B.C.'s new wine of the year is a dark and mysterious beauty.
A blackberry-milk chocolate-peppercorn treat.
A vintage inspired by the great blends of France's Rhone Valley.
And the result of a century of family farming on the Naramata Bench.
It's the 2017 Syrah ($30) from Deep Roots Winery.
More than 700 wines were entered in this year's British Columbia Lieutenant Governor's Wine Awards, which kicked off the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival on Thursday night.
A panel of 14 esteemed judges awarded 232 bronze medals, 119 silver, 50 gold and 12 platinum.
From the crop of platinum, the judges retasted and selected the ultimate winner, the top vintage, the coveted wine of the year.
Such a title guarantees the Deep Roots 2017 Syrah will be a quick sell out with wine lovers wanting to sip the province's best wine.
There's still some bottles left at Deep Roots' tasting room and wine shop at 884 Tillar Rd. and online at DeepRootsWinery.com.
Those who attended the awards on Thursday night at the Laurel Packinghouse in Kelowna had the privilege of tasting the prized Syrah right after it was announced as wine of the year.
While its labelled as Syrah, the Deep Roots vintage is actually 93% Syrah and 7% Viognier.
Adding a bit of white wine to a red may sound strange, but it works, as the French in the Rhone Valley have traditionally proved.
A splash of Viognier lightens and lifts Syrah to greatness.
The Deep Roots edition, crafted by winemaker Will Hardman, boasts aromas and flavours of blackberry, cherry, cured peppered meat and milk chocolate.
That may sound like an odd combination, but that's Syrah and it's a delicious, textured and complex drink.
Winemaker Will is part of the fourth generation of the Hardman family, which has been farming the land perched on the clay cliffs of Naramata above Okanagan Lake for a century.
For years, the crops were cherries, pears, apples and apricots.
But in 1998, the family started to grow grapes.
For years the grapes were sold to other wineries, until in 2012 Deep Roots produced its first vintage.
The tasting room and shop followed in 2014.
If you really want to wine-geek on the winning Syrah, you should know the grapes were grown in the southwest-facing Rayner Vineyard in North Naramata, which has its own microclimate
thanks to a wind-breaking bank to the north, heat-retaining granite rock to the east and moderating Okanagan Lake to the west.
The conditions give the grapes long, warm autumn nights to reduce acids and increase sugars.
The crop is kept to just under three tonnes per acre, a limited production that allows the grapes to fully ripen with amped up flavours.
Hand-harvested grapes are destemmed and rest during a seven-day cold soak to give the resulting juice ideal tannin extraction and a pleasing dark purple colour.
Twelve days of fermentation follows before gentle pressing of the juice off the skins into new and used French oak barrels for two months of malolactic conversion and 16 months of aging.
The dozen platinum medal winners are:
– Van Westen 2016 Cabernet Franc ($40)
– Nk'Mip Qwam Qwmt Riesling 2018 ($24)
– Moon Curser 2017 Touriga Nacional ($40)
– Black Hills 2017 Roussanne ($30)
– Lake Breeze 2017 Aura Pinot Noir ($40)
– Privato Tesoro Pinot Noir 2016 ($35)
– Road 13 Syrah-Malbec 2017 ($32)
– Deep Roots Parentage Red 2016 ($33)
– Harper's Trail 2018 Pioneer Block Riesling ($18)
– C.C. Jentsch Syrah 2016 ($32)
– Sandhill 2018 Riesling Icewine ($47)
– Wayne Gretzky Signature Series Shiraz 2016 ($25)
You can see the full list of gold, silver and bronze winners at TheWineFestivals.com.
The 11-day Fall Okanagan Wine Festival continues through Oct. 13 with 100 events up and down the Valley attracting 30,000.
The complete calendar is at TheWineFestivals.com.
As the weather chills, wouldn't it be nice to fly to California?
But if you can't afford the airfare and time off work is a problem, visit the Golden State by drinking California wines.
I've come across four vintages that will do the trick.
The Freemark Abbey 2017 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($40) is both typical and atypical of a Napa Chard.
It has the aromas and flavours you'd expect from a warm-weather Chard – apple, lemon, toffee and vanilla.
However, whereas many California Chards are too heavily oaked for my liking, the Freemark is elegantly oaked.
Speaking of oak, the Rodney Strong Charlotte's Home 2018 Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma County also spent some time in wood barrels.
But just enough to give it a kiss of oak and let the flavours of grapefruit and melon shine through.
The Rodney Strong 2016 Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($28) is an excellent example of how the delicate varietal can be grown in a cooler climate in California.
It's soft and silky with aromas and flavours of cherry and baking spices.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the king of California reds and the Rodney Strong 2016 Sonoma Country Cabernet Sauvignon ($28) is indeed regal.
Cherry, blackberry, plum and pepper aromas and flavours make it a smooth match for cheddar cheese, pasta in tomato sauce or steak.
There's a local tie in to Rodney Strong.
Vancouver-based Mark Anthony Wines & Spirits imports Rodney Strong wines for sale in Canada, including B.C. government liquor stores.
Mark Anthony is also part of the company that owns Okanagan wineries Mission Hill, CedarCreek, Road 13, Martin's Lane and CheckMate.
The Freemark Chard can only be purchased in B.C. online at EverythingWine.ca.
Steve MacNaull is a reporter with The Okanagan Weekend. Reach him at email@example.com. Listen to Steve's Okanagan Wine & Dine show exclusively on OkanaganValleyRadio.com Saturdays at 11:15 a.m. If you miss it then, show are always available in the podcast vault.