We became re-acquainted with Canvasback last month, when we tasted two of their beautiful Cabernet Sauvignons at Taste Red Mountain Woodinville. Consequently, we also met Brian Rudin, their very talented winemaker who is known for making terroir-driven, structured wines with an unmistakable sense of place. As a result of this meeting, Brian kindly shared two of the winery’s outstanding Syrahs. Their fruit is sourced from our two favorite regions, the Rocks District and Red Mountain. Read on for details about Canvasback and our Syrah tasting.
Founded by Duckhorn pioneers Dan and Margaret Duckhorn in 2012, Canvasback is the only Washington label under the their family of wines. Following the Duckhorn model, Canvasback combines fruit from their estate vineyard with grapes from top growers. They named the winery after the Canvasback duck, native to the Pacific Flyway. We frequently take photos of Canvasbacks on our little backyard lake.
The Duckhorns debuted their first Canvasback vintage in 2012, after blind tastings of Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Mountain and Napa Valley the previous year. The Washington wines excited them. So they started working with famed grower Dick Boushey, who helped them to cultivate relationships with the growers at some of the AVA’s most esteemed vineyards.
Subsequently, in 2014, Canvasback hired talented winemaker Brian Rudin, an expert with Red Mountain fruit, to head their wine program. They also acquired a 20-acre unplanted vineyard site, Longwinds Estate, on a coveted parcel of land near the top of Red Mountain.
Known for luxury, single-vineyard and appellation-designated Cabernet Sauvignons, Canvasback next expanded their lineup to Cabernet Franc, Rosé, Riesling, GSM and Syrah. When Brian sent us samples of 2019 Walla Walla Syrah Funk Vineyard and 2019 Red Mountain Syrah, of course, we decided to hold a side-by-side tasting. After all, they are the same vintage of Syrah, sourced from our two favorite AVAs.
Canvasback Red Mountain Syrah 2019 ($56)
This 100% Syrah is magnificent. It’s a hedonistic yet elegant wine that showcases Red Mountain’s power, depth and structure. This Syrah is lush, with velvety, textured layers of dark fruit and licorice, along with granite minerality and savory notes. What a mouthfeel! It’s absolutely drinkable now. But you could also lay it down in the cellar to see even more incredible flavors evolve.
Canvasback Walla Walla Syrah Funk Vineyard 2019 ($74)
This 100% Syrah is brimming with impressive potential. Once we decanted and aerated it, both the aromas and flavors screamed Rocks Syrah. It has the wow factor, with brooding, savory notes of dark fruit, olive tapenade, smoked meats, earthiness and so much funk. In addition, we noticed terroir-driven hints of crushed basalt and wet river rocks. The fruit and savory notes form a harmonious symphony, and we loved it. This is Canvasback’s second vintage of Syrah from Funk Vineyard, renowned for extraordinary Syrahs, including some beauties crafted by vineyard owner Richard Funk of Saviah Cellars. But we recommend cellaring this one for a few more years to see it truly reach its rock star potential.
Bottom line: We couldn’t choose a favorite in our side-by-side tasting. As you’ve seen before, we’ve never met a grape from Red Mountain that we didn’t like. And we’ve been fans of Funk Vineyard for years.
That being said, we prefer the Red Mountain Syrah to drink now, and the Funk Vineyard Syrah to relish in a few years.
In conclusion, we highly recommend a visit to Canvasback’s rustic, yet elegant, tasting room, located 15 minutes southwest of downtown Walla Walla. What a great location to experience their extensive wine portfolio. We loved their Cabernet Sauvignon last month at Taste Red Mountain. And these Syrahs are amazing.
Above all, thank you Brian, for the samples. We will be adding more of these standout wines to our cellar in the future.
Margot and Dave