Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Last Chalet Syrah

With the BC Wine Appreciation Society's Great Syrah Taste Off just around the corner, I thought I would pull out our last of an older BC Syrah that - as I recalled - pulled in a bit of hardware of its own in the day. If memory serves, we picked up this bottle some years back when we were visiting Bella Jianna and Flyboy B on Vancouver Island.

Chalet Estate, as it was then known, was just down the road from our favourite Island couple's abode and the four of us managed to fit in a bit of a tour.

1245. 2004 Chalet Estate Syrah (Okanagan Valley)

Okay, when considering this wine, the first thing you might have to do is wrap your mind around and reconcile "award winning Syrah" and "Vancouver Island." And you'd be correct in wondering. As the label notes, these grapes weren't Island grown but were sourced from the Okanagan Valley. Indeed, I'm not aware of anyone who's tried to commercially produce Syrah on Vancouver Island - where even the "cool climate" Okanagan seems downright tropical. But, that doesn't mean that this Island winery didn't still offer up one tasty red.

Chalet Estate is found near the top of the Saanich Peninsula, not far from Victoria and it was one of the first wineries to set up shop in the region. The winery was established in 2001 after Michael Betts and Linda Plimley had laid the groundwork and planted grapevines in 1998. As alluring as the thought of producing big reds might have been, they planted grapes much better suited to the regional climate - Ortega, Bacchus and Pinot Gris.

Their outlook from the start was to ride the early wave of producing wines that could take on as many organic aspects as would be viable. Even when the grapes were being sourced from the Okanagan - as was the case with this Syrah - all those grapes were grown pesticide-free. It's often said that you can't make good wine without good grapes - but you still have to be able to take those good grapes and turn them into a good wine. Chalet managed to do just that with the '04 vintage. The Syrah won Silver medals at both the 2006 Northwest Wine Summit competition and the All Canadian Wine Championships.

I kind of remember trying a bottle some time back and what memory I have of that bottle was bigger than the one we opened tonight. It might be that our bottle was a bit past its prime but it was still entirely drinkable. I just don't think it had the fruit or structure to stand up to the best of today's BC Syrahs.

Peter and Jane Ellman purchased the winery in 2008 and the winery's name was changed to Muse after the purchase. They have looked to maintain the standards exhibited by Michael and Linda as they look to expand on the winery's production. We've only made one subsequent visit to Muse since that time; so, I guess it's time we tried to organize another island road trip. Hopefully, Bella Jianna and the Flyboy are up for it.

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