Turns out, Ontario Syrah can produce profoundly tasty wine, even in poor-to-middling vintages … provided it survives our harshest winters.
Wine lovers prattle on way too much about the 1976 Judgement of Paris. That was the blind taste-off where the unknown Californians turned the French wine world upside down with their lush, ripe, delicious Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons. There’s no debate; it was a game changer. It brought the world’s attention to the New World.
But that was all before my time. My personal eureka wine moment came the following year and California juice was already on the horizon. Australia didn’t exist yet — just don’t tell them — while Chile, Argentina and New Zealand were a decade away from making a decent wine.
None of those “discoveries” was as eye-opening and jaw-dropping to me as the results of a private, one-person tasting conducted secretly in November 2006 in Toronto.
While criss-crossing the country on a book tour, British wine critic Jancis Robinson, OBE, ComMA, MW, was invited to privately taste 70 of the best Canadian wines at George Brown College in Toronto. In her notes published the following month, Robinson was particularly effusive about one wine.
“Daniel Lenko’s 2002 Syrah from the Niagara Peninsula was so delicious that I felt it was truly outstanding,” she wrote.
“SYRAH?!” The wine community gasped.
It wasn’t a revelation just to me. It was to all the Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Merlot and Pinot Noir producers in the province — especially since Lenko’s wine had been made from three-year-old vines.
“Who knew someone was growing Syrah in Ontario?” some winemakers wondered aloud.
Syrah supporters are no different from Pinot protagonists. Same passion, different clone.
DNA analysis shows that ancestrally Syrah is related to Pinot Noir, having received some of its genes through Teroldego and Dureza, which mated with Mondeuse Blanche, which eventually begot Syrah, as well as its half-sister, Viognier. Polyamory, it appears, has no limits in nature.
Mike Kacaba was the first to plant Syrah in Ontario soil. His Silver Bridge and Terraced Vineyards on the Beamsville Bench are the oldest known parcels, with 1,500 vines planted in 1997. Creekside Estate established its hot Queenston Road Vineyard on the St. David’s Bench in 1999; Daniel Lenko planted his half-acre parcel in 2000.
Total yield for Syrah in 2003 was 43 tonnes [province-wide?]; by 2013, that figure had grown to 853 tonnes but tanked the following year to 266 tonnes. Ontario grape growers suffered frost damage in 2005 and 2009 but nothing like the “polar vortex” of 2014.
“I just love the stuff,” says David Stasiuk, winemaker at Rockway Vineyards. “If it wasn’t so sensitive to our winters, I’d be focusing in on [Syrah] like others do on Pinot Noir.”
Stasiuk adds, “Syrah ripens earlier than the Cabernets, has riper, more approachable tannins and delivers all sorts of beauty in the flavour department.”
You’d think that Ontario would be too cold for the heat-loving variety, and that may be true for Prince Edward County, but certainly not for the hot pockets of the Niagara Peninsula and all of Lake Erie North Shore. Curiously, LENS has [only?] a few acres devoted to the grape.
“It’s well suited to Niagara’s growing conditions in spring, summer and fall,” Southbrook Vineyards winemaker Ann Sperling laughs. “Winters, as we’ve seen in recent years, can be a challenge.”
I’ve been meaning to explore the mysteries of Ontario Syrah ever since the 2006 Judgement of Jancis. Earlier this year, I contacted as many producers as I could find in the province. I figured on getting a couple dozen samples. More than 50 arrived. Niagara’s Redstone Winery provided a complete vertical going back to 2010. Some wineries sent bottles not yet released to reveal what’s in the pipeline. A few tossed in an older vintage along with current releases. After I dug into my own cellar to fill in some gaps, there were 67 wines from 27 wineries spanning 15 years.
I planned to taste them all in a day but it took six. They were exceptionally consistent in the quality of winemaking. Not a single sample was flawed. I retasted the samples every few days over the course of two weeks, dumping some as they cracked.
All the wines had a generous squirt of Canadian, cool-climate acidity, providing lasting freshness and substantial longevity, plus a soft-yet-sturdy, tannic spine, giving the wines exceptional structure and balance.
“The flavour profiles are so highly influenced by Mother Nature,” says Rene Van Ede, winemaker at Redstone. “Niagara Syrah tends to be as easy to pick out of a lineup as Niagara Riesling.”
Even the coolest years yielded wines of charm and vibrancy. As for weight, lean years make for lean wines, but there was no green weediness in any of these wines, as typically would appear in Cabernets and Merlots from cooler or wetter vintages
The range of aromas and flavours in the bouquet and taste of the wines was narrow and consistent with dominant characteristics including violets, dark fruits, especially black cherry, along with blackberry, mulberry, raspberry, plum, and occasional notes of blueberry, strawberry or cassis, plus barrel notes of smoke or tar.
Wines with some Viognier mixed in had fuller body and more supple texture, as well as added aromas of jasmine, anise, bacon fat, smoked meat or liquorice.
These are lovely wines to drink young and fresh. Restaurant wines. The bigger vintages are lush in their youth and make for terrific drinking with food to tame their tannins but may conceal the full spectrum of their nuanced flavours for up to a decade.
Ilya Senchuk, owner-winemaker at Leaning Post Wines, is a big believer in Ontario Syrah —provided it’s grown on the right sites and treated well.
“I do think Syrah is a bit of sleeper grape,” he says.
Syrah in Ontario Tasting
(SO): Sold Out; (NYR): Not Yet Release; (RE): Restaurant Exclusivity
Angels Gate Mountainview Syrah 2015, Beamsville Bench ($34.95)
Bright, purple-plum hue. Youthful nose of raspberry and cherry with floral and spicy notes. Fresh, bright and bone dry with fruity notes of red and blue berries, plum, vanilla and clove. Jovial and juvenile. Drink now to 2023. 227 cases produced.
Colaneri Visione Syrah Appassimento 2009, Niagara Peninsula (SO)
I expected this wine to be bigger considering its partially dried fruit. Ruby-garnet bowl with a clear, watery, browning rim. Stewed cherry nose with moderate intensity, maturing and vinous, with brewed coffee, dark chocolate, peppery and vegetal notes. Dry palate with fading fruit, dried cherries, hazelnut skin and wood flavours. Medium complexity and medium length. Drink now.
Colaneri Visione Syrah Appassimento 2013, Niagara Peninsula (SO)
Garnet colour with a dense, inky bowl. Youthful red and blue berry scent riding on cocoa, custard and fruit yogurt aromas. Baked spices dominate the red fruit palate. Mildly dusty chalk finish. Best now through 2021. 350 cases.
Colio CEV Six-Barrel Shiraz 2006, Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario (SO)
Then winemaker Tim Reilly used American oak to give the wine a sweetish, Australian twang, all the rage at the time. Rich amber-garnet with a warm orange rim. Soft and plummy nose with stewed and pruned flavours. Herbal and spicy with whiffs of iodine, melted chocolate, liquorice and barrel char. Dry, smoky, tannic palate with much of the fruit drying up. Drink soon. 150 cases.
Colio Estate Bricklayer’s Cache Small Lot Syrah 2012, Lake Erie North Shore ($29.95)
Tragically, the north block of Colio Estate Vineyard was devastated by the winters of 2013 and 2014, killing off the Syrah. Five of the eight lost acres now have been replanted with a hardier clone, but results will only appear after 2021. Garnet with an orange rim. Cooked dark cherry and plum aromas, now transitioning from youthful to vinous. Bone dry, tannic and medium bodied with accents of dark chocolate, roasting coffee and stew, Rhône-like notes of meat gravy and vegetables. Drink now to 2022.
Cooper’s Hawk Syrah 2016, Lake Erie North Shore (NYR)
Barrel sample of the winery’s first vintage from vines planted in 2013. Bright garnet-purple with a pink rim. Super fresh and fruity with black cherry and raspberry flavours. Vibrant and unsettled for now but potential is high for this and future vintages. Drink now to 2022.
Coyote’s Run Estate Syrah 2015, Four Mile Creek ($34.95)
From the vineyard’s Red Paw Block. Deep purple-blue tint to the rim. Ripe nose with spicy, floral and dark berry nuances. Bone dry with tannins dominating at this time — the wine was bottled unfiltered — jammy raspberry flavours and juicy, mouth-watering texture. Drink now to 2025.
Creekside Signature Shiraz 2002, Niagara Peninsula (SO)
OWA Gold, 2005. Made from the first crop of the Queenston Road vineyard, planted in 1999. Garnet with a clear amber rim. Lush and fully mature vinous nose is moderately intense. Rich, caramelized red fruits, sandalwood, Virginia tobacco and smoked meat. Soft, supple texture, mature flavours and an elegant, lingering finish. Drink up.
Creekside Estate Shiraz 2010, Niagara Peninsula (SO)
When this wine was made, “estate” meant “house style” rather than origin. Solid garnet to the rim. Strong cracked-black-pepper notes almost had me sneezing. Dark fruits, velvety mouthfeel, bags of dark fruit and a snappy, clean finish. Best now.
Creekside Syrah 2016, Niagara Peninsula ($15.95)
Purple garnet with bright pink around the edges. Aromas of a black raspberry milkshake, plum pudding and a side of espresso. Bursting with energy, vibrant fruit and tight tannins. Tremendous now but flavours are juvenile. This may be the best value here. Drink now to 2022.
Creekside Iconoclast Syrah 2015, St. David’s Bench ($25)
Opaque inky-purple to the rim. Strong, dense, closed nose hinting at dark berry fruit with meaty, spicy undertones. Dry, medium–full bodied and tannic at this point with plenty of ripe black cherry and raspberry flavours. Highly concentrated with a promising future. Drink through 2025.
Creekside Broken Press Shiraz Reserve 2005, St. David’s Bench (SO)
Dark, ruddy garnet bowl with a warm amber-orange rim. Moderately intense with some bottle stink at first, opening to a lush, mature and complex bouquet of cherry, pomegranate and plum compote, with rich, gamy nuances of beef gravy, soy sauce, duck fat and leather. It reveals its full depth over hours, not minutes. Even better on day two, and drinks well for three more days before cracking. Drink now through 2020.
Creekside Broken Press Shiraz Reserve 2006, St. David’s Bench (SO)
Deep maroon with a mahogany rim. Nose starts off clogged and grumpy, but quickly reveals floral and spicy fruit aromas. Still juicy and tight on the palate with bright black cherry and plum flavours. Full bodied, mouth-filling and round with a long, lively aftertaste. Drink now through 2022.
Creekside Broken Press Syrah 2008, St. David’s Bench (SO)
OWA Gold, 2012. Chestnut-garnet centre with an amber-orange rim. Eggy for a moment, but soon the bouquet is all chocolate cherry bomb, flowers and roast beef juices. Silky, lean, lively and exciting. Vibrant and complex with a lovely finish. At peak.
Creekside Broken Press Syrah 2015, St. David’s Bench ($55)
Three percent Viognier was co-fermented with the Syrah. It’s a brooding, restrained beast just waiting to emerge. Purple-garnet hue to the rim. Light and bright with high-toned cassis, black raspberry and black cherry aromas. Hints of meat and spice are there but the nose is so juvenile at this point. Dark fruit on the palate is concentrated, tight and tannic, like young vintage port without any sugar. Powerful and elegant, but completely undeveloped. Best after 2020; drink through 2030.
Creekside Unbroken Press Syrah 2015, St. David’s Bench ($50)
This undoctored version is 100% Syrah. Bright, clear, purple-garnet to the rim. Leaner, tighter, purer and more severe bouquet and taste. Snappy, dark berry flavours are a total “wow!” Flavours of black cherry, black raspberry, black tea and dark toast with charred edges hang on the palate. Textbook. Drink 2020 to 2030.
Fielding Syrah 2010, Niagara Peninsula (SO)
Dark garnet with a thin amber rim. Rich fruit nose is ripe and clearly developing complexity. Bigger than the ’12; fuller, fatter, richer and smoother. Drinking beautifully right now through 2022.
Fielding Syrah 2012, Niagara Peninsula (SO)
Garnet with a hint of orange on the rim. Perfect bumbleberry nose of black cherry, black raspberry, black currant and red strawberry and cherry flavours. Rich, dry, balanced palate with enough elegance to hide its sheer power. About to enter its best drinking period, now through 2025.
Fielding Syrah 2016, St. David’s Bench (NYR)
Grapes have always been from Lowrey Vineyard, but this label will show it. Purple-garnet with a thin pink rim. Vibrant raspberry and cassis nose, still floral and jumping with energy. Palate is bursting with juicy, fruity, sweet, juvenile fruit. Great balance, great harmony, great future. Drink 2020 to 2030.
Flat Rock Cellars The Rogue Syrah 2007, Twenty Mile Bench (SO)
OWA Gold, 2011. Deep, dark garnet with the slightest colour change at the rim. Nose is light, bright and fruity with great harmony, but seems delicate, perhaps even fragile. Cherry-plum complexity with subtle, spicy, rendered fat notes are a decade’s reward. Drink now.
Flat Rock Cellars The Rogue Syrah 2011, Twenty Mile Bench (SO)
Final vintage for this varietal. Garnet bowl, paler that the ’07, with a fading amber rim. Big, red fruit nose is ripe but waning. The palate is a light cherry soup with hints of orange pekoe tea. Drink soon, before the fruit completely dries up.
Hinterland Red Herring Syrah 2016, Niagara Peninsula ($39)
Grapes are from Wismer Vineyards’ Parke Block. Deep, dark purple-garnet, thick to the rim. Blockbuster nose, bursting with blackberry, black cherry, raspberry and plum. Seems forward at first with its implicit sweetness, lush, dark fruit and full body, but powerful and peppery tough-love tannins are holding back the best of what’s to come. A muscular boxer, still in training. Drink 2020 to 2025.
Icellars Syrah 2016, Niagara Peninsula ($39)
Grapes are from Wismer’s Edgerock Vineyard. Dense purple-garnet with a pink rim. Powerful, smoky, meaty nose with berries and plums dominating. Palate is full bodied, dry, concentrated, herbal and savoury. One to watch. Drink now to 2028.
Jackson Triggs Delaine Vineyard Syrah 2005, Niagara Peninsula (SO)
OWA Gold, 2008. Chestnut hue with pale browning edges. Mature bouquet with exotic spices, cedar, tobacco, plum and cherry notes. Fully mature and beginning to slide. Complex, stewed cherry flavours with meaty, balsamic nuances. A well-aged beauty. Drink up.
Jackson Triggs Shiraz Grand Reserve 2015, Niagara Peninsula ($25)
From the Koop Vineyard on the Jordan Bench. Garnet with a pink rim. Floral and berry notes dominate, with spicy milk chocolate overtones. Juicy with a clean, smooth mouthfeel and a light easy-going finish. Drink now to 2020.
Kacaba Syrah Single Vineyard 2009, Niagara Escarpment (SO)
A barrel selection from 10-year-old vines. Red-brick with a browning amber rim. Spicy bouquet with flavours of dark cherry, cedar, baking spices, leather, coffee, soy and smoked meat. High-acid finish. Drink up.
Kacaba Syrah Single Vineyard 2010, Niagara Escarpment (SO)
ACWC Gold, 2013. From young vines planted in 2007, this parcel was later named Proprietor’s Block. Ruby garnet with an orange amber rim. Full and smooth with aromas of dark cherry and raspberry and flavours of lightly smoked meat, plum and white pepper. Drink now.
Kacaba Syrah Proprietor’s Block 2013, Niagara Escarpment (SO)
Co-fermented with 7% Viognier. Light red fruit notes, and a softness that comes earlier to this wine and hangs on longer. Plump, smooth and supple, with lingering flavours of plum, cherry and pastry fat. Drink now to 2020.
Kacaba Syrah Proprietor’s Block 2016, Niagara Escarpment ($30)
Youthful purple-garnet. Billowing with big, juvenile violet and berry notes. Beneath, there’s some depth and savouriness, with toasted hazelnut, olive and herbal flavours. Ripe, mid-weight, fruity wine with a lively finish. Promising future. Drink now to 2025. 300 cases.
Kacaba Syrah Silver Bridge Vineyard 2013, Niagara Escarpment (SO)
This may be the oldest Syrah parcel in Ontario. Includes 7% Viognier. Ruby-garnet. Raspberry, cassis and smoked meat. Savoury, fresh, balanced, mid-weight and silky. Developing complexity appears in the lingering, tannic finish. Drink now to 2020.
Kacaba Syrah Silver Bridge Vineyard 2016, Niagara Escarpment ($30)
Purple-garnet. Bright, ripe raspberry and violet notes dominate. More body than the ’13, with fuller flavours and tight tannic structure. More concentration, depth, complexity and length. Drink now to 2024.
Kacaba Syrah Terraced Vineyard 2016, Niagara Escarpment ($30)
Purple-garnet to the rim. Powerful, dark, concentrated, floral bush-berry aromas. Thick texture almost seems fat. Smooth palate with ripe fruit, tough peppery tannins, full body and a long, lingering, complex finish. Drink now to 2026.
Kacaba Syrah Reserve 2010, Niagara Escarpment (SO)
A barrel selection from the two oldest blocks. Garnet with an orange rim. Maturing nose of stewed fruits and Virginia tobacco. Peaking, with complex, harmonious, ripe and lovely flavours of plum, mocha, white pepper and boiled smoked sausage. Solid, balanced and ready. Best now, but may hold through to 2022.
Kacaba Reserve Syrah 2015, Niagara Escarpment ($45)
NWAC Gold, 2017. A blend of the three blocks. Garnet with a purple rim. Ripe fruit nose of blackberry, cherry, currants and plum with a dusting of black pepper and just sharpened lead pencil. Vibrant palate is implicitly sweet with concentrated dark fruits, powerful tannins and juicy acidity. Ripe, round, well integrated and notable for its sheer power and elegance, all that’s missing is some cellar time. Drink 2019 to 2027.
Kacaba Syrah Terraced Vineyard 2013, Niagara Escarpment (SO)
This is the darkest and densest of the three vineyards. Includes 7% Viognier. Dark berry fruits with plum and pepper dominating. Solid, corpulent and muscular with savoury flavours of dark fruits, rosemary, smoked bacon, black olives and a chewy finish. Drink now to 2022.
Lakeview Reserve Syrah 2006, Niagara Peninsula (SO)
Browning garnet with an orange-brown rim. Vegetal, cabbage nose with caramelized fruit sugars and soy sauce, fruitcake aromas. This wine is essentially “holding” but fruit is drying up and mouth-drying tannins are starting to kick in. Drink up.
Lakeview Syrah Reserve 2012, Niagara-on-the-Lake (SO)
Translucent garnet bowl with a hint of orange on the rim. Clean fruit bouquet is opening up with plummy flavours of red and black cherry and a slight whiff of bacon fat beneath. Medium bodied with cherry and leather flavours. Round with a mouth-watering leather and tobacco finish. Drink now to 2020.
Lakeview Syrah Reserve 2015, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($24.95)
Lighter garnet hue with a pale rim. Fresh nose of black berry and red cherry. Fresh, light berry flavours with tart cherry dominant. A lighter winemaking style has emerged over the decade. Drink through 2021.
Leaning Post Syrah Keczan Vineyard 2012, Lincoln Lakeshore (SO)
Lesser-known producer of big, bold Syrah. Deep opaque garnet to the rim. Big, full nose of red and black fruits, roasted coffee beans, spicy meat glaze and wood smoke. Savoury palate is vibrant, youthful and fleshy, with notes of cherry, plum and raspberry. Lovely velvety texture. Drink now to 2025.
Leaning Post Syrah Keczan Vineyard 2016, Lincoln Lakeshore ($45)
Dark, translucent garnet bowl with a pale rim and watery edges. Nose is youthful, vibrant and tight with fruity and herbal notes needing time to open up. Bold fruit palate is implicitly sweet with dark berry flavours, subtle herbal notes, a whiff of bacon fat and that same lovely texture. Drink to 2030.
Magnotta Limited Edition Shiraz 2013, Niagara Peninsula (SO)
OWA Gold and ACWC Gold, 2015. Medium garnet with a brown rim. Black cherry cheesecake nose with cherry and plum flavours on the palate. Mature and ready with caramelized fruit sweetness and a smooth, round finish. Drink up. 500 cases.
Magnotta Limited Edition Shiraz 2015, Niagara Peninsula ($21)
Winemaker Peter Rotar gets his grapes from Weins Family Farms in the hot, central Four Mile Creek appellation. Garnet with an orange tint to the rim. Fully developed aromas of blackberry, cassis and coconut with subtle baking spices and tarry notes wafting through. Pretty flavours with an appealing commercial twang. Drink through 2019.
Magnotta Limited Edition Shiraz 2016, Niagara Peninsula (NYR)
Tank sample. Light and bright purple garnet with a vibrant pink rim. Bright, clean and lean nose, currently showing blackberry and mulberry aromas with signs of black pepper and tar. Savoury, herbal and tannic at this stage. Drink to 2020.
Syrah supporters are no different from Pinot Protagonists. Same passion, different clone.
Mastronardi Syrah 2007, Lake Erie North Shore (SO)
Brown with garnet undertones and a watery amber rim. Past its peak with stewy notes of soy, miso, liquorice and dried fruits. Palate is still interesting by fruit is drying up and acidity is beginning to overwhelm. Lovely, complex mature fruit jam, meat stew and fall forest flavours. Drink up.
Mastronardi Syrah 2016, Lake Erie North Shore ($25)
Pale garnet to the rim. Commercially appealing nose of powdered sugar, red cherry candies and plum pie. Sweetish dark berry flavours with subtle black pepper lift. Clean, balanced, round and pleasant for current drinking. Drink to 2020.
Meldville Barrel Select Syrah 2016, Lincoln Lakeshore ($27)
Dense, inky purple black and solid to the rim. Closed nose reveals dark plummy fruit and a berries-in-sour-cream undertone with strong whiffs of white pepper, black olives and liquorice. Tannic and smoky with black fruit flavours. Hard, tough and grippy; can the fruit outlast these tannins? Drink to 2025. 46 cases.
Muscedere Syrah 2012, Lake Erie North Shore ($40)
Deep opaque garnet with hints of orange at the rim. Superficially jammy with aromas of vanilla, coconut, oak and smoke. Beneath, there’s more depth, complexity and solid structure. Thick, velvety, supple texture, ripe black fruit and a cleansing lick of acidity. Drink now to 2020.
Pelee Island Shiraz 2016, Ontario (RE)
Light, bright, vinous and ready. A clean, light, balanced, simple-yet-pleasant, low-tannin, ready-to-go, friendly sipper. Perfect with cheap-and-cheerful luncheon menus through 2019.
Peninsula Ridge Shiraz 2016, Niagara Peninsula ($15)
Bright garnet. Aromas of black currant, blackberry and liquorice. Luscious and built for early drinking. Fruity, juicy, balanced and soft with low tannins. Drink through 2020.
Peninsula Ridge Reserve Syrah 2015, Niagara Peninsula ($30)
Translucent garnet to the rim. Big bouquet of plums and berries with rich, oaky, smoky notes of ground coffee and roasted chestnuts. Full-bodied and tannic, but fruit holds up. Drink now to 2024.
Redstone Syrah Redstone Vineyard 2010, Lincoln Lakeshore (SO)
NWAC Gold, 2014. Organic and biodynamic. A blockbuster. Inky garnet with a purple-blue rim. Rich vanilla and violet notes with black cherry, raspberry, plum, cedar, black earth and spice. Pure as fruit syrup with a full body and luscious, supple texture. Big and long-lived. Still has far to go. Drink now to 2028.
Redstone Syrah Redstone Vineyard 2011, Lincoln Lakeshore (SO)
Light garnet. Taut aromas and flavours of dark fruits, black tea and liquorice. Concentrated black fruit flavours and peppery, smoke notes are held together with juicy acidity and tannic grip. Drink now to 2021.
Redstone Syrah Redstone Vineyard 2012, Lincoln Lakeshore (SO)
Better than the first vintage by a nose … and a sip. Dark plum-garnet with a twinkle of pink at the rim. Thick, ripe nose of black cherry, raspberry and even a hint of strawberry. Full body with lush fruit and well-integrated tannins. Rich, fatty smoked finish is full of lingering flavours. Great future. Drink now to 2027.
Redstone Syrah Redstone Vineyard 2013, Lincoln Lakeshore ($40)
The lightest vintage to date and best drunk soonest. Pale garnet, watery rim. Ripe red fruit notes are now at their best. Cherry and plum on a backdrop of warm earth, tobacco, cedar and spice. Balanced with light tannins, cleansing acidity and a lingering, if fragile, aftertaste. Drink before 2020.
Redstone Syrah Redstone Vineyard 2014, Lincoln Lakeshore ($40)
Inky blue garnet with a purple rim. Wildberry nose with raspberry and cassis aromas. Lean, dry and somewhat undemonstrative at this time, with hard fruit possessing tough tannins. Drink after 2018 through 2024.
Redstone Syrah Redstone Vineyard 2015, Lincoln Lakeshore ($40)
Inky purple garnet to the rim. Rich, full, blossoming nose of violets and sweet plums, or a bowl of berries drizzled with cassis. Lush, supple palate with plummy flavours, savoury and smoke notes, and a long, tongue-coating finish. If it wasn’t so damn tasty now, I’d recommend holding back till more of its goodness comes out. Drink now to 2030.
Reif Estate Shiraz Reserve 2016, Niagara Peninsula ($27)
Medium garnet hue. Fruity, jammy nose is youthful and sprightly. Lush and seductive palate of forward berry fruit, vanilla, light oak and a kiss of residual sweetness. Terrific for early drinking through 2020.
Riverview Cellars Salvatore’s Reserve Syrah 2013, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($30)
Grapes are from Weins Family Farms nearby. Light chestnut-garnet throughout. Old-world aromas of spiced cherry, prune, earth and savoury herbs. Edgy, high-acid, Euro-style food wine with top notes of black fruits and underlying balsamic tartness, spicy oak and focused, lingering complexity enhanced greatly when taken with red meat. Drink now to 2023.
Rockway Vineyards Grand Reserve Syrah 2011, Twenty Mile Bench ($42)
Garnet to the rim. Tight, closed, ripe nose of dark fruits and berries. Solid, concentrated fruit and gripping tannins are unyielding but balanced. Days later, the wine is still tight but showing signs of what may be. Cassis, liquorice, toasted hazelnuts lie in waiting. Decant to aerate before serving. Drink to 2022.
Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Reserve Syrah 2010, Twenty Mile Bench (SO)
Deep maroon-garnet with some browning at the edges. Cherry-berry nose with baking spices and black liquorice. Has developed well with soft tannins, but plenty of them. Drink through 2024.
Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Syrah Block 12-140 2013, Twenty Mile Bench ($25)
Light garnet with a pale rim. Bright, youthful, ripe nose. Floral, juicy, balanced, light bodied, fruity, delicious and ready now. Drink by 2020.
Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Syrah Block 12-140 2012, Twenty Mile Bench ($35)
Deep garnet with minor browning on the rim. Ripe, inviting nose, concentrated dark berries, violets, white pepper and smoky oak. Tremendous grip, balanced acidity with surprisingly youthful flavours. A biggie. Drink now to 2028.
Southbrook Vineyards Syrah Rosé 2017, Four Mile Creek ($27)
Organic and biodynamic. Healthy pink as nubile flesh. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and you’re back on the Côte d’Azur. Fullish body, brisk acidity and supple, with a fruit salad of juicy flavours. Where’s lunch? Where’s the patio? Drink through 2019.
Southbrook Vineyards Wh¡msy! Syrah 2012, Four Mile Creek (SO)
Organic and biodynamic. The crew calls it “tall, dark and spicy.” Garnet bowl with an amber rim. Rich, savoury, black cherry and sausage meat bouquet. Full bodied with high acidity, and complex, meaty, leathery flavours. Fruit is beginning to dry up. Drink now to 2020.
Stratus Syrah 2013, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($48)
Bright garnet with the beginnings of discolouration at the rim. High-toned red fruits. Light cherry-berry flavours with a silky-smooth start, supple medium body, and terrific balance with a lot of finesse in the finish. Drink now to 2022.
Stratus Syrah 2014, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($48)
Bright garnet with a lively pink rim. Ripe berry and plum nose with subtle nuances of rose, violet and nose-tickling white pepper. More fruit concentration with the same silky texture, soft, smooth tannins and a long elegant finish. Drink now to 2024. 364 cases.
13th Street Essence Syrah 2013, Niagara Peninsula ($45)
With grapes from Wismer and A.J. Lepp vineyards. Light garnet with hints of browning around the edge. Strong plummy nose with savoury notes of rosemary, ham and charred toast. Medium bodied and chewy, with hard tannins and a hint of bitterness in the finish. Drink now to 2021.