Monday, July 14: Another visit to the chiropractor, who tells me I am not bending down to pick stuff up properly. Wrote my Lexpert magazine column – 12 questions to know if you’re wine savvy. In the afternoon tasted the following wines:
- Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay 2011 (Niagara Peninsula): straw colour with a green tint; minerally, Burgundian nose of forest floor and apple with an oak note; dry, medium-bodied with apple and lemon flavours. (88+)
- Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Chardonnay 2011 (Twenty Mile Bench): pale straw colour; lightly floral nose of apples and oak; medium- to full-bodied, soft mouth feel, elegant and silky, beautifully balanced. (91)
- Quails’ Gate Chenin Blanc 2013 (Okanagan Valley): very pale straw colour; minerally, pear nose; dry, medium-bodied, pear and lemon zest flavours, clean and true, well balanced. A great food wine. (89)
- Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2013 (Okanagan Valley): very pale with a lime tint; minerally, floral, citrus nose; medium-bodied, tart green apple and lime flavours with racy mouth-freshening acidity. (89)
- Quails’ Gate Gewurztraminer 2013 (Okanagan Valley): very pale, almost water white in colour; aromatic, spicy, grapefruit nose with an earthy note; expressing more varietal character on the palate than on the nose – rose petal and pink grapefruit flavours. (89)
- Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir 2011 (Niagara Peninsula): light ruby colour with a tawny note; minerally, sour cherry nose; dry, lean and sinewy with a discreet floral note; evident alcohol with a tannic lift on the finish. (89)
- Le Clos Jordanne Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 (Twenty Mile Bench): light ruby colour with a tawny note; high toned, more focussed than the Village Reserve, warm cherry, minerals and forest floor nose; lovely velvety mouth feel, full on the palate with cherry, plum and raspberry flavours ending on soft, pillowy tannins and a smoky barrel note. (90+)
Tuesday, July 15: Wrote up my wine reviews for Quench magazine for November (the year is going fast). In the afternoon settled down for more tasting.
- Niagara College Teaching Winery Chardonnay 2013: (Estate fruit; 14 barrels total: 12 French (Radoux, Cadus, Damy, Berthomieu), 1 each Hungarian and American; 30% new, 15% second use, 7% third, the rest 4th and 5th use; 50% inoculated and 50% spontaneous fermentations; spontaneous malolactic fermentations finished in February; bi-weekly lees stirring until end of malo, then once a month; 13.2% alc.): straw colour; Burgundian nose, struck flint, smoky, green pineapple; medium-bodied, flavourful pineapple, green apple and pear flavours with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (89)
- Niagara College Teaching Winery Cabernet Franc “Desicatto” 2012 (2 barrels made, both from the same hand-picked row of Estate fruit with 50% of the fruit being naturally dried for 6 weeks; both halves fermented and then aged separately in second-use Berthomieu barrels for 10 months, then blended together to age for remaining 11 months; 13.9% alc.): purple-ruby colour; cedary, vanilla oak, minty, dates, raisin and plum nose; rich mouth feel, dry, plum and dark chocolate flavours with a floral note and a tannic lift on the finish. (90)
- Niagara College Teaching Winery Merlot Farinacci Vineyard 2012 (18% new, 18% second-use 27% third-use, 18% fourth-use, 18% neutral; 55% American, 27% French, 18% Hungarian; 13.7% alc.): Deep ruby colour; cedar, red berry nose with an engaging floral top note; dry, medium-bodied, redcurrant and black cherry flavours with a sweet oak note; dry, medium-bodied, firmly structured with grainy tannins. (89)
- Niagara College Teaching Winery Meritage 2012 (46% Cab Franc (Estate), 36% Merlot (Farinacci Vineyard); 18% Cab. Sauv. (Huebel Estates, Line 3); 27% new, 14% second-use, 23% third-use, 36% fourth and fifth use; 60% French, 25% American, 15% Hungarian; 13.6% alc.): deep purple ruby colour; a cedary, blackcurrant nose with a creamy note; dry, medium-bodied, firmly structured red and blackcurrant flavours, good acidic spine with cocoa-like tannins on the finish. (90)
- Niagara College Teaching Winery Red Blend Icewine 2013 (10.7% Petit Verdot, 11.8% Syrah, 22.6% Merlot, 20.6% Cab. Sauv. 34.3% Cab. Franc; pressed and blended at 36.9°B, fermented to 9.6% alc with 202 g/L residual sugar and 8.8 g/L): deep salmon colour; honeyed strawberry nose; rich and mouth-filling, sweet strawberry-raspberry puree flavour, unctuous and smooth on the palate with a firm finish and just enough citrus acidity to balance the sweetness. (92)
- Niagara College Teaching Winery White Blend Icewine 2013 (98% Vidal with a tiny bit of Riesling and Chardonnay; pressed at 36.7°B, fermented to 9.3% alc with 195 g/L Residual Sugar, with 7.4 g/L TA; approx. 20% fermented in second-use Berthomieu barrel and aged for 4 months): straw colour; honeyed peach with a touch of botrytis on the nose; sweet peach and honey flavours; full in the mouth with good length. (91)
Wednesday, July 16: Somehow the day got away from me. I wrote up the Niagara College wine notes and sent them off to the winemaker. Then wrote up wine reviews for Quench magazine. Dinner: salmon with a bottle of Sileni Hake’s Bay Chardonnay 2013 (straw with a green tint; toasty caramel, apple and citrus nose; medium-bodied, dry, crisp green apple flavour with a dry, powdery finish. (88))
Thursday, July 17: A 10 am meeting at Grano with Anthony Wilson-Smith, President of Historica Canada, to discuss the history of winemaking in Canada project. Then went to a computer store to get my phone unlocked only to be told that it was already unlocked!
Friday, July 18: Drove down to Brock University with Zoltan Szabo to attend the 4th International Cool Climate Celebration, this year entitled “The Rebirth of Cool.” Fifty-eight cool climate wineries attending. 500,000 acres of Chardonnay are planted world-wide, said John Szabo, the moderator of the first panel (Techno vs. Tech-no). In Ontario it’s the second largest crop in volume and the most widely planted varietal. Tim Atkin MW, the British wine writer, delivered the keynote speech. “Chardonnay is a victim of its ubiquity,” said Tim, “and a victim of its adaptability.” Chardonnay, he said, is the fifth largest variety planted globally.
Tim Atkin MW, keynote speaker
The panelists for the first session: Ron Giesbrecht of Niagara College, Shiraz Mottiar of Malivoire, Jeremy Dineen of Josef Chromy wines in Tasmania. In front of us, four wines, all the same made by Ron Giesbrecht, but different treatments.
- Control, nothing added, 2013, stainless steel fermentation, no malolactic (Least appreciated in the room)
- No oak; gum Arabic added for mouth feel and to stabalize tartrates; a product to ameliorate lees (My favourite)
- Oak chips (French) added, three different types – sweet, intense and spice – added at different temperatures
- Tannin added
Fining agents, proteins and tannins have been used for centuries, said Ron. Reverse osmosis to concentrate. Jeremy: consumers will pay lots of money for manipulated food like molecular cuisine but want their wines natural.
Second session: Yield In Context – Mattias Oppenlander of Grape Growers of Ontario. Jim Willwerth, CCOVI, Dimitri Baza, Champy and Matthew Lane of Peter Lehmann and Christie Canterbury MW. Is there a relationship between yield and quality? In Burgundy, with global warming, will they increase yields to maintain good quality? Burgundy plants 10,000 vines per hectare. Half a kilo of grapes harvested per plant. The wines tasted:
- Champy Corton Charlemagne 2011
- Champy Pernand Vergelesses en Caradeaux 2011
- Peter Lehmann Eden Valley Chardonnay 2012
- Trius Winery Showcase Single Barrel Heubel Estate Chardonnay 2011
Third session: The Living Vine: The Viticultural Continuum. Panelists Blake Gray, California blogger, Miguel Torres Maczassek of Torres, Sebastian Jacquey of Le Clos Jordanne, and Ann Sperling of Southbrook Vineyards & Sperling Vineyards. Terroir expression is critical, says Ann. Biodynamic, organic or sustainable? The need for honest certification for consumers.
- Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Jordanne 2011
- Sperling Vineyards Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2012
- Southbrook Vineyards Poetica Chardonnay 2011
- Miguel Torres Milmanda Chardonnay 2011
A buffet lunch of cold meats and salad. Drove to White Oaks Hotel, checked in and visited the room where 108 Chardonnays had been set out for the media to taste.
World Chardonnays for tasting
I began with the Burgundies:
- Champy Viré-Clessé 2012: light straw colour; minerally, apple and forest floor nose; crisply dry, with lemony-green apple flavours that sustain well on the palate. (90)
- Champy Pernand Vergelesses en Caradeaux 2011: straw colour; floral, minerally, forest floor nose; medium-bodied, apple with green apple acidity. Tight and closed. (89+)
- Champy Corton-Charlemagne 2011: straw colour; a funky bottle (better this morning at the symposium). 2nd bottle: reductive nose, still a bit funky but less so than the first bottle. (88)
- Domaine Dublère Savigny-Les-Beaune 2011: bright straw colour; oaky, barnyard notes; fennel, apple and citrus flavours; soft, round mouth feel, finishing with lively acidity with a touch of bitterness. (88)
- Domaine Dublère Nuits Siant Georges 2011: straw colour; forward caramel and oak nose; oaky, sweet and sour flavours; a little short on finish leaving an oak note on the palate. (86)
- Gérard Bertrand Aigle Royal 2012: light straw colour; spicy oak, citrus and caramel nose; mouth-filling, dry, sustains well on the palate. (89)
- Marie-Pierre Manciat Mâcon Les Morizottes 2012: light straw colour; minerally, apple with a leafy, woodsy noose; rich, peachy apple and citrus flavour. (89)
- Marie-Pierre Manciat Pouilly-Fuissé Les Petites Bruyères 2012: straw colour; vanilla oak, spicy, green pineapple nose; rich and full on the palate, well balanced, lovely mouth-feel with a fresh citrus acidity finish. (90)
- Marie-Pierre Manciat Crémant de Bourgogne Brut: bright straw colour; apple, toast on the nose; full in the mouth with apple puree and cider flavours. (88)
- Olivier Decelle – Pierre Jean Villa Sait-Aubin Sur Gamay 2012: light straw colour; minerally, apple nose; high toned, apple with a vegetal note. (86)
- Olivier Decelle – Pierre Jean Villa Savigny-Les-Beaune 2012: minerally, earthy, apple; again high toned, sour note. (86)
- Kistler Chardonnay Les Noisetiers Sonoma Coast 2012: straw with a green tint; spicy, minerally, barnyard nose; richly extracted, full on the palate with toasty, nutty flavours; great balance. (92)
- Kistler Chardonnay Stone Flat Vineyard Sonoma Coast 2012: floral, apple and grapefruit nose; full-palate with a toasty finish. (93)
- Thelema Blanc de Blancs 1994: old gold colour; caramel with a cheesy note; crisply dry, green apple. Surprisingly fresh and vibrant for a 20-year-old bubbly. (89)
- Maycas del Limari Sumaq Reserva Chardonnay 2013: light straw with a green tint; minerally, green tobacco nose; dry, full-bodied, pear flavour. Great value. (88)
- Maycas del Limari Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2010: straw colour with a lime tint; barnyard note, passion fruit and elderberry flavours; firm structure, full-bodied. (89)
- Sandhi Rita’s Crown Chardonnay 2011: straw colour; light oak, orange, caramel and toasty flavours carried on bright acidity. Full-bodied and fleshy. (91)
- Ravine Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay 2011: straw with a green tint; forest floor nose, apple; concentrated, citrus and apple backed by oak and lively acidity. (89)
At 5:45 pm we were bussed to 13th Street Winery, where wine barrels had been set up around the grounds for the visiting wineries to pour their Chardonnays. Pigs had been roasted over barrel staves for dinner and a rock band entertained us. During the course of the evening I tasted Chardonnays from Chromy (Tasmania), Cave Spring, Rex Hill (Oregon). Blue Mountain (BC), Bodega Catena Zapata (Argentina), Talley Vineyards (California), Norman Hardie, Lailey Vineyards, Tawse, Sandi (California) and took a blind tasting test devised by Peter Bodnar Rod. Back at the hotel by 10 pm and skyped Deborah to catch up on the day’s news.
Barrel top tasting at 13th Street Winery
Pig roast in the vineyard
Saturday, July 19: Breakfast at the hotel. Today I was bussed to Flat Rock Cellars with fellow wine writer Mike DiCarlo. Only the driver got lost and we arrive forty minutes late, missing four of the six speakers. Sandra Oldfield, the winemaker from Tinhorn Creek was introducing her Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay 2012, followed by Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay 2013. Also tasted here, before the thin crust pizza was served, Viña Carmen Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2012, Peter Lehmann H & V Eden Valley Chardonnay 2012, Flat Rock Rusty Shed 2012 and Ponzi Reserve Chardonnay 2011. Matt Lane, the entertaining winemaker from Peter Lehmann, came up with the best line of the day: Australia, he said, is the only country that eats its national emblem. A long bus ride back to the hotel (we had to pick up others from different wineries) and visit to the press room for more tasting:
- Marimar Estate Acero Chardonnay 2012: straw with a lime tint; minerally, melon and peach nose; rich and ripe, flesh and full on the palate with a spine of acidity to hold it all together. (91)
- Marimar Estate La Masia Chardonnay 2012: spicy, oaky, caramel nose; mouth-filling, melon and citrus flavours; good length (89)
- Josef Chromy Chardonnay 2013: pale straw with green tint; light oak character topping green fruit notes; good tension between fruit (melon) and sweetness (toffee) etched with citrus acidity. (89)
- Josef Chromy Pepik Chardonnay 2012: light straw colour with a green tint; earthy, vanilla oak, green apple; green apple flavour with tangerine acidity; nicely integrated. (89)
- Bachelder Chardonnay Johnson Vineyard 2012 (Oregon): straw colour with a green tint; funky, barnyard and citrus nose; medium-bodied, fennel, melon and apple flavours with lively acidity. (88)
- Creation Chardonnay 2012: straw colour with a green tint; reductive nose, smoky; medium to full-bodied with a peach and bitter almond flavour; lively acidity. (88)
- Creation Chardonnay 2013: straw with a lime tint; barnyard nose, caramel with oak notes; dry, mature, citrus and caramel flavours. (88)
- Jean Leon Chardonnay Vinya Gigi Single Vineyard 2012: straw with a lime tint; citrus, nutty, tree bark nose; full-bodied, dry, citrus and peach flavours; some bitterness on the finish. (87+)
- Clos Du Bois Chardonnay Sonoma Reserve 2012: straw with a lime tint; forest floor, vanilla oak nose; caramel and sour cream flavours with a citrus finish. (88+)
- Rex Hill Chardonnay Willamette Valley 2011: straw with a green tint; spicy, green apple nose; spicy, ripe caramel and citrus flavours, full in the mouth, creamy, nutty; good length. (90)
- Sumaridge Chardonnay 2012: straw colour; barnyard nose, apple with oak notes; spicy, well integrated oak, Burgundian style nose; spicy, apple and pear flavours; great length. (90)
It rained much of the day and there was some trepidation about going The Cool Chardonnay World Tour Al Fresco Feast at Vineland Research & Innovation Centre since the walk-around tasting of sparkling wines and oysters was outside. Mercifully the rain stopped and dinner was served at long communal tables under two huge tents. There must have been 1500 people in the tent where I sat, next to Norman Hardie. By this time I was ready to bite my wrist for some red wine and happily a bottle of Pearl Morissette Gamay appeared magically. Menu: Confit Duck & Waterford County Bean Cassoulet; Chardonnay Grapevine Smoked Rainbow Trout; Honey & Thyme Roasted Blue Goose Organic Chicken with Chardonnay-Lemon Dressed Fresh Green and Spiced Niagara Yellow Plum Jam; Heirloom Tomato Panzanella with Focaccia, Montforte Feta and Garden Bail; Tunisian Carrot Salad, Harissa Vinaigrette, Kalamata Olives and Coriander; Ontario Golden Beet Salad, Upper Canada Ricotta, Toasted Walnuts, Ver Jus Vinaigrette; Assorted breads, De La Terre Kitchen; dessert – Freshly baked Artisan Fruit Pie. A group of sommeliers cruised the tables with open bottles of Chardonnay. A great dinner altogether.
Harald Thiel dispensing Hidden Bench Chardonnay
Sunday, July 20: Up at 7 am to drive back to Toronto. I had to miss the final event – a lunch at Ravine Vineyards. I4C was the best yet. Fifty-seven wineries from around the world (25 from Ontario, 2 from British Columbia).