Friday, December 27, 2013

Kanazawa “Raku” Syrah on Viognier, Okanagan Valley, BC

Kanazawa logo
If you’ve never heard the name Kanazawa before, much less in reference to wine, be at ease… until just a few weeks ago, I had never heard of him either.
But now that I’ve tried the man’s wines I can state unequivocally that I shall never forget neither his name, nor how to spell it. For Richard Kanazawa is one of those rare breeds of winemaker: a man who makes wine not how he imagines the customers will want it, and not how some pencil-pusher tells him will garner the most points. No, Richard makes wine the way that the vineyard wants to express itself. And he does it with his own particular skill-set of flourish.
Having honed his talent in prestigious workplaces around the world, it speaks to the terroir here in British Columbia that he has chosen this place to create his signature label. And signature it is~! The Syrah that I tasted was absolutely, singularly self; by which I mean that it chooses not to look or feel like any other Syrah from the region, but to express itself in it’s own manner (and very precisely too I might add).
If you care to learn more about Richard Kanazawa, his pedigree, or his current work I invite you to read his website or the words of my colleague and eminent wine-journalist John Schreiner ( ). As for me, you know I much prefer to let the wines speak for themselves:

2011 “Raku” Syrah

Kanazawa 2011 Raku syrah on viognier
85% Syrah, 15% Viognier

91+ points

200 cases produced
  • In the glass: a dark ruby core filled with bright highlights – pungent floral tones lifting from the glass with a seductive balance of rose-hips, irises, warm earth and Cab-Sauv-like graphite mineral aromas, pine trees and a last note of fresh thyme in the garden. The palate is food-focused, as the acid can seem out of balance but is simply full of the exuberance of youth. Fine tannin is beautifully integrated already and though this wine could enjoy many years in the cellar, I say drink it now and often! It’s so rare to find a New World Syrah that is so fresh, so inviting, that after one glass one simply looks for another.
  • FOOD PAIRING:  a wine like this cries out for wild game, but mostly to me I thought of duck. Duck as only the French would cook it: with Bing cherries. Consider canard au cerises, wild rice – fresh thyme latkes, sweet-soy butternut squash pave, buttered Brussel sprouts. 

I’m reminded of a famous winemaker who once told me : “Some years, only idiots can fail to make good wine. In bad years, only the best winemakers can.” Now I think to myself that perhaps that winemaker was keeping part of the equation to himself. For isn’t one of the keys to being great at something being ahead of the curve? Being that person who thinks just a little differently then everyone else – even when that very way of thinking puts them at odds with the majority?
Today I tried a very special wine from a talented winemaker, and plan on trying everything else that he’s working on. Why? Because I know that soon, very soon, every educated colleague of mine west of Montreal and north of LA is going to being talking about the exciting work of Richard Kanazawa. And I’m going to be the guy with those wines.
Many thanks to FreeHouse Wines: agents ( ) for bringing this to my attention, and my thanks to Richard Kanazawa for the sample bottle.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions. Here, or:
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