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It's called "5 Guys on Gambier Island" and the Okanagan kicked a little bit of Washington, Aussie and French derrière.
The key to appreciating a wine competition is to understand its ground rules, making sure it’s on the up-and-up. For this competition, the ground rules were simple: everyone grab a few bottles of syrah, hop in a boat, head to an off-the-grid yurt (is there any other kind?) on Gambier Island and, after a bracing swim and a few pints, start some blind tasting. One of the guys even lugged over some very nice Reidel glasses—that’s how serious it was.This was the line-up (all served blind):
• Domaine Jamet Cote Rotie 2012• Cayuse Cailloux Syrah 2012• Two Hands Bella’s Garden 2014• Two Hands Lily’s Garden 2007• Saint Joseph JL Chave 2013• Poplar Grove Syrah 2013• Ochota Barrels I Am The Owl Syrah 2016• Hillside Select 2006
To be honest, I had some ideas about who might reign supreme. Cayuse, the impossible-to-find wine with a high price point from Washington State—which might be the most highly decorated syrah in the new world—was a strong contender (the 2014 version of this wine just earned a perfect 100 from Robert Parker). The Ochota Barrels (which I brought) was one of the new breed of Aussie syrahs, and those whose palates I respect have mad love for. And Cote Rotie, well, the standard bearer for the grape is always a serious contender. And the 2007 Two Hands (one of Australia’s big names) might have mellowed to a point of being sublime.And here’s what happened:
In the spirit of Okanagan ascendency I grabbed a bottle of the Black Hills syrah to follow up but it became very clear that we were in no condition to appreciate anything.So what’s the takeaway? I was not in any sort of tasting form and my tasting notes are non-existent but this was, in the truest sense, real life conditions. And it was blind. It didn’t matter how many hipsters love the Ochota Barrels—on this night, with this gang of goons (who, to be fair, all maintain pretty solid cellars and knowledge) it was not up to the challenge. And neither was the esteemed Cayuse. But the Poplar Grove was and then some. It wasn’t hands-down the best, but it was in the running with a troika of wines that cost three to four times as much and which have the world’s critics drooling. So all in all, not too shabby.