On Wednesday, March 24 at the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club, The Ontario Wine Society presented a tasting of specially selected Ontario Chardonnays called, “Ontario Chardonnay: Seriously Cool”. These same Chardonnays, from some of Ontario’s top wineries, will be showcased at Canada House in London, England, the day before the start of the London Wine Trade Fair in May.
The event is the brainchild of Bill Redelmeier, owner of Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Redelmeier says he was inspired by last May’s surprise win by one of Le Clos Jordanne’s Chardonnays at a high-profile wine competition in Montreal, Quebec. The 2005 Claystone Terrace Chardonnay took first prize after being pitted against Chardonnays from California and the illustrious region of Burgundy, France. When Redelmeier heard that Thomas Bachelder, maker of the winning Le Clos Jordanne Chardonnay, had said that any number of Ontario wineries could have won the contest, he got the idea to introduce Ontario Chardonnays to the world.
Even Jancis Robinson has commented about the event on her website, stating that “Canadian wine producers are getting very bold.” Click here to read what Jancis has to say about this “bold” tasting event.
The wines were chosen in a blind tasting by some of Ontario’s top wine critics including Tony Aspler, Linda Bramble, Konrad Ejbich, Steven Elphick, David Lawrason, Michael Pinkus, Gordon Stimmel, and John Szabo. 34 Chardonnays produced by 21 different Ontario wineries will take part in the London tasting.
Canadian wine writer Tony Aspler claims that Chardonnay is actually Ontario’s signature wine, not Icewine as most people believe. After the “Seriously Cool” tasting, I’m inclined to agree with him.
I managed to get through most of the 34 wines, but I did miss a few. All the wines I tasted, with few exceptions, were very good, and many were downright delicious. Included below are tasting notes from some wines that I felt were excellent or interesting in some way.
Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery 2005 Beal Vineyard Inox Reserve: This wine did not spend any time in oak, but it did age on its lees for 7 months. It has a slightly creamy, yeasty character, along with yellow fruit, ripe pineapple and pear, and orange creamsicle. A big mouthfeel, a creamy texture, and a fresh finish round out this very enjoyable wine.
Malivoire 2005 Moira Vineyard Chardonnay: The Moira vineyard is owned by Malivoire and is situated on a north-facing slope on the Beamsville Bench, looking out towards Lake Ontario. The aromas of this wine are stunning and complex – white blossoms, French vanilla, baked pear, sweet pineapple, slight butterscotch, and mineral. The texture is creamy and smooth with flavours of ripe pear, yellow apple, vanilla, and mineral. Crisp acidity leaves the mouth watering on the very long finish. Absolutely delicious!
Flat Rock Cellars 2007 Reserve Chardonnay: This wine won Best White at Cuvee 2010. The Reserve is only made in the best years. The Chardonnay is barrel fermented in French oak- 30% new. The wine underwent full malolactic fermentation and the lees were stirred every week for six weeks in order to gain a creamy texture and flavours. Hints of floral perfume and aromas of pear, yellow fruit, and loads of mineral are evident. The mineral follows through on the palate with lots of fruit and a touch of toasted caramel on the long finish. A fine Chardonnay.
Le Clos Jordanne 2007 Talon Ridge Chardonnay: For all you lovers of big Chardonnay, this is the wine for you. From the superb 2007 vintage, this wine has very pronounced, aromas of white blossoms, vanilla bean, ripe fruit (pineapple, cantaloupe, and orange peel), butterscotch, and a distinct mineral note. On the palate it shows a zippy acidity and lots of mineral to balance the sweet fruit. The oak still needs a bit of time to integrate. I also tried this wine back in November. Read “Le Clos Jordanne – A Tasting of the 2007 Vintage” for more information on this wine and the full Le Clos Jordanne 2007 portfolio.
Southbrook Vineyards 1998 Poetica: The Poetica line is Southbrook’s highest tier wines and are only made in the best years. This older wine is a brilliant yellow colour with aromas of creamy butterscotch, caramel, and dried apples. It has a very silky texture with a good streak of acidity. The butterscotch and caramel flavours follow through onto the palate supported by a long finish. It’s still very much alive. I also wrote about this wine back in November. Read “Southbrook Vineyards – Poetica Tasting” for more information about this wine and several other wines from the Poetica lineup.
Chateau des Charmes 2008 Musqué: This special clone (clone 809) of the Chardonnay Musqué grape was pioneered in Ontario by Chateau des Charmes. This wine does not see any oak in order to preserve the beautiful aromatics of the grape. The nose is very un-Chardonnay-like with pronounced aromas of honeysuckle, tropical fruit, melon, and spice. In a blind tasting I might guess it was a Gewurztraminer ,or maybe Muscat, from its aromas. It has a rich texture with refreshing acidity on the palate. A really nice wine to enjoy outside on a hot summer day (I can’t wait!)
Ravine Vineyard 2008 Rowan Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay: The vineyard is located in the sub-appellation of St. David’s Bench which is the warmest of all the Niagara Peninsula’s sub-appellations. This wine was blended from barrels chosen for their special characteristics and spent 10 months in oak – 66% new. Aromas of baked apple, spice, vanilla, and butterscotch are evident. The same follows through onto the palate with a bit more toastiness and a buttery texture. Very nice.
Lailey Vineyard 2008 Old Vines Chardonnay: The grapes come from vines planted in 1974 making them “old vines” indeed… for Canada, anyway. Interestingly, these are the same vines (and the same winemaker, Derek Barnett) that supplied the grapes for the Southbrook 1998 Poetica Chardonnay 10 years ago. Aromas of vanilla, mineral, and apple dominate the nose. The wine has a satiny texture with a crisp acidity, good minerality, great concentration, and a long finish.
Rosehall Run Vineyards 2008 Rosehall Vineyard Chardonnay: A pretty nose of sweet vanilla, peach, pear, lemon zest, and mineral. It has a silky texture with flavours of ripe yellow fruit, citrus, and a fresh streak of minerality. This wine just shows you what Prince Edward County is capable of.
Pillitteri Estates Winery 2007 Chardonnay Icewine: I found this wine intriguing as I have only ever tried one other Chardonnay Icewine before – Tawse 2007 Chardonnay Icewine. The grape seems to be the next up and coming icewine grape. After a quick search on the internet I see that quite a few wineries are experimenting with the grape. Inniskillin made an oaked version in 2007. The Pillitteri version has typical icewine aroma of peach and apricot, but there are also aromas of mango, passionfruit, lychee, and lemon, making for a complex nose. On the palate it has a luscious texture with lots of minerality and enough acidity to cut through the sugar and prevent it from being cloying. I should also mention that this wine has won numerous awards. It is only available at the winery and costs $35 for a 200ml bottle.