Friday, July 22nd: Up early to register before 8 am at White Oaks for the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration. The keynote speaker was Andrew Jefford, a regular columnist for Decanter Magazine and The World of Fine Wine, who gave a brilliant address on Chardonnay and wine in general. His thesis – wine is a sort of music and just as there is a language of music, so there is a language of wine. “Place composes wine’s music… Chardonnay is an instrument on which you can play many sorts of music.” (An idea echoed in a quote by winemaker Ron Giesbrecht several years ago: “Chardonnay is the chicken of the vineyard.”)
Two 90-minute sessions followed, entitled “The Great Chardo Swap.” Six Chardonnay winemakers from east of the Welland Canal made wine from Chardonnay grapes grown on the west side of the canal, and six winemakers from the west side made wine from grapes grown on the grown on the east. The grapes came from Inniskillin’s Montague Vineyard and Thirty Bench’s home vineyard.
The object of the exercise was “to showcase the impact of winemaking styles and terroir on Ontario’s most widely planted white vinifera grape.”
The Eastside winemakers were Fabian Reis (Ferox Estate Winery), J-L Groux (Stratus), Ann Sperling (Southbrook), Amélie Boury (Château des Charmes), Nicholas Gizuk (Inniskillin) and Craig MacDonald (Trius).
The Westside winemakers were Casey Kulczyk (Westcott), Emma Garner (Thirty Bench), Angelo Pavan/Gabriel Demarco (Cave Spring), Lawrence Buhler (Henry of Pelham), Shiraz Mottiar (Malivoire) and Thomas Bachelder (Bachelder).
In addition to the wines made from shared juice, the winemakers presented their own Chardonnay.
The third session (after lunch) was “Redefining Cool” – a panel discussion, chaired by Andrew Jefford, on “what makes Chardonnay ‘cool’ in the era of global warming.” “Let’s talk Cool by Latitude, Altitude and Attitude.” The panelists were Danielle Coetsee (Boschendal’s white wine winemaker), Clémentine Baud (owner of Domaine Baud in the Jura), Joseph Ryan (Winemaker and Vineyard Manager, Ernest Vineyards, Sonoma Coast), Nikki Callaway (winemaker at O’Rourke Family Estate in the Okanagan), Patricia Tóth (Planeta’s winemaker in Sicily (by Zoom)) and Alex Baines (Hidden Bench’s winemaker).
In the evening Deborah and I went to St. Catharine’s market square for “Chardonnay in the City” for a table-top tasting of Chardonnay from Ontario and around the world.
Other wines tasted this week:
Bottega Pinot Grigio Rosé delle Venezie 2021 ($16.95, LCBO #490938)
Palest pink in colour; spicy, white peach nose; light-bodied, crisply dry, redcurrant and peach flavours; long crisp finish. (89)
Henry of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2019 ($27.95, Vintages #268391, to be released September 10th)
Ruby colour; spicy, cedary, toasty, raspberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, plum and prune flavours, firmly structured and well-balanced. (88)
Flat Rock Red Twisted 2021 ($19.95, LCBO #86918)
Gamay, Merlot & Pinot Noir. Deep purple in colour; spicy, toasty, minerally, plum and blackcurrant bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured, ripe black fruit and cranberry flavours; mellow tannins. (89)
Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2021 ($14.95, LCBO #3470062)
Pale straw in colour; aromatic, spicy, white peach bouquet; medium-bodied, dry; fruity, peach and lemon flavours; beautifully balanced, great length and great value. (90)