The crowd favourite was the host's 2004 Ollieux Romanis Cuvee Or (30% carignan/30% grenache/30% mourvedre/10% syrah), a wine Cam picked up at the Salon des Vins. Dark chocolate and leathery dark blackberries on the nose, some vanilla and oak as well. So elegant on the palate - very smooth, soft and juicy, but this modern-styled wine had a very short finish and was lacking in complexity vs. the others - my third place wine.
14% alcohol, Score: 17/20, Price: C$37 (SDV).
A very close second (and my favourite) was Chris' 2001 Chateau de Lascaux "Les Secrets" a 50:50 grenache/syrah from Pic St-Loup, my favourite Languedoc appellation. A beguiling nose of black cherries and violets, tar and wet stones, black pepper and liquorice as well. Acid, tannin and fruit in harmony, a very long finish, this should benefit from a few more years in the cellar.
15.4% alcohol, Score: 17.5/20, Price: C$46 (SAQ)
Third was my Loire red, the 2003 Domaine des Roches Neuves "La Marginale", a cabernet franc from Samur-Champigny. On the nose one of my partners said this wine "smells like a joint", but unfamiliar with the term I preferred "vegetal and leafy green"..., with smokey blackcurrant and floral scents. Velvety smooth tea-like tannins, very elegant and well balanced, it stood out like a sore thumb amongst these hot climate grenache/shiraz wines and held its own, pairing particularly well with the venison terrine. Beautifully textured and the longest finish, this needs to sit for a few more years.
13% alcohol, Score: 17.5/20, Price: C$38 (SAQ)
A near consensus last place was Pramod's 2001 Chateau Cazeneuve "Roc des Mates", a syrah (80%) with the balance grenache/mourvedre from Pic St-Loup. Rather tired on the nose - plummy cooked fruit, earthy, with some pepper and smoke, another taster described it as canned tomato sauce (Chef Boyardee to be exact). Smooth, but uncomplex and a touch hot on the palate. A disappointment, as I supplied this to Pramod and have had good success in the past - must have peaked two years ago, or I have a storage problem...
14% alcohol, Score: 15/20, Price: C$27 (SAQ)
All wines were blinded and decanted prior to the start. I had tasted three of these wines before so I wasn't completely blinded, but time does play tricks with the memory and I got the two Pic St-Loup wines mixed up.
Oops, almost forgot the dessert! The 2002 Cave de l'Abbe Rous Helyos (Banyuls) was a dessert wine made from 100% grenache. Meaty dark fruit and almonds on the nose, beautiful texture - luxurious soft and velvety tannins and dark berry fruit - a worthy competitor to a fine port.
16.5% alcohol, Score: 17.5/20, Price: C$51 (SAQ)