As I sit on the blazing sun right by La Chapelle on the famous hill of Hermitage, I can’t help but feel the history. There is something spiritual and holistic about being here. In the 18th and 19th century, the Syrah planted on these rocky south facing granitic soils was responsible for producing some of the most famous French wines - and they still are. Then I reflect on how much Hermitage has inspired other winemakers around the world to dedicate their love and passion to Syrah.
In a new region like British Columbia where they’re just at the beginning of their journey, the best has yet to come. Everything is constantly evolving and improving. I was recently talking to David Enns, winemaker and owner of Laughing Stock Vineyards, about his own evolution. For him, it started with a love for the wines of Washington. In 2001, when Enns was still working in the financial world, he was trucking grapes from Washington to make his own wine. This is what we call a garagiste. But the big leap came in 2003 when him and his wife Cynthia quit their business life for what seemed like a risky proposition: starting their own winery in the Naramata Bench.
In the last few months, Cynthia and David did a retrospective of their first decade by holding numerous tastings across the country. They poured a vertical of 10 vintages of their top wine portfolio. This is as good as it gets when you want to observe evolution. ‘We’re constantly learning and improving. We’re perfecting every year what we’re doing and we’re always looking forward to what’s next’ said David Enns.
I’ve been following this winery since the first day they opened their doors and I have tremendous respect for their innovation and dedication to quality. While David’s winemaking style is still very much influenced by his first love, Washington, his wines are becoming more refined every year and he is also expanding his wine selection. His latest muse? Syrah. After visiting the Northern Rhône wine appellations of Côte-Rotie and Hermitage, he too was charmed by the seductive expression of Syrah in these regions.
The grapes for Laughing Stock’s Syrah are sourced in the region of Osoyoos. Here you get a meaty, muscular and savoury expressions of the grape. David puts a dash of Viognier in the blend, which adds some nice floral notes.
As we are still exploring the best grapes suited to the Okanagan Valley, I do believe that Syrah has tremendous potential in British Columbia. Like in Hermitage, overtime I think the grape will write a piece of history in BC. I look forward to sitting down 6 years from now to taste the evolution of Laughing Stock’s Syrah.
Laughing Stock has a solid range of wine. While my latest favourite (the Syrah) is currently sold out, they still have a great line-up of wine available for sale on My Wine Canada. Check it out!
Michelle Bouffard is a wine educator and journalist who splits her time between Montréal & Vancouver. She co-owns the Vancouver-based company ‘house wine’ and is the president of the BC Chapter of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers.She Tweets @michellebwine and Instagrams @michellebouffard.