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Painted Rock Syrah 2009, BC VQA Okanagan Valley $39.95

Seven years ago, Painted Rock's proprietors cast about for ideas on what to plant on a small vineyard parcel just south of Penticton. They sought the advice of John Schreiner, veteran chronicler of the B.C. industry, who replied: syrah. Winery owner John Skinner recalls Mr. Schreiner saying more than once "I think syrah may be the grape of the Okanagan." Time has proved his wisdom – and brought accolades for Painted Rock Syrah at home and internationally. It hits all the right notes: deep, dark and dense with flavours of black fruit and spices. The wine, aged in mostly new French and American oak barrels, is deftly handled and it's so well balanced that you don't notice the alcohol on the palate. This syrah would make a fine gift to serve on its own, or to pair with foods hot off the summer grill: red meats, peppercorn-crusted tuna, vegetables. Or try with a seafood and chicken paella. It may be this Penticton winery that has nurtured syrah, but for his vision, Mr. Schreiner deserves a case of every vintage. Available at VQA stores and private wine shops.

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P.S.: Visiting B.C.'s major wine region this summer? Pack along Mr. Schreiner's authoritative Okanagan Wine Tour Guide (Whitecap Books; $19.95).

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