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British Columbia Syrah: Canada’s rising star

The Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys in Canada’s westernmost province have ideal terroirs for growing Syrah. Michaela Morris explores these unique benchlands and recommends her top 15 British Columbia Syrah wines to try.

‘Why don’t you grow coconuts?’ This was the taunt Alex Nichol received when he planted Syrah on the Okanagan’s Naramata Bench. They were the first Syrah vines in Canada. It was 1991 and at the time British Columbia counted only 20 wineries, compared to almost 300 today.

For years, Nichol Vineyard remained an anomaly until viticulturist Richard Cleave laid the groundwork for expansion. Cleave, who started working in the Okanagan Valley in the 1970s, was instrumental in transitioning the industry from hybrid grapes to vinifera.

In 1996, when planting his own vineyard, Phantom Creek, Cleave was warned against Syrah. He swiftly accepted the challenge. The vineyard became a source for Sandhill Winery’s Small Lots program and gained renown through bottlings from winemaker Howard Soon. Cleave went on to establish Syrah vineyards for notable producers like Burrowing Owl, Mission Hill and Jackson-Triggs.

Scroll down for tasting notes and scores of 15 top British Columbia Syrah wines

British Columbia Syrah: 15 top wines from Okanagan and Similkameen

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