, but the wine was everyone’s favourite across the board.

They have a sister winery called La Stella which we didn’t make it to but was spoken of highly in the region.

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Nice spread of wines there, Bill. Yeah, the Majella sparkling can sometimes show nicely. I love Le Vieux Pin for the SB, I can’t remember if I’ve ever tried their Syrah, but great blind choice it looks like.

The Arcadian is probably just entering its prime drinking window.

Jenise—how nice to see you posting here! Hope you and Bob have stayed safe and healthy.