Araxi sommelier Samantha Rahn has been working in the food and wine industry for the better part of her adult life. But, despite earning a slew of accolades, Rahn has never had a wine to call her own.
As the 2013 recipient of the British Columbia Sommelier of the Year award, Rahn was invited to create her own wine label at the Okanagan Crush Pad winery in Summerland, B.C. And the title wasn't merely ceremonial, as Rahn was heavily involved with each phase of the decision process — from viticulture, grape selection and winemaking, to the final blending, labelling and bottling.
The result? A hundred cases of Rahn's own Samantha Syrah, a medium-bodied, robust wine with hints of spice and blackberry that's as layered and complex as the woman who inspired it.
"People that know me well know that I'm a white wine drinker, so it was a surprise to everyone when I decided to work with a red, but I wanted something that was going to have a little bit of longevity, something I was excited about that I think is a great representation of the future for B.C. wine," Rahn said.
Using grapes from the beautiful Cerqueira Vineyard in Oliver, Rahn's Syrah was the relatively rare wine that was fermented in oak barrels. It was, Rahn admits, "a goofy idea" that Crush Pad was more than happy to run with.
"I knew how much work it would be if we wanted to do that kind of ferment," she said. "Working with the oak compared to stainless steel, you have a chance to have at least a little bit of contact with air while it's fermenting and developing, so that helps it along its sort of natural evolution."
In terms of labelling, Rahn made sure to represent her hometown to the fullest, with an eye-catching black and white design by Town Hall Communications featuring her riding a mountain bike with Black Tusk in the background, and her signature scrolled across the bottle. Rahn also wrote the text on the back label.
So far, she's had a hard time keeping her wine in the cellar.
"There's quite a high demand," said Rahn. "Sometimes it seems like it may not be the easiest thing to sell 100 cases of wine, but the winery noted that there are a lot of people named Samantha or families with daughters named Samantha that want to collect it."
Still, while she enjoyed working with Crush Pad and getting a hands-on look at nearly every aspect of the winemaking process, Rahn has no illusions about switching careers anytime soon.
"I've been in mountain resorts my whole adult life, so I don't see myself leaving here or restaurants anytime soon," she said. "Winemaking isn't something that gets me too excited. I'm interested in it, but I wouldn't want to necessarily do it as a job. But if the opportunity or projects like this... (come up) in the future, I will definitely consider them, but it will probably always be from my homebase in the mountains."
Samantha Syrah is available at Araxi, as well as at the Blackcomb and Nesters liquor stores. A portion of the proceeds goes to the BC Hospitality Foundation to fund a wine education scholarship.