Friday, July 15, 2011

A visit to Syringa Winery

Welcome to Syringa
Photo by Meg McKenzie
Why does this Sauvignon Blanc have to be so gosh-darn good? The 2008 vintage took a bronze in the state competition, and you can see why: it’s light, flowery and downright tasty. But why does Wine Girl seem so grumpy about this fact? Because of her visit to the Garden City tasting room, that’s why! 

The whole Syringa experience is a bit of a paradox: Named for the beautiful state flower, the tasting room sits on an ugly stretch of Chinden Boulevard among the used car lots and convenience stores just west of Boise. So it’s close and convenient to downtown, with ample parking. But loaded with vineyard ambiance and charm? Not so much.
Owner/winemaker Mike Crowley
Photo by Meg McKenzie
I stopped by on a Thursday afternoon about an hour after the tasting room opened, and walked in on owner Mike and his retail manager, Ina, having lunch with a friend at one of the tables out front. Oops. They hastily reconnoitered behind the counter, and then we all dealt with the fact that I had come unprepared with a five-dollar bill to pay for the tasting. I smoothed over the awkwardness by agreeing to buy a bottle – because, in fact, after tasting the Sauvignon, I wanted some more. At $16, it wasn’t cheap, but not crazy expensive, either.
The Chinden Blvd. ambience
Photo by Meg McKenzie
Mike told me the grapes were sourced from the Snake River Valley, but wasn’t much more forthcoming than that. In fact, I felt like I was keeping him from checking his iPhone messages, which he did the whole time I wasn’t trying to converse with him. 

Mike gave me a sample of the Fume Blanc, which tasted kind of sour after the sweet notes of the Sauvignon (though the wine course tells you they are the same wine, apparently they're not). I guess since I had already committed to buying a bottle of white, it wasn’t deemed practical to open a bottle of red for me. So I can’t report on Mike's Cab, his Merlot or any of his other red blends. 

According to his website, Mike has a degree in enology and viticulture and makes the wines himself. Syringa, it says, was conceived out of his love “for wine, for winemaking and the winemaker lifestyle,” whatever that is. Ina said the tasting room has been open about a year. You can find Syringa wines at some local grocery stores, including Fred Meyer and the Albertsons on ParkCenter.

Owner/winemaker: Mike Crowley
Retail manager: Ina R. De Boer 

Syringa Winery
3500 Chinden Blvd.
Garden City, ID 83714

☻☻☻ Syringa gets points for being close to town and for having a nice Sauvignon Blanc. But I didn’t get a good warm feeling from my tasting room experience – in fact, I felt like I was bothering the owner and store manager after I interrupted their lunch. I was offered tastes of only two wines, both white, even after I bought a bottle. I wanted to tell Mike, “Dude, you’re representing the Idaho wine industry here!” Open Thursday and Friday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. $5 tasting fee.

Ratings range from 1 grape (poor) to five (excellent) based on accessibility, ambiance, tasting room experience and, of course, the wines.


  1. I would encourage you to re-visit Syringa Winery. I'm not sure how to explain your experience, but Mike's reputation in the industry is just the opposite of what you describe. He's got a large and loyal following because he's a nice, down-to-earth, humble guy who makes fabulous wine.

  2. I have given Syringa wines to people on the west coast, midwest, and east coast and they have all raved about Mike's wines. I even left samples for an upscale restaurant in the Northwest and the owners raved about the wine. I have always had a positive experience at the Syringa Winery, so I found your comments to be puzzling. Having visited wineries from the west to east coasts, I find Syringa very pleasant and welcoming and the wines outstanding!

  3. I have to agree with Carolyn and Sue. Once inside the tasting room, the Garden City ambiance (or lack thereof) seems far, far away. In my experience, Mike is a genial host and a highly knowledgeable and talented winemaker. Syringa's Primitivo is among my favorite wines ever, and my wife agrees with your opinion of the Sav Blanc. I would suggest you try it again...soon.