Syringa and Split Rail Tasting Room Review
Address: 4338 Chinden Blvd. Garden City,Idaho 83714.
Phone Number: 208-433-1616
Tasting Hours: Thurs-Sat 12:00-6:00
Region: Snake River Valley AVA, Idaho
Review Date: 7/26/2014
Split Rail Winery and Syringa Winery are part of the District 44 Urban Wine and Art Scene in Garden City, Idaho. Typically known for the home of the Western Idaho Fair Grounds and a multitude of used car lots, it is now home to a growing wine scene. Both wineries are housed together in an old auto body warehouse that is just a stone’s throw from the other three wineries that make up what we know as District 44.
From the moment you walk through the door you are made to feel welcome. The warehouse is huge and not only houses the tasting room but also the winery itself, as is evidenced by the stacked barrels. The décor is definitely eclectic. There is a strong industrial feel, and yet there are cozy areas where you can enjoy the tasting experience either at high top tables and bars or in soft lounge chairs. This tasting room seems to be a big hit with the younger, urban set. However this older wine drinker found it to be refreshingly different.
We were fortunate to come on a Saturday afternoon when Syringa wine maker Mike Crowley was present to answer questions and to give us a little education on his wines. Mike has a degree in Enology and Viticulture from Washington State University. The winery’s name “Syringa” also happens to be the name of Idaho’s State flower and Mike’s niece. It’s obvious that the wine is a celebration of some things Mike holds to be very precious.
Mike’s wines are precious indeed. They are grown in the Snake River Valley AVA, using labor intensive, traditional wine making techniques. The finished product is evidence of this process.
Our first sample was a 2010 Fume Blanc. This wine was a hit with all four people at our table. This slightly astringent, honey-colored pour was semi-sweet and had a hint of smoke. All four of us decided that at $16.00 per bottle, this was a great bargain. The next pour was a 2012 Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is fermented in a stainless steel tank, is perfectly clear in color, and shows a hint of pineapple flavor. It is truly one of the better Sauvignon Blancs that I have experienced and is also $16.00 per bottle.
Moving on to the reds, the 2010 Sangiovese was a hit from the first sniff and sip. This wine has a strong cherry aroma and nice spice flavors on the finish. Again the entire table agreed that this $20 bottle was a must-have. Our last pour for Syringa Winery was the 2010 Primitivo. The grapes are from the Sawtooth Winery’s vineyard in Nampa. At $24 per bottle, it’s also a good deal, but the strong cherry and spice of the 2010 Sangiovese won out at our table.
We then proceeded to taste Split Rail’s offerings. According to their website, Split Rail claims to make wine that stampedes local agriculture, makes you giggle, warms your heartache, and brings the farm to your glass and the soil to your lips. That said, their goal is to keep Idaho’s lips red and our hair and minds in temporary disarray.
Winemaker Jed Glavin and his wife Laura Hefner Glavin are the owners of Split Rail Winery. Their plan is to keep production levels low as they strive to keep quality high. Their hope is to identify new and interesting varietals that can open the eyes of local consumers and retain their curiosity. The future plan is to work with local purveyors and talk with consumers to identify the most desirable and curious varieties in Idaho.
Our first Sprlit Rail pour was a 2011 Rose Tempranillo. This wine is a beautiful rose pink and is French oak-aged. I think my expectations got the best of me on this one, though. Being a big fan of big Tempranillo wines, I found the Rose to be too light and a little simple. This was not a wine I wanted to purchase but it is definitely a wine I would like to re-experience. This may be one that could grow on me, especially on a 100 degree day.
The 2011 Horned Beast Reincarnate which is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre is a lighter-bodied, earthy red that is higher in tannins. For $27 you can take it home to serve with that grilled chicken. Being a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon, I was anxious to try their 2011. I will admit that this is not my favorite Cabernet Sauvignon. Like the 2011 Horned Beast Reincarnate, this Cab is lighter in body. Everyone at our table seemed to pick up a bitter aftertaste. A bottle of this wine is $24.
The 2011 Malbec was the absolute favorite Split Rail pour for the day. It is made from 100% Idaho fruit and is full-bodied and jammy with intense berry flavors. It was an instant hit with all four people at our table. This wine is $25 a bottle and was a purchase for everyone in attendance.
Unfortunately, we did not sample any Strange Folk Wines (Split Rail’s kegged wine) during our visit. The winery also has three other labeled wines. A Tropical Thunder Kiss which is a blend of Riesling and Pinot Gris, The Counter Creature a blend of Syrah and Blue Franc (otherwise known as German Lemberger), and The Feathered Fedora which is blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.
At the end of our day, I came away with the feeling that this new “Urban” wine scene was really alright. I like the fact that you have several tasting options in one location and it is just a five minute drive to a handful of fine dining places or any entertainment option your heart might desire. Despite the lack of panoramic views that quaint country wineries provide, we certainly did not miss out on the personal touch with the winemaker being in-house and spending time at our table. I can’t wait for my next trip to try out the next group of wineries in District 44.