The Ballard Canyon Bottle: Syrah Identity for the Syrah Territory

Ballard Canyon, the only American Viticultural Area dedicated to Syrah, now has its own custom bottle. The words BALLARD CANYON encircle the shoulder of the glass, with the letters raised above the surface.

Only Syrah will be put in this new bottle, honing Ballard Canyon’s identity for the varietal, which accounts for over half of the planted acreage in the AVA.
The Ballard Canyon Winegrowers’ Alliance decided that only Syrahs made by grower-producers, those wineries that own estates within Ballard Canyon, will use the custom bottle.

Living in the world of Syrah over the past two decades has been a roller coaster ride. Throughout the mid-90s, vintners planted Syrah throughout the West Coast after falling in love with its ability to churn out a healthy crop in both hot and cool climates. At the same time, Australian Shiraz, backed by huge critical scores, barged onto the market and became a major segment. American consumers turned their back on both after trying too many mediocre domestic Syrahs and becoming overwhelmed by increasingly ripe, thick wines coming from Down Under.
In the meantime, vintners in Ballard Canyon, continued to plant more Syrah, knowing it is simply the best fit for the area. Nestled between the cooler, foggier STA. Rita Hills AVA and the hotter Happy Canyon AVA; the cold nights, foggy mornings, short mid-day heat, and windy afternoons combine to create the perfect growing conditions for concentrated, balanced Syrahs.
We are simply too small of a group to guide our viticultural decisions on mass-market trends. We can only afford to make the best quality wine possible; and the BCWGA members unanimously agree, our strength is Syrah.
The Ballard Canyon bottle becomes a stamp of quality that stands alone in the world of wine. The bottle indicates the peerless style our unique climate grants us: bright, fresh fruit aromas; the nuance and secondary characteristics of smoked meat and olive true to Northern Rhone Syrah; all combined with richness and concentration.
Even as America turned its back on Syrah, we remained focused. Today the bottles symbolizes our dedication. Ballard Canyon now owns a space in the middle of Syrah’s continuum. The Motherland lies on one side: the Rhone River gorge including places like Cote Rotie, Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, Saint Joseph, and Cornas; with complex lighter bodied wines that often take years of age to become approachable. The modern New World Syrah and Shiraz wines lie on the opposite side. Jammy ripe, gloppy, and smooth.


Because the TTB only published the Ballard Canyon AVA on October 30th, 2013 and the former Ballard Canyon Winery planted its first vines in 1974, we decided against an elaborate Chateau Neuf du Pape-like crest. We are not trying to create a sense of historical significance in our developing area. Instead, we opted for simplicity, and in the end, also voted for subtlety. The words BALLARD CANYON appear quite small, and revolve in a continuous circle to be seen from every angle.
The conservative appearance of the bottle reflects our realistic outlook on the future. At only 550 planted acres, Ballard Canyon will not take the wine world by storm. The wine lovers who seek out interesting wines from less mainstream appelations will take notice of the Ballard Canyon bottle. They will seek it out as a sure-thing for a great bottle of wine.