Amulet Red 2018 $35

I’m guessing you’ve never heard of Amulet Wines. It’s their first year of operations and they produced a grand total of 163 cases of the Viognier-heavy Amulet White and 123 cases of the GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mouvedre) Amulet Red. You won’t find them in any stores yet, nor on any restaurant list (that will come shortly, I imagine) so if you’re interested you’ll have to click here. I think you should be interested.

But if I told you it was the new venture from Dwight Sick, a few wine nerds’ ears would perk up. Sick spent the last long while helping turn Stag’s Hollow into one of the more exciting wineries in the Okanagan (and it’s still rocking in his absence). He made a Dolcetto that opened the Valley’s eyes to that Northern Italian Grape, and crafted powerfully elegant Syrahs. He made Tempranillo and even Teroldego (no shame if you have to Google that one). But for me it was his Grenache€”a grape familiar to any fan of Rhone wines€”that was magic. So when Stag’s Hollow recently released their slate of wines and the Grenache was nowhere to be found, I knew something was up.

Amulet is that something. (It seems Sick had the rights to the grapes from the Kiln House vineyard in Penticton, where the Grenache grows). In part because 2018 was a tricky year, Sick decided to supplement the Grenache with fellow Rhone brethren, Syrah and Mouvedre, making a variation of Canadian Chateauneuf de Pape.

But at first taste this wine lacked the power of that hulking French legend. It also bore little to no resemblance to the GSM blends so common in Australia, which usually lead with a wallop of fruit. Instead this wine is all about balance and grace€”two traits associated with Grenache only when in the hands of a master. With its notes of violets, crumbled sage and a distinct thread a fresh-cracked pepper, this wine would have fooled me to be Syrah from the Northern Rhone when tasted blind. It was light, but I was thoroughly impressed with this freshman effort. And the bottle, complete with embossed coin on the neck, is a showstopper. 

And then I went away travelling for a few weeks. Coming back, I came across this bottle, stored at room temperature with a simple stopper placed atop it as the very modest nod to preservation. I was about to dump it, when I figured, what the hell, and poured the last of it into my glass (the wine is unflitered and unfined so it had some baggage at the bottom). And damn if it wasn’t still kicking. It had some touches of oxidative notes from the air exposure, but that freshness and that purity was still signing. I’ve on rare occasions had Bordeaux or Barolos that has lasted this long but never something from the Okanagan. It’s even more impressive given that this is a low-intervention wine€”the bare minimum of sulphur, which is a preservation agent, was used. It had more stem contact than most so that may have provided some help, but really I chalk it up to a winemaker, working at the top of his game with grapes he knows inside and out. Whatever it is…do yourself a solid and seek it out.