Wine Review: Road 13’s Rhone-ish Reds

29 08 2019

By Raymond Lamontagne

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

Welcome back to Road 13, with my red follow-up of Peter’s prior glowing praise for the white offerings from this Okanagan stalwart. I admit that some inevitable pangs of envy rose up when I heard about just how delicious Rousanne can be in the hands of this  particular producer. Nevertheless, I was pleased to have my opportunity with the reds, one another classic Rhone riff in the form of a GSM blend, the other a more unique joining of a classic stalwart from the same region (the “S” in the “GSM”) with Malbec, a Bordeaux grape that unexpectedly found its fortunes in the New World.


Road 13’s labels, and indeed its very name, conjure up some pleasant associations for this country boy who has for some time now been irrevocably relocated to the big city. The name came about when the operation then known as Golden Mile Cellars was sold to Pam and Mick Luckhurst in 2003, with the new proprietors wishing to emphasize the more specific location of their winery and the three vineyard sites providing them fruit. A shift to terroir-driven wines occurred, buoyed by an earnest desire to celebrate the region’s rich agricultural history. A natural born gardener, Mick hated just sitting around and loves collecting farm equipment. Pam brought bookkeeping expertise and a natural aptitude as a wine taster. Both sought to learn viticulture, a process they readily admit continued throughout their stewardship of the winery, yet the result of this humbling journey has still been numerous winemaking awards. The last Road 13 red I had, a 2011 Syrah-Mourvedre opened in 2018,  positively dazzled. Hopefully these provide more of the same.

2017 Road 13 Syrah Malbec (~$32)

Now, what have we here… Not a blend I encounter every day to be sure: 78.5% Syrah and 21.5% Malbec. There isn’t really a historical precedent for this combination, at least that I can think of, unless one really reaches and recalls that wines from the Rhone were many moons ago used to add stuffing and colour to insipid Bordeaux. Such contrivances are no longer necessary (or legal), so let’s just appreciate this for what it is today. The 2017 vintage was initially very wet but culminated in a scorchingly hot and dry summer, with smoke from the now-omnipresent forest fires serving to reflect some of the heat away from the vines. The unlikely result was a great vintage, flaunting high acidity buttressed by good fruit intensity. The grapes for this wine were destemmed but not crushed, followed by small lot fermentation in open-topped vessels that permitted twice-daily punchdowns by hand for 8-10 days depending on the lot. Maturation in French oak served to round out the corners. Based on these technical details, I’m expecting deep intense colours and flavours to match.


Truly, how could this not be the deepest darkest purple? The wine is a primal soup of fig Newtons, new rubber tires, rusted out carburetors, blueberry preserves, axle grease, cherry fruit leather, Cuban cigar, more preserves (black raspberry this time), pastrami, iris, black cardamom, strawberries, Loctite, and wood char. Although the fruits rush to keep up, doing an admirable job of pushing up through the tar pit, this wine is a guttural roar of industrial screed with a dozen cherry trees and sundry berry-laden shrubs punching up through the asphalt. And this is a compliment. Sturdy stuff — a true iron fist in a velvet glove. This unique mixture is burly without being overextracted, powerful in a lithe, coiled fashion rather than blocky. Is that honest-to-gosh green bananas in the long smoky finish? I timed said denouement at just under 15 minutes, all echoes of salty black liquorice and shiveled serviceberries. My mind wanders back to the beginning, when I first read about Malbec tasting like red plums and Syrah tasting like black. Absolutely, but this fusion is so much more.

91 points

2017 Road 13 GSM (~$37)

If indeed there is such a thing, your typical GSM blend goes a little like this. Grenache, the lightest coloured of the three grapes involved, contributes red fruit and even citrus flavours along with alcohol. Syrah, considerably darker, adds dark fruit flavours to the mix along with crucial savoury notes (“bacon fat” is an oft-used descriptor). Syrah does its best work midpalate. Lastly, Mourvedre helps extend the finish while building up tannic structure. Well, forget all that for a moment; this GSM is rather different. Many of the winemaking details track those of the Syrah-Malbec described above. However, here the Grenache and Mourvedre were actually co-fermented with Syrah skins from earlier wines! This practice serves to ramp up the complexity, colour, and tannin structure of the lighter grapes (I am not accustomed to thinking of Syrah as more tannic than Mourvedre, but hey, these guys obviously know what they are doing). A small amount of Syrah wine was added to complete the final blend before bottling. Syrah was the intended bit player here, adding mouthfeel to a wine intended to showcase the G & M.  GMS?


After that last wine, this is like a playful romp through a blackberry patch. Wait a minute…blackberries do have thorns. This is plush, quite soft in the mouth and redolent with fresh blueberries, blackcurrants, and Mission figs. Before my mind can foreclose on black fruits, a fresh wash of red ones splashes in: pomegranates, cherries, crimson currants, a whiff of strawberry cream candy. A huge bloom of floral and herbaceous elements emerges (oddly enough) mid-palate, where I feel like I can taste (not just smell)  lilacs, fennel seeds, oregano, and a generous dusting of white pepper. This latter note just  keeps gathering steam as I sip. I was worried this might be holding something back, but it rapidly reveals its true colours: delicate, nuanced, textured, but still punching above its weight class, that workmanlike Syrah pushing the other grapes forward with a firm tannic hug. Maybe a drip or two of bacon fat? Winemaking mission accomplished. This just makes you want to keep sipping, which is potentially hazardous on a weekday evening. Hey, what’s the worst that can happen?

90 points


Stelvin Rating: 7/10 (Love the graphic, including the dog. Maybe fill a bit more of that white space.)



One response

30 08 2019

I would say that the worst that can happen is a sore head tomorrow…sounds as though in this instance it would be worth it, though!


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