Drink your way through some of Ontario's crisp whites.
Today marks the beginning of the fifth anniversary Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (I4C) in Niagara. Delegates from nine countries and 58 wineries will descend into the region to rub shoulders and pour their wines throughout the weekend. This isn’t just an excuse to head down to wine country to sample as many of the wines being poured as possible; this is an event where we get to show that there is much more to Canada than icewine.
Chardonnay is a perfect varietal to use as a litmus test for the quality of wine from a region because it grows just about anywhere you can plant a vineyard. It is also very responsive to the conditions of any given region. Even though chardonnay shares similar characteristics across the board, it doesn’t quite taste the same from country to country, or even vineyard to vineyard.
Over the past couple of years, regional craft beer and cider have been getting a lot of attention; it’s almost as though we’ve completely forgotten we have a wine industry that has reached adolescence. This is why I4C is so important. Being able to pour locally-produced wine next to French, Californian and Australian wines gives us an opportunity to show that our wines are as good as anywhere else’s in the world. There are also wines being poured from newer wine regions such as Oregon (which has a wine history that runs parallel to Niagara), or regions that are simply not known for chardonnay like Italy and New Zealand.
If you’re not able to make it down to Niagara to take part in the festivities, don’t fret: the LCBO has brought in a selection of cool climate chardonnay so you can have your own celebration from the comfort of your own home. If you do make it down to Niagara, I’ll be the guy in the bowtie.
You can get tickets to the various events at coolchardonnay.org
2013 Cave Spring, Estate Bottled Chardonnay – Vintages 256552 – $18.95 – ***1/2+
The bar stays high with Ontario chardonnay under $20. This variety has a beautiful creamy texture on the mid-palate that balances flavours of lemon, apple and peach, with hints of baking spice and vanilla on a long finish. This will make a perfect match to seafood or creamy pasta dishes.
2012 Flat Rock Cellars, The Rusty Shed Chardonnay – Vintages 1552 – $24.95 – ****+
This wine is exceptional, especially for the price. 2012 was a hot and dry summer in Ontario, and there’s no better way to reminisce than with a bottle of weather-kissed wine. With flavours of baked apple and roasted pineapple with nice citrus notes layered on top of vanilla and butterscotch on the finish, this wine is rich and complex. Warning: only serve this wine a few degrees colder than room temperature–if you over-chill Rusty Shed, it will taste like wood.
2012 Pearl Morissette, Cuvée Dix-Neuvième Chardonnay – Vintages 303602 – $35.20 – ****
As this wine opens up in your mouth, you’ll get a nice creamy texture and subtle vanilla notes that float right up to your soft palate. You can find Pearl Morisette wines on some of the most smartly chosen lists in the city, and they are a winery to watch for their constant envelope-pushing with regards to creative winemaking in the province. Enjoy this chardonnay with grilled or fried chicken.
2013 Westcott Lillias, Unoaked Chardonnay – Vintages 425322 – $20.00 – ***1/2+
Unoaked chardonnay is a perfect alternative to pinot grigio for summer barbecues or sipping on a patio, with more intense fruit flavours than what you would typically find in grigio. This particular variety offers apples galore on the nose, with flavours of golden delicious apple and lemon drop. Bone-dry with beautiful, crisp acidity and nice mineral notes on the finish, this incredibly food-friendly wine will make a great match to seafood, chicken or pork.
I didn’t want to leave you hanging if you don’t have a taste for chardonnay, so here are a couple of red wines that you can find on the LCBO shelves.
2013 Tawse, Gamay Noir – Vintages 322545 – $18.95 – ****+
If you’re looking for a way to build up your cellar with some good Ontario wines without breaking the bank, gamay is a good way to go. This very good gamay is no exception, offering flavours of dark cherry that jump right out of the glass, with nice hints of pepper on the finish. Great acidity rounds out the package. While this wine will age beautifully for five to eight years, it’s also drinking great right now.
2012 Henry of Pelham, Baco Noir Reserve – Vintages 461699 – $24.95- ****
Nobody handles baco quite like Henry of Pelham. Case in point: this great, full-bodied red with a lovely, smooth finish. This wine is nice and smoky on the nose with very ripe plum buried in there. Once you sip, be prepared for complex and heavy flavours of licorice, plum, blackberry, currant, cocoa, smoke, and raspberry on the palate. This will be your steak wine for the week and would make a great addition to your wine cellar to age for five to seven years.