Judgement in Osoyoos: the Syrah Showdown

This past weekend the stars (and starstruck) shone down in the southern Okanagan. The third annual Osoyoos Celebrity Wine festival (OCWF) brought together over 1200 guests for a weekend of tastings, music, film and festivities, and raised $70,000 for the United Way. Olympians, media personalities and musicians provided the starlight, and 17 local wineries fuelled the refreshment.

I was invited to participate in the panel for Judgement in Osoyoos: the International Wine Showdown. Inspired by the famous 1976 Judgement in Paris blind wine tasting that was featured in the film Bottle Shock, this event put top BC Syrah head-to-head with iconic Syrah from around the world in a blind tasting. The event was organized and hosted by local sommelier and chef Jay Drysdale.

Syrah is the current darling red grape for the Okanagan, with many winemakers hoping it will be our ‘signature’. We have the warm summer days to ripen the tannic grapes, cooler nights to let the vine rest and acid build, and rocky, well-draining soils suited to premium Syrah. However, with such a young wine industry comes the lack of focused direction for our Syrah. Examples from heavily oaked Shiraz-styled fruity wines are shouldered next to cool-climate styled restrained examples, akin to Northern Rhone. As with all grapes in BC, time and experimentation will tell. So far preliminary results are promising. BC was certainly the youngest wine region in the Showdown, up against giants like France’s Rhone Valley, Australia and California. Wines ranged in price from $27 to $174, and in age from 3-6 years old, but it wasn’t a clear cut case of old and expensive = best. In fact, the least expensive wine tied for forth place in the line up. When Drysdale did the big reveal, that’s where BC’s top Syrah landed in this tasting as well. Results from the panel were corroborated with votes from the crowd to determine the Showdown winners. And on this day, in this window of tasting opportunity, the Aussies emerged victorious.



#1. Torbreck “The Descendant” 2006. Barossa Valley, Australia. $146.

Deep, layered and soft raspberry and blackcurrant, with cracked pepper, tar and crushed flowers. Potent, refined and structured. Lengthy and elegant, yet powerful.


#2. Pax “Cuvee Christine” 2005. Sonoma, California. $174.

Savoury, earthy spice, with cassis, leather and mineral, and a bramble green spice finish.


#3. Penfolds “St. Henri” 2007. South Australia. $65.

Dusty black fruit and ripe raspberry. Potent, jammy and youthful.


#4. Le Vieux Pin “Equinoxe” 2008. Golden Mile, Okanagan. $70.

Perfumed floral notes, with sweet blackberry, leather, cedar spice and cracked pepper.

[tied with]

#4. Jackson Triggs Grand Reserve “Bull Pine Vineyard” 2006. Osoyoos, Okanagan. $27.

Cherry fruit, green bramble, firm and structured tannins. Layers of black fruit and red currants woven with hefty use of new oak.


The remaining contenders –


Nk’Mip Cellars 2005. Osoyoos, BC. $35.

Sweet confected juicy raspberry, bright acid and blackberry spice.


Desert Hills Select 2007. Black Sage Bench, BC. $35.

Spicy and earthy black fruit, tobacco, sweet raspberry and dust, with a warming finish.


Yves Gangloff “La Barbarine” 2007. Cote Rotie, Northern Rhone, France. $90.

Charming wild raspberry and blackberry, granite minerality, spice, violet fragrance, elegant.


Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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