The wonderful thing about wine is, if you taste enough, when you come across something truly new and noteworthy, it can hit you like a ton of bricks. In a good way, that is. I remember quite vividly the first time I tasted Synchromesh. It was at Okanagan Falls Wineries Association’s (OFWA) inaugural Vancouver tasting. The style and quality reminded my very much of Tantalus—and I was, truly, excited. Owned by Alan and Amy Dickinson, these days Synchromesh is garnering plenty of well deserved attention, including from the likes of Stuart Piggott, arguably the world’s leading Riesling authority, who called their 2012 Storm Haven “the most extraordinary Bladerunner Riesling I’ve tasted in a long time.” (We picked the 2011 as a BC Lieutenant Governor’s Award Winner.)
The Storm Haven (home) vineyard is so named for its more sheltered aspect: the heavy weather blowing through is usually channeled to the other side of the outcrop that separates the eastern part of the valley from Okanagan Falls. ‘Bladerunner’ is the term Piggott uses to describe the style of high acidity, low alcohol, drier styled Rieslings being made in some corners of the world, including the Okanagan / Similkameen (think Tantalus, CedarCreek Platinum, Little Farm, and so on.)
Such outside accolades are key in the ongoing broader validation of Riesling, which has had a long, hard climb to acceptance in a mass market too long driven by sweeter styles—still abysmally the case when it comes to reds and marketers’ preoccupation with debasing wine to the level of Coca Cola.
In Synchromesh’s perfectly aligned, north-south planted, south facing vineyard, “the range of acid from night cooling is tremendous,” says Dickinson. The diurnal swings (difference between night and day temperatures) and vine stress all contribute to a near ideal scenario—along with “the nutrient-poor mineral rich soil—some of the worst agricultural land on the planet—but perfect for grapes,” he adds.
A sub-appellation in waiting
There’s also slight irony at play in the region.
In 2011 the Okanagan Falls wineries were left out in the cold, when south valley wineries decided to go it alone, solely as an Oliver-Osoyoos group. Interestingly, the result has been a beneficial coalescence among the OK Falls wineries, who formed their own association, with producers from south Penticton to Vasseaux Lake. In doing so they’ve brought more attention to the very distinct differences in terroir and geography between their region and the south valley, separated by influential McIntyre Bluff. These are a potent group, for the most part, of formidable, often pioneering producers, including the likes of Blue Mountain, Meyer Family Vineyards, Painted Rock, Stag’s Hollow, Wild Goose, and others.
Synchromesh takes shape
Using as many recycled materials as possible, the Dickinsons are in the process of building a tasting room to replace their small, original shed that competes on the Lilliput scale with Painted Rock’s starter.
Synchromesh Thorny Vines Riesling 2012 is an every day drinking, more off-dry (but by no means ‘sweet’) style, which comes from still young vines on the Naramata Bench—and it’s plainly labeled as such on the bottle. Look for lively lemon lime flavours wrapped in juicy acidity, with a decent end. 90 pts.
Synchromesh Storm Haven 2013. You’ll want to be tracking down this superb, mineral driven drop, which even now is showing extraordinary complexity, with tropical and citrus notes wrapped in keen acidity, with some honeyed notes and formidable length that will no doubt continue to develop. I’d be tempted to wait a while to do it full justice. $31.90, 92 pts.
Synchromesh Palo Solera Pinot Noir 2012. From a sustainable farmed site on the East Kelowna Bench. Forward black cherry aromas, followed by a medium bodied palate with darker notes plus some herbal and earthy edges with firm tannins. Early days. $24.90. 88 pts.
Synchromesh Tertre Rouge 2011. This is Dickinson’s current “serious” red entry (named for the famous Le Mans corner), a blend of Cabernet Franc (62.5%) and Merlot (37.5%). Alan is (almost) as passionate about Cab Franc as he is Riesling and grows these grapes on a dedicated contract vineyard (Turtle Rock, owned by the Britton family), a warm site in the heart of the Naramata Bench. This wine sports an appealing, juicy acidity, with bright red berry notes and anise undertones, well structured with some plushness from the Merlot, and a lengthy end. Should develop very well. $34.90. 91 pts.
Synchromesh Thorny Vines Botrytis Affected Riesling 2013. A truly unique wine, not at all your typical BA style, picked early. Think more aperitif than dessert wine. Orchard fruits and honeyed notes on the nose with vibrant citrus and apricot on the palate with keen acidity, and a zesty close that keeps on going. Again, worth waiting for this one to come around. 91 pts. 375 ml. $14.90 (A smart size, and a deal.)
Oh, and by the way, Synchromesh has a wine club I would join in a flash!
Much more at Synchromesh
As you may have gathered, Alan is a keen racing and sports car enthusiast. He and Amy were touring the Okanagan in his cherished MGB when they decided to jump into the wine biz. I realised as I drove away from my visit that I had forgotten to mention my own MGB connection: A favourite uncle, Don Hayter, was the chief engineer at MG during its introduction; and recently published Don Hayter’s MGB Story (Veloce) If you’re interested, there’s a clip of him talking about his experiences here.