Monday, July 18th: A dental appointment this morning, never a good way to start the week. In the afternoon wrote up my wine reviews for Quench magazine. For dinner with salmon, Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay 2013: bright straw colour; Burgundian nose of apple, spicy oak with a forest floor note; medium-bodied, dry, great balance with apple and pear flavours lifted with spicy oak. (89)
Tuesday, July 19th: A conference call with Hans Gerhardt and Donald Ziraldo to discuss a possible wine event for 2017. Lindsay Groves came over for a drink. I opened a bottle of Tarquino Sauvignon Blanc 2015 from Mendoza: pale straw colour; lemony, grapefruit nose with a mineral note; medium-bodied, dry, fresh, green plum flavour with a grassy note. (88)
Wednesday, July 20th: Wrote my Quench column on rosés. Dinner with our friends Gordon and Esther at Mistura. Great bottle of Guado al Tasso Il Bruciato 2014 from Maremma.
Thursday, July 21st: Picked up at noon to drive down to Niagara for this year’s International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration at White Oaks Conference Resort and Spa. After settling into my room I crossed the road to the outlet mall to visit Bass Pro, where I bought some lures and a packet of leaders for my fishing trip next month. Outside the mall they have a rack of barrels celebrating Niagara wineries. Nice touch.
Outlet mall barrels
Then on to the Directors’ dinner at Stratus. All the visiting winemakers and their Ontario peers were there. My first wine of the event was Josef Chromy Sparkling Chardonnay from last year’s I4C.
Friday, July 22nd: Up early for the I4C keynote speaker is Ian D’Agata. The First Session: “To Pick or Not to Pick… Harvest timing and implications.” Moderator John Szabo: “One third sunlight is all you need (to ripen grapes).” “19 degrees is sufficient to ripen Chardonnay.” Greg Stach, Landmark Vineyards, Sonoma: “There are two Chardonnays: fine wine Chardonnay and Chardonnay as a commodity.”
Blind tasting of six wines – have they been picked at optimum ripeness – early, peak or late?
- Champy Bourgogne Signature Chardonnay 2013: Tart, green apple and sour cream flavours; Chablis style.
- Landmark Vineyards Overlook Vineyards 2013: Elegant, oaked, nicely balanced with good acidity.
- Norman Hardie County Chardonnay Unfiltered 2014: Lean, tart, light-bodied, fresh acidity.
- Norman Hardie Niagara Chardonnay 2013: Fresh, lively, green apple, fresh and lively.
- Viña Tabalí Talinay Chardonnay 2014: Well-balanced green apple and lemony.
- Dog Point Vineyard Chardonnay Marlborough 2014: Smoky, toasty, green apple, good length, tart finish.
Session 2: The 4 C’s… Cellaring Cool Climate Chardonnay. Factors that allow Chardonnay to age: Acidity/pH; SO2, Residual Sugar, Alcohol Level, Phenolics, Dissolved CO2, Oxygen ingress, Malolactic Fermentation, Partial MLF, Filtration, use of Oak, Aromatics; Storage conditions (light, temperature humidity), Wine environment – vessel type, bottle colour, closure type.
Two wines from the same winery, different vintages;
- Benjamin Bridge Methode Classique 2011 and Blanc de Blancs Brut 2004
- Blue Mountain Chardonnay Reserve 2013 and 2005
- Domaine Laroche Chablis Les Vaudeveys 2014 and Les Blanchots 2009
- Foxes Island Belsham Awatere Estate Chardonnay 2011 (Auckland) and 2008
- Cave Spring Cellars CSV Beamsville Bench Chardonnay 2013 and 2007
Sessions Three: Skins and Stems – Whole Cluster Winemaking (or not). Belinda Kemp from the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, Brock University. “Chardonnay is a quite neutral grape.”
- Domain Drouhin Oregon Chardonnay Arthur 2014
- Stoller Family Estate Dundee Hills Chardonnay 2015
- Planeta Chardonnay 2014 (Sicily)
(Which of the following Pinots had whole-cluster fermentation?)
- Malivoire Wine Mottiar Pinot Noir 2013
- Malivoire Wine Mottiar Pinot Noir 2014
- Malivoire Wine Mottiar Small Lot Pinot Noir 2014
- Flat Rock Cellars Estate Pinot Noir 2013
- Flat Rock Cellars Estate Pinot Noir 2013
Then upstairs to the press room to taste wines that will be served at I4C.
Media room wines (159 in all)
At 7 pm took a shuttle bus to the Niagara District Airport for a tasting of Chardonnays set up at booths inside the huge hangar. At the food stations you paid with cork (1 to 3 pieces, depending on the dish). Best dish was the deep-fried zucchini blossoms with aioli.
Saturday, July 23rd: After breakfast, into the Media Tasting Room for more tasting, then at 10:30 am Kurtis Kolt and I were driven to Redstone Winery for lunch. Before the al fresco lunch (on one of the hottest days of the year) we did some tasting at the bar:
- Redstone Sparkling 2013 (60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Gris): pale straw colour; minerally, peach nose; medium-bodied, dry, white peach and citrus flavours with a firm somewhat bitter finish. (87.5)
- Redstone Chardonnay 2012 (a blend of three vineyards): straw colour; minerally, apple nose with vanilla oak and an undergrowth note; medium-bodied dry with good varietal character. (88)
- Redstone Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2012 (60% Sauvignon, 40% Semillon): pale straw colour; herbaceous, crab apple bouquet; medium-bodied, crisply dry with an apple peel flavour; slightly hard on the finish. (86)
- Redstone Reserve Chardonnay 2012: pale straw colour; high-toned nose of apples; medium-bodied, sweetish peach and apple flavours. (88)
- Redstone Syrah 2012: deep ruby colour; medium-bodied, dry, earthy, spicy blackberry flavour; firmly structured with a vanilla oak and sandalwood finish. (88)
- Redstone Cabernet Franc Reserve 2012: deep ruby colour; leady, blackcurrant nose with vanilla oak and a floral note; medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured with evident tannins. (88)
- Redstone Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: deep ruby colour; cedary, redcurrant nose; medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured, redcurrant and cranberry flavours with a firm tannic finish. (88)
Then we sat down to lunch on the patio. It was so hot the butter melted to a pool within minutes. The menu:
…four minutes later
The back to the hotel and more tasting in the Media Room before departing by shuttle bus for Ridley College for the Cool Chardonnay World Tour Grand Tasting & Al Fresco Dinner. All the participating wineries poured their wines in the college ground – over 100 wines from the best cool-climate wine regions from across the globe. The biggest line-up was at Imant Malins’ Fat Chance Cold Smoked Salmon Company’s booth, where he handed out generous samples of his magnificent smoked salmon.
Saturday dinner menu
At 9:30pm the Après Chardonnay Bar opened, featuring Ontario red wines.
My top red at I4C
My top white at I4C
Sunday, July 24th: After breakfast, back to the media room to taste another ten wines before taking the shuttle bus to Ravine Vineyard for a Moveable Feast – Brunch. The Chardonnays were set out under a tent.
Lunch at Ravine Vineyard
After lunch a bunch of us repaired down to the cellar to taste some Ravine vineyard wines.
- Ravine Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2015: straw colour; spicy, Bordeaux-style nose with a note of oak; medium-bodied, dry, grassy, grapefruit and green plum flavours; elegant with great length. (90)
- Ravine Vineyard Pinot Gris 2015: pink gold colour; spicy, peach pit nose with an oak note; medium-bodied, dry, white peach and citrus flavours with good length. (89)
- Ravine Vineyard Cabernet Rosé 2015 (100% Cabernet Franc): salmon colour; minerally, strawberry and rhubarb on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, wild strawberry puree and lemon flavours with good length. (88.5)
- Ravine Vineyard Lonna’s Block Cabernet Franc 2014: deep ruby-purple colour; colour; cedary, spicy, green tobacco and redcurrant flavours; medium-bodied, dry, black and redcurrant flavours; well-balanced and fresh on the palate. (89.5)
- Ravine Vineyard Lonna’s Block Cabernet Franc 2013: deep ruby-purple colour; cedary, spicy, tobacco and vanilla oak spice bouquet; full-bodied, dry. ripe fruit – plum and prune flavours. (88.5)
- Ravine Vineyard Lonna’s Block Cabernet Franc 2012: deep ruby-purple colour; high-toned, vanilla oak, redcurrant nose with a floral note; medium to full-bodied, dry and firmly structured. (89).
A vertical of Ravine Vineyard Cabernet Franc
A car took me back home. A very enjoyable experience all around.