Tasting Ontario Part Six: Pinot Noir

Gather your thoughts about pinot noir. Begin with Bourgogne and it’s really quite easy to articulate an opinion. Smells like cherries, shows earth and mineral notes of/from clay and limestone. Texture is specific to the village where it is grown. New Zealand? There’s a recognition regardless, save for a special and singular red fruit that is specific to Central Otago. What about California and Oregon? Any wine geek who knows who they think they are could surely pick them out of a blind tasting with great certainty? Now what about Canadian pinot noir? That’s a totally different story.

Related – Results of the 2018 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (The Nationals): Pinot NoirNational Wine Awards of Canada 2018

If it were just a simple matter of Ontario versus British Columbia that would be one thing but there is Nova Scotia to consider and within the provinces so many sites of origin and stylistic variegation making it really difficult to identify the source. It may be a challenging and oft-times heartbreaking grape but in Canada it increasingly finds a way to ripen from coast to coast. Even if that were less true just five years ago the tenets of experience, acumen and passion have taken pinot noir to heights few believed it was capable of going. That winemakers can now produce so many varied examples tells us it’s here to stay.

Bourgogne uses the word Climat to define vineyards or rather the DNA of the vineyards and the official term is specific to wine while the reference lieux-dits is an administrative one. Many would argue that while dirt makes an impact it is climate that inflicts the most drama on a wine but even more important than climate and soil, it’s the people who give the terroir its cultural identity. In Canada these notions of accumulate knowledge that can be transmuted from generation to generation are developing so that each appellation or sub-appellation is managing to produce a specific style of wine from vintage to vintage.

Related – Tasting Ontario Part Five: Varietal Whites and Appellative Blends

In Ontario there are pinot noir crus few would ague against the probability that in most vintages quality will be a guarantee. Crus like Lowrey Vineyard on the St. David’s Bench, top blocks in Prince Edward County, several vineyards up on the Beamsville Bench, Wismer-Foxcroft and many plots on the Twenty Mile Bench. In the Okanagan Valley there are many premier growing sites; East Kelowna, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Falls, Summerland, Lake Country, the Similkameen Valley and increasingly on Vancouver Island.

Producers in British Columbia may have more merlot planted than they can or want to have to deal with but in red grape terms, pinot noir is it. There are more single-vineyard, name-assigned, block-designate, terroir collection, (x) series and (Y) cuvées attributed to the grape than any other. Granted some passion projects are giving some love to gamay and cabernet franc but the attention doted upon pinot noir is unequaled and unprecedented. Proof is in the tabulated pudding, so to speak, with the final results at NWAC2018 showing what’s what.

There were 73 medals awarded to pinot noir, a staggering number that represents just less than half of the wines submitted and four per cent of all wines entered into the competition. Only red blends (93) and chardonnay (79) received more total medals but most impressive were the 28 Gold Medals in this category, plus 18 Silver and 27 Bronze. The naysayers who continue to doubt whether pinot noir is a viable signature grape in this country are not paying close enough attention to the signs, portents and in conclusion, results. Here are 30 tasting notes for pinot noir made in Ontario.

Vieni Estates Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (550608, $16.95, WineAlign)

Vieni’s pinot noir shows off some pretty impressive fruit, certainly veering towards the sweet and dried fruit spectrum but hanging around with some good acidity, firm grip and proper 2015 structure. It’s more than a pleasant surprise and it’s only $16.95. Good fruit meets equally good acumen in a must try Vinemount Ridge buy. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2018  vieniestates  @VieniEstatesInc  Vieni Estates Wine and Spirits

Château Des Charmes Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara On-The-Lake, Ontario (454967, $16.95, WineAlign)

The warm sites can’t help but develop dark fruit and vintage variation seems to be in a current state of suspension. The string is alive with the ’16 pinot noir, always a matter of value for Ontario. Still just as ripe as 2015, perhaps not quite as charming but certainly generous. It holds back from cooking at a level of stovetop heat unnecessary to the execution of the dish. Gentle, resilient and restrained, far from a pressed or pressing matter and just ideal for weekdays and weekends alike. Pair this wine with everything but I recently discovered that long pasta noodles with prawns in a spicy garlic, chile and tomato sauce worked quite well, thank you very much. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Château Des Charmes Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Niagara On-The-Lake, Ontario (454967, $16.95, WineAlign)

This remains one of the better values for pinot noir out of Ontario with generous thanks to some of the warmest growing sites in the province. It’s also worthy for what it does not try to do, which is too much. The Château des Charmes pinot noir is just what it needs to be from 2015; ripe, charming and generous. It shows lovely restraint and balance, finishing with some gentle spice after the reign of fruit. It’s also really easy to crush so cook up at least three courses to make it last. It will pair with just about everything. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted November 2017 and February 2018  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Coyote’s Run Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (53090, $19.95, WineAlign)

Two blocks, two soil types and two proximate meets apposite pieces of the Niagara Peninsula raise a pinot noir in get together fashion for a consistent estate style. The tonality is elevated like few other and the fruit on the nether side of fresh. It’s energy and vitality is a combination of acidity and dried or even scorched earth-derived savour. Tang and sapidity are not the result but smoulder and spice surely are. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted March 2018  coyotes run  @coyotesrun  Coyote’s Run Estate Winery

Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (1545, $20.95, WineAlign)

In true essential Flat Rock style this 2016 pinot noir deals in rusty, ropey, ripe and flattering red fruit with its always balancing note of tension. The vintage is certainly prettier, easier and friendlier than most so the fans should pile up and add to the overall success of Flat Rock representing Ontario pinot noir on the map. This is nothing but fine and enjoyable work from a true varietal leader. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  flatrockcellars  @Winemakersboots  @FlatRockCellars

Kew Vineyards Pinot Noir 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $23.95, WineAlign)

More high tines, dialled back a touch, lithe, again some effusive character, tart, so very tart, a whack of wound tight intent, dry tannins, so much tea. Cranberry, earthy, lots of tone and structure. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  @kewvineyards  @kewvineyard

2027 Cellars Pinot Noir Edgerock Vineyard 2016, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Edgerock is Twenty Mile Bench fruit with expected 2016 ripeness and just an edgy twitch like quick lightning strikes on that fruit. There is some chewiness to the fruit laced by acidity and some drying tannin that is a bit deferential for the vintage and for Peninsula pinot noir. Not sure that pinot noir can get much riper than this in Ontario and so the perfect storm of vineyard, vintage and execution is met. The nose is so very ripe to almost advanced, with strawberries macerating and flavours so well to far developed. Not as fleshy as some as a result but will soon begin to develop some nice secondary character. Good summer wine, for this summer and hopefully an indigenous one for the fall. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  2027cellars  @2027cellars  2027 Cellars

Meldville Wines Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $27.20, WineAlign)

Derek Barnett’s is a sweetly perfumed pinot noir, fully expressive of ripe 2016 fruit and with a tannic drying edge. It’s a bit lactic to be sure, seemingly argilo-calcareous in nature and really reminds me of some far away sangiovese or corvina grown on white limestone soils. Really unique, lithe and elegant for Barnett if also tangy, sweet and sour. Not sugar sweet but aromatically so. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted February 2018  meldvillewines  @meldvillewines  Meldville Wines

Thirty Bench Small Lot Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $28.95, WineAlign)

Bright and effusive, eye and olfactory opening, citrus, steeped herbal tea, with fruity accents. “All around the blooming heather,” purple fruit flavours, fiddle background and thoughts of rolling thyme hills. Good bass line, baritone underneath, full of structure, real structure. Time has had an effect. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

The tones are elevated and the fruit is really ripe though the acidity is quite calm in this extreme small lot pinot noir. You can get a true sense of the culture and the micro-managed terroir that separates this from some less expensive and certainly more rustic Niagara cousins so the cost is quite understandable. The fruit is the thing, given all the attention and the credit. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted February 2018  thirtybench  pellerwines  @ThirtyBench  @PellerVQA  @ThirtyBench  Andrew Peller(Andrew Peller Import)  Emma Garner

Leaning Post Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)

Ilya Senchuk’s small lot (220 case) 2015 pinot noir is actually a new wine set to be released this spring. It’s a blend of fruit drawn from both McNally and Lowrey vineyards, two exceptional cru that have been the focus of previous Leaning Post single-vineyard pinot noir. The most notable difference here is how all the tension and vaporous tones melt away to create this fluid, fleecy and ductile wine. The fruit selection seems clearly developed to gain easier access with downsized structure or perhaps it just happened this way. It is here that the house style reads as a lithe Peninsula pinot noir manifesto with clarity and transparency to set up and introduce the estate’s next vintage, recently planted young vine pinot noir. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February 2018  leaningpostwine  nicholaspearcewines  @LeaningPostWine  @Nicholaspearce_  Leaning Post Wines  Nicholas Pearce

Redstone Pinot Noir Limestone Vineyard 2013, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

The Redstone Vineyard pinot noir comes off of the ridge that is all Redstone estate fruit expect for the 40 acres riesling block (of 60 in total). There is a ferric gaminess to this pinot with its tension and dusty, tart rusticity. Intense in its litheness, like light and bright strawberry on steroids. Really lingers. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted November 2017  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Tradition 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (392738, $29.95, WineAlign)

From 2015 comes a fully ripened, full advantage press taken and fleshy warm pinot noir on the dark cherry end of the fruit spectrum. The wood is fully supportive of that wealth of fruit and tension is really nowhere to be found. The tannins are sweet and also do little to distract from the fruit. What it manages to elevate in terms of energy and vitality is this lovely elegant tang from both soil and wood, short of spicy and in gentle drift. The pleasure is all now do enjoy this before the decade strikes midnight. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  queylus  @Queylus  Domaine Queylus Winery

Trail Estate Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

The Peninsula ’16 pinot noir is a joint Wertsch and Wismer blend, six barrels Between the Lines and two Foxcroft. The goal is not fully in focus, even if it’s just too early to call. Niagara pinot noir from these parts is want to be rusty, red fruit volatile and so bright you gotta wear shades and this ’16’s profile reads from such a script. It’s so very different from the lemon-citronella note that County pinot often surveys. So what does Trail Estate have, at least in here? Lightness for one thing, ease of drinkability and sweet tannin. Wild ferment and no new oak got this here, plus some neutral, second and third fill. It’s got candied floral and cinnamon heart, is quite tangy but honestly quite delicate. Simple yes, quite OK and at times, volatile too. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Pork Tenderloin and Flat-Iron Steak marinated in black raspberry lees grilled with black raspberry sauce.

Westcott Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

The Westcotts have to be so very pleased with the result of their 2015 estate pinot noir, a wine of great farming in loyal custodial work across an exceptional rolling terroir. This Vinemount Ridge locale is the perfect love-hate relationship builder but when sacrifices are met and zero corners are cut it will produce some very fine, albeit fortune abetting fruit. This ’15 interprets ripeness with an edge of tension by way of a gentle rusticity and mild barrel spice. A second taste weeks later also gives salumi, natural funk, cèpes, dusty balsamic earth and the angled torture or the ridge. It’s all there, wonderfully integrated and already hinting at a truffled secondary stage. Not yet mind you, but not so far away. Would it perhaps benefit from one less day or two of phenolic ripeness in exchange for half a point higher acidity? Perhaps but ultimately the vintage decides, as do the handlers who listen to the wind. A greater pinot noir vintage likely lies ahead and for this wine, further understanding. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February and March 2018  westcottvineyards  @WestcottWines  @westcottwines

Trail Estate Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

The Peninsula ’16 pinot noir is a joint Wertsch and Wismer blend, six barrels Between the Lines and two Foxcroft. The goal is not fully in focus, even if it’s just too early to call. Niagara pinot noir from these parts is want to be rusty, red fruit volatile and so bright you gotta wear shades and this ’16’s profile reads from such a script. It’s so very different from the lemon-citronella note that County pinot often surveys. So what does Trail Estate have, at least in here? Lightness for one thing, ease of drinkability and sweet tannin. Wild ferment and no new oak got this here, plus some neutral, second and third fill. It’s got candied floral and cinnamon heart, is quite tangy but honestly quite delicate. Simple yes, quite OK and at times, volatile too. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Hidden Bench Estate Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $31.95, WineAlign)

Really high-toned in which volatility may be in charge if checked by ballads of bright, currant-berry fruit. Cranberry, pomegranate, has got it all, but also a lovely earthy grounding. Rays of light on the mountain, “such a simple thing.” Has to be an example of a concentrated house style by a great pinot noir maker from great pinot noir terroir. Like a bench somewhere special where pinot can get through chains, “some how, some how.” Really tannic so all should be good and structure laid out cool. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   hiddenbench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Cornerstone Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $32.00, WineAlign)

Big and verging into oxidative, a raisin and fig note, almost appassimento. Could very well be or at least made in a ripe, concentrated and mimicking style. Glycerin, strawberry, leafy savour, jammy and quick to reveal itself. Immediate gratification in a really big pinot noir. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  cornerstonewine  @cornerstonevino  @cornerstonewinery

Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir Gravity 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (1560, $34.95, WineAlign)

Gravity is the focus of Flat Rock’s pinot noir exploration and with a whole bunch addendum it changes gears in 2014. This is a very important vintage for Gravity, to leave behind and move forward into a new world. That it does with more ripeness, structure and less intimidating consternation than past vintages have shown and with a freshness also not before seen or tasted. The balance between ripe black cherry, linear and focused acidity, neo-classical structure, followed by an intense drive to please delivers the whole package. Well done on the first of two Gravity swan songs from outgoing winemaker Jay Johnstone. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  flatrockcellars  @Winemakersboots  @FlatRockCellars

Closson Chase Pinot Noir K.J. Watson Vineyard 2015, VQA Niagara River, Ontario (Winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

From Kevin Watson’s Niagara River vineyard, a place that warms quickly and leads to very early harvests, in this case September 15th. Deals a pinot noir of whole clusters that when they come in smell like blueberry and clove but take little time to move out of that realm and into one occupied by cedar, mushroom and artificial strawberry candy. It’s a complex situation that requires opening several bottles over a few year period to really gain an evolutionary understanding of regional pinot noir, this particular Niagara fruit and Closson Chase winemaking in the hands of Keith Tyers. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted April 2018  clossonchasevineyardsClosson Chase  @ClossonChase  Closson Chase Vineyards

Tawse Pinot Noir Unfiltered Quarry Road Vineyard 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

Unfiltered elevates and lifts Quarry Road fruit up to a forthright plateau where it generously gifts at its purest and most impulsive best. This is seriously juicy, sexy, fleshy and ripe pinot noir from the Vinemount Ridge, a windswept variegated set of rolling hills that plays hosts to the larger Quarry Road set of blocks. It is this gathering of fruit from here and there that allows winemaker Paul Pender to have a better representation of the appellation and ultimately a better balance. And so this ’16 is a wonderful example of the beautiful relationship between producer, appellation and vineyard. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted December 2017  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Stanners Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

From County fruit, again in 2016 not so much a great quantity thing but for the median kind of vintage, not bad either. The fruit is exceptional, bright cherry effulgent and County radiant. Just a hint of meaty cure, salmagundi and analogously speaking, quite layered. Such a wine is poignant, with energy and drive, holding on to the past, but with a deeper understanding and thinking about the future. “When you talk about the past, what are we talking of?” In a family Stanners pinot noir we’re talking about moving from strength to strength and really the sky is the limit for what this wine can become. It’s a more complete and better structured song than before. If I feed Colin Stanners a War on Drugs lyric he’d sing “and I’m moving on a cast, shadows on my seam, I keep moving to changes, yeah, ooh.” His ’16 pinot noir is just a child right now and like the song, it will gain flesh in a year’s time, be timeless, then last a very long time. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted April 2018  stannerswines  @StannersWines  Stanners Vineyard

Thirty Bench Pinot Noir Small Lot 2015, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (461566, $35.20, WineAlign)

The tones are elevated and the fruit is really ripe though the acidity is quite calm in this extreme small lot pinot noir. You can get a true sense of the culture and the micro-managed terroir that separates this from some less expensive and certainly more rustic Niagara cousins so the cost is quite understandable. The fruit is the thing, given all the attention and the credit. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  thirty bench  pellerwines  @ThirtyBench  @PellerVQA  Thirty Bench Wine Makers  Peller Estates Winery & Restaurant

Tawse Pinot Noir Quarry Road Vineyard 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $35.95, WineAlign)

It would not be a Paul Pender raised pinot noir without the triple threat of dustiness, meatiness and tension all working in a circle of Niagara Bench lands love. In Quarry Road’s case it is a very specific Vinemount Ridge condition, from a place of wind, rolling hills and variegated clay and limestone soils that deal directly with and into these vines. They are at seven years of age by this point, just long enough to speak the truth and turn this pinot noir into a wiser and more experienced wine. The fruit is remarkably delicate when you consider the grip and purpose exercised by the tannin and yet it’s all coming together nicely. I for one am really looking forward to what eight and nine years of age will mean for 2015 and 2016. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2017  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Rosehall Run Pinot Noir JCR Rosehall Vineyard 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Agent, $39.00, WineAlign)

Though statements of monadical hyperbole should very much be avoided, a taste of Dan Sullivan’s ’16 JCR makes one think it has all come to this. The glycerin fruit endowed with so much natural sweetness and magnificently low alcohol feels like an impossibility. In a way it is but it’s also a County reality. This may just be the least astringent PEC pinot noir ever produced and at the same time seems entirely void of tension. Yet there is structure and cohesion, two functors so very necessary to see it drink well for 10 years, with great charm and further curiosity for five more after that. Drink 2018-2028.  Last tasted July 2018

Bright, red raspberry, light and effusive with a simple, liquid chalky feel. Really drinkable. The tart is part of a delight in composition. A good chew.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   Rosehall_run profilewinegroup  @Rosehall_Run  @ProfileWineGrp  Rosehall Run Vineyards  Profile Wine Group

Meritorious match alert @leaningpostwine #lowreyvineyard pinot noir with #goulash and #spaetzle

Leaning Post Pinot Noir Lowrey Vineyard 2014, St. David’s Bench, Ontario (Agent, $42.00, WineAlign)

It was a very good pinot noir vintage across the peninsula board and so not necessarily one to separate with megaphone announcement the Grand-ish Cru St. David’s Bench Lowrey Vineyard from the lower flats and the upper benches. Even though many a winemaker were opting for some percentage of whole cluster fermentation the vintage combined with this block was not such an animal. What Lowrey, Leaning Post and the vintage were meant for was a module that included grapes hand-picked, hand-sorted, de-stemmed, partially crushed and soaked on skins prior to fermentation. Three days later a spontaneous fermentation in small open-top fermenters would be followed by a transfer to French oak barrels (35 percent new, 30 one-year-old and 35 older) for 15 months. The result is another exemplar of pinot noir lithe excellence in this, the final chapter ahead of Ilya Senchuk’s newly planted pinot noir story ready to unfold out of the home (Winona) vineyard. The 2014 Lowrey is a wine that elevates a goulash game (which I can attest to because of an out of mind and body experience), but it’s also magically understated and subtly complex. It’s almost unmovable, resistant to early development all the while a joy to drink. Open it, store it, age it, wait on it. It’s all good. Drink 2018-2025. Tasted March 2018  leaningpostwine  nicholaspearcewines  @LeaningPostWine  @Nicholaspearce_  Leaning Post Wines  Nicholas Pearce

Tawse Pinot Noir Laidlaw Vineyard 2012, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $44.95, WineAlign)

Juicy straight up, red cherries in their ripest state, a bit dusty and lifted. Tart, dry, herbal, savoury, so interesting. Really tannic and remains to be seen if this structure will deem that fruit to drift into some elegance. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018 tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

The Farm White Label (Mason Vineyard) Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $50.00, WineAlign)

A high-toned, effusively bright and perhaps edging into volatile pinot noir. Flavours are rusty deep, quite orange-zest scraped and scented, like Irancy. If it’s really that simple then there may not be much tension later on, so think about pairing its coolness now. Lean and verdant with shading into crimson is a very specific beneath bench Niagara speciality, replete with firm if tender emotions. This example is for the here and now. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  thefarmwines

Tawse Pinot Noir Cherry Avenue 2013, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $59.95, WineAlign)

The Tawse Cherry Avenue ’13 is hotter than July, classic soul Twenty Mile Bench pinot noir that has hit its stride because of solid winemaking, varietal-musicianship and über professional production. Five years forward is the right time to take in the firm and founded cherry fruit, aged in oak for 18 months in 40 per cent new French oak. Filled with feeling and wonder, Cherry avoids the temptations of disco and new wave to stay focused on the old world prize and can’t help but “put me in the right direction, with tender love and affection.” It’s a wine from an estate holding the Midas touch and from a time when it could be argued it was pausing at the crossroads of an illustrious career, looking in all four directions. The pinot noir exploration has fortunately continued, justified and vindicated by such a retrospective look. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted May 2018  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Karlo Estates Pinot Noir Estate Grown Wild Ferment 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $65.00, WineAlign)

As with the Estate chardonnay the elévage from winemaker Derek Barnett for the second Karlo home-front pinot noir is wild ferment, barrel ferment and barrel aging. Oh if this isn’t so Prince Edward County; wild, wooly, bright and engaging, reeking of red cherry and plum. It’s also quite cedar savoury but also salumi-cured, naturally and necessarily so. The accrual is complex and driven by a devoted purpose to make something small really effin’ matters. This is fine-grained pinot noir with a sense of condiment, a relish that supports the fruit to make it tangy, juicy and real. And it’s been done without any excessive intervention or wasted notes played. Terrific origins, sense of place and quality. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2018  karloestateswinery  @KarloEstates  Karlo Estates

Good to Go!

Godello

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Tasting Ontario Part Two: Chardonnay

Chardonnay, Wismer Vineyard, Twenty Mile Bench

Just over two months from now the world will reconvene in Niagara for the eighth i4c summit and that’s got me thinking again. Thinking about chardonnay. Contemplating the axiom of chardonnay continuing to make its own new set of rules, putting its best foot forward, not being influenced by fools. After the seventh installation of the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration I wrote “there is no secret that Ontario winemakers have worked tirelessly to develop the ability and the acumen to make world-class white wines. There may be no better example of this then what was again on display at i4c.” Always reinventing itself and potential fulfilled, chardonnay, the slow train coming.

I’ve asked many questions and posed, ego notwithstanding by waxing some pretty bold transcribed statements on behalf of our beloved chardonnay. The phrasing has included Chardonnay is cool‘I4C’ a future filled with ChardonnayCan chardonnay get any cooler? and You’ve gotta be cool to be kind. It’s all purposed to give a glimpse into the portal of how far Ontario has come and to where it may be heading. As we continue to taste, assess and take note of wines poured out of the 2015, 2016 and now 2017 vintages we feel the progression dovetailing towards the cool and the ethereal. The deeper understanding walks among us.

Related – Tasting Ontario Part One: Riesling

The winter of 2018 brought us from Tastes Untamed in Toronto to Cuvée in Niagara Falls and back to Taste the (Prince Edward) County downtown. Spring dovetailing moved across the Terroir Symposium, the Wine Council of Ontario’s first annual Ontario Craft Wine Conference and most recently Somewhereness continued to show examples of Ontario chardonnay. The saturated and intensive start to 2018 is a pronouncement of the Ontario wine industry’s unwavering commitment to march forward, with swagger, collective identity and unabashed promotion. In just 67 days we’ll take in viticultural and winemaking sessions at the School of Cool, Kick the Dirt with local growers and taste through flights of chardonnay.

Meanwhile, later this week Ontario vintners and winemakers will be pouring at Canada House in London, England at the Trade and Media Table Top Tasting hosted by The High Commission of Canada to the UK in London and Janet Dorozynski, Trade Commissioner, Wine, Beer, Spirits and Tourism, Global Affairs Canada. The May 17th, 2018 Taste Canada UK event is an opportunity for Canadian producers to meet with trade, educators, and media contacts. The high-level London show will build on the success of the previous tastings in London including most recently the Taste Canada UK 2017. All interested producers from across Canada are invited to participate.

Related – How can i4c the future through cool chardonnay?

I’ve said it before. In Ontario, raising chardonnay is “about growing grapes and making wines in places we all previously discounted…few ideals or notions are hotter these days than those relating to cool climate viticulture and the selvage regions from where such wines are produced.” These were my words after the seventh i4c, Niagara’s International Cool Chardonnay Celebration. I’ll be back in July for number eight. Will you?

Chardonnay is the second exposée, following on the heels of riesling and ahead of sparkling wines, other white varieties and appellative blends, gamay, pinot noir, cabernet franc, plus other reds and red blends. This 21 chardonnay salute covers what I’ve recently tasted, plus a select few from 2017 I have not opened up godello.ca white space to fill. Today I give you Ontario chardonnay.

VQA Ontario wine selections at Farmhouse Tavern

Fielding Estate Unoaked Chardonnay 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (164491, $14.95, WineAlign)

Fielding’s unplugged 2016 is a richer affair than before, with fruit fully vintage realized and into the humid zone. The balm is a lemon herbal one and the fruit an apple in the Cortland variety. There is an underlying salty aromatic note and a sweet chardnonnay-ness that speaks to really ripe phenolics and some mid-palate texture. A reluctant spokesperson for what is definitely an unoaked vintage for Ontario. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted November 2017 and February 2018  fielding winery  richiewine  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine  Fielding Estate Winery 

Château Des Charmes Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2016, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (81653, $14.95, WineAlign)

When I wrote about the Château des Charmes ’15 I was amazed at the high-toned aromatics and sheer warmth of that wine. What strikes so very real is how reserved this follow up ’16 seems to be. It marks a subtle, focused return, less of a reintroduction than a reimmersion into CdC’s chardonnay Niagara. Much of the wine is tenuous, either faintly whispered or located just beyond our grasp but it puts us in mind into thinking about a place. It’s ambient, fuzzed out and mild. The nine months in older barrel with the vintage fruit brings about a sense of calm, mild vanilla and no overpowering of that fruit. All chardonnay aged in oak can cross the line. “There’s a darkness over there, but we ain’t going.” This ’16 stays right there. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted October 2017 and February 2018  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Rosewood Estates Locked & Loaded White 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (552570, $16.95, WineAlign)

Locked and Loaded the curious moniker is labled “white” though it is in fact 100 per cent chardonnay. It’s mild, creamy and just slightly affected by a splinter or two of wood. It’s a curious thing to tease appellative blend but fill a bottle with only chardonnay but all that stands to reason is drinkability and balance, two tenets of matter that this “white” surely has. Almost too easy in fact. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted March 2018  rosewoodwine  @Rosewoodwine  @rosewoodwine

Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay Unplugged 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (68015, $17.95, WineAlign)

The Rock’s Twenty Mile Bench unoaked chardonnay is surprisingly aromatic, fleshy and creamy in 2016. It punches the proverbial with texture above its weight class and though just a click to the right on the oxidative line it offers up great context and chardonnay clarity at this exact stage of life. Don’t wait for any energy to wane and drink this happily for the rest of 2018. Drink 2018.  Tasted May 2018  flatrockcellars  @Winemakersboots  @FlatRockCellars

The Tragically Hip Chardonnay Ahead By A Century 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (483875, $19.95, WineAlign)

The Hip chardonnay takes 2016 to heart in this very drinkable hit with a hint of smoky complexity. It does what it should and is needed for the sake of balance and finishes with a gin and tonic bitterness, a sigh and a sense of having been refreshed. Then it fades to side two. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted April 2018  stoneyridgewinery  epic_wines_spirits  @stoneyridgewine  @EpicW_S  Stoney Ridge Estate Winery  Epic Wines & Spirits

Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (286278, $19.95, WineAlign)

A Flat Rock chardonnay is more Mâconnais than Chablis in its Villages stylistic but truth be told it’s a vintage in and vintage out child of the single-corkscrew twist of this part of the Twenty Mile Bench. Here the sumptuous, creamy and generous Bench is provided by the winemakers who’s boots walk the vineyard and talk the talk. It’s dreamy to a degree and once again, as always on point. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted April 2018   flatrockcellars  @Winemakersboots  @FlatRockCellars

Meldville Wines Chardonnay 2016, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $20.20, WineAlign)

The 2016 chardonnay is quite reductive in its impossible youth, a flint struck, barrel-taut, implosive chardonnay that shows great potential while it teases with less than obvious fruit. This is so very Derek Barnett, resembling many Lailey-bred chardonnay that have come before but here with Lincoln Lakeshore fruit the probabilities are multifarious and complex. A thrown Beaune of texture confirms the suspicion of ambition and time must pass before any of you, us or them can really say what will be. Guesses as good as anyone’s should plan for balance and impression. The fruit will be revealed. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  meldvillewines  @meldvillewines  Meldville Wines

Erik Peacock’s Smoked Wild Boar Tourtière with parsnip purée, The Restaurant at Bench Brewery

13th Street Chardonnay June’s Vineyard 2016, VQA Creek Shores, Ontario (236745, $21.95, WineAlign)

From 2016 this June is quite tight, lean, green apple bitten and so transparent as a cool-climate chardonnay. Perhaps the youthful reduction casts a curtain over the fruit and the charm so I’d suggest waiting a year for the true June character to emerge. It may not be the most affected or regaling June but it’s salty-gritty extract and tannin truly run the show. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted April 2018  13thstreetwinery  @13thStreetWines  13th Street Winery

Southbrook Chardonnay Triomphe 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $24.75, WineAlign)

Fruit for Ann Sperling’s Triomphe is a Saunders (Beamsville Bench) and Laundry (Lincoln Lakeshore) joint, dealt a wild ferment and usually large format neutral oak. This is more reductive than previously noted in 2015, i.e. it has maintained its extreme freshness and youthful gaze. It’s also effusive and built with more flesh and caramel barrel addendum so it would seem that bigger and riper fruit meant the necessity of extra sheathing. Keep in mind that every Niagara vintage is ostensibly a chardonnay vintage so it’s not easy to separate, knock or elevate one above the others. It’s really early to decide how this driven chardonnay will turn, into purity like snow or pungent as the earth. I’d say a bit of both, in the name of complexity and variegation. After all, why should any two be exactly the same. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted January 2018  southbrookvineyards  @SouthbrookWine  Southbrook Vineyards

Lighthall Vineyards Chardonnay Ramirez Family Vineyard 2016, VQA Prince Edward County (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

The Ramirez Family fruit is from Hillier and for it Glenn Symons chose a concrete ferment followed by barrel aging, separating it from others and it shows. This is one of the more nutty and halavah nougat creamy chardonnays in the County. It’s ripe and generous, squeezing out cool climate sparks and doling out length. A departure from previous Lighthall chardonnays and so smart for the sideshow. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted April 2018  lighthallvineyards  @lighthallvyard  Lighthall Vineyards

Pingue Prosciutto

Redstone Chardonnay Select Vineyard 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (511428, $25.70, WineAlign)

With an extra year or so of time in bottle the Redstone chardonnay has entered the zone. With its snappy orchard fruit and sizzling acidity working in cohorts it doles out a feeling of real compression. The layering is stratifying in alternating fruit and stone embedded into a clay impression. This is most pleasing and instructive chardonnay with lake effect attitude and acts the part of Mr. sheer and brilliant stroke of luck by way of effort. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

The Foreign Affair Chardonnay 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (149211, $26.95, WineAlign)

Partial appassimento and oak barrel aging does to chardonnay what nothing else in the world can or will so expect an acquired taste in this Foreign Affair dream. Unique and alternative don’t begin to explain but the level of caramel, butterscotch and poppycock notations are nothing short of hedonistic. Forget that you get all these drawn butter, coconut and candy store flavours because they are what they are and it is texture that should be the focus. The texture is lovely. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  foreignaffairwine  @wineaffair  The Foreign Affair Winery

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Estate 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (68817, $29.95, WineAlign)

If you’ve never had the pleasure of a moment alone with a Hidden Bench chardonnay it is here where you’ve come to the right place, vintage and bottle for which to begin the relationship. As full, flavourful and generous of cool-climate chardonnay spirit as it has ever shown, the 2016 Estate work is pure, unbridled and effortless genius. What it exudes in energy is only eclipsed by a hidden grace and it serves as the exacting launch point for more specific and eccentric Hidden Bench offerings. The triangle composed of points defined by creamy fruit, fine acidity and finer-spun texture are drawn as if on a circle. Spend $10 more on Bench chardonnay like this and you’ll be drinking properly every time out. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2018  hidden bench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Late July chardonnay, Wismer Vineyard

Malivoire Chardonnay Mottiar 2013, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

There is something about this land, hard to really put a finger on it but the wines made by Shiraz from his namesake vineyard stand out, even in a line-up of Malivoire chardonnay. Here the balance and connection is forged with a couple of settling years accumulated to elasticize the once reductive composition. All has come together; cool-vintage, once cloudy and now clarified fruit. Generosity of wood, now eased and withdrawn. Acidity tempered, stretched and supportive. It’s like perfectly in season and expertly poached lobster in drawn with deft ability, clarified butter. Or just drink it with such a thing. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  malivoire  noble_estates  @MalivoireWine  @Noble_Estates  Malivoire Wine  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Henry Of Pelham Chardonnay Speck Family Reserve 2016, VQA Short Hills Bench, Ontario (616466, $29.95, WineAlign)

First I’m immediately struck by the open arms of this barrel hugging chardonnay and second, by the textured quality of the fruit. You can never discard the notion or forget the ideal of cool climate but the anti-reductive, clear and focused composition from 2016 is markedly fresh, inviting and creamy. This is an H of P SFR to enjoy earlier than most and quite frankly, the price announces the same. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted April 2018  henryofpelham  @HenryofPelham  Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery

Cave Spring Chardonnay CSV 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (529941, $29.95, WineAlign)

There is little surprise that CSV and its 42 year-old vine baggage show off this early in life, in part thanks to a gregarious and generous vintage but also because few Ontario terroir cru can gift such a combination of ripeness and mineral virtue. What lays beneath the calcareous clay and what is drawn by mature, dug down deep roots comes into this orchard juice with layers of heaven and tang. Escarpment earth is a beautiful thing, even in chardonnay of such texture and feel. The acidity is a step down in 2016 but don’t let that detract from the pleasure this brings. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  cavespringcellars  thevineagency  @CaveSpring  @TheVine_RobGroh  Cave Spring Cellars  The Vine

Karlo Estates Chardonnay Estate Grown Wild Ferment 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

The block planted in 2010 was destined to see its first in bottle fruition last year but because 2015 was the crop that never was, here is the debut of the wild ferment, estate grown chardonnay. Under the auspices of a Derek Barnett varietal creed the home vineyard fruit shows the mantic signs of what will come when these vines mature into Prince Edward County adults. Barrel fermented and aged for 10 months was a conservative and frugal approach to coax just enough precocious success from the awkward child of naive and excitable fruit. That and the coolest of fermentative temperatures in house to balance some heat from a season’s outdoor months. What really drives this tenderfoot chardonnay is the lovely combinative movements in funky and leesy aromatics and texture. Convivial beginnings often lead to later gregarious gatherings, something I can see this County chardonnay getting into just a couple of vintages looking forward. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  karloestateswinery  @KarloEstates  Karlo Estates

Leaning Post Chardonnay Wismer Foxcroft Vineyard 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Agent, $35.00, WineAlign)

It takes little motivation these days to find your groove in the mûrir of battened and cultivated chardonnay vines growing with confidence in Wismer’s cru vineyard. Leaning Post’s Ilya Senchuk continues to dig deep for mineral extraction provided by the maturity of the Foxcroft Block and if you’ve ever stood in one spot, turned 360 degrees and felt the connectivity of slant, angle, relief, position and exposure, then you’d understand. These lines in the Twenty Mile Bench sub-appellation in Vineland are some of the most architectural in all of Niagara. You can imagine the intricate workings beneath the soil and then extrapolate what that means for the chardonnay grown above. Senchuk grabbed a late September pick at the apex of an autumn heat wave to maximize fruit speaking the language of three orchards; apple, peach and lime. His winemaking process stretches, elongates and elasticizes the savvy ’15 fruit, by multi-purposed fermentations both primary and malolactic, followed by a no-stir, three-tiered barrel cantilever. The stones put a reductive flint back in the word mineral and the non-lazy reliance on stirring up texture means the balance supplied through mouthfeel is by a naturally occurring accumulate whipped up in support by high acidity centrifuge. In the end it’s just great juice, to sip, sit back, sigh and smile. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted March 2018  leaningpostwine  nicholaspearcewines  @LeaningPostWine  @Nicholaspearce_  Leaning Post Wines  Nicholas Pearce

Southbrook Chardonnay Estate Grown Small Lot Wild Ferment 2016, VQA Four Mile Creek, Ontario (Winery, $39.95, WineAlign)

The organic and biodynamic small lot “Wild Ferment” chardonnay is unique to itself and seems to have garnered a great deal of Ann Speling’s 2016 chardonnay attention. Find more beautifully scented Four Mile Creek fruit than this and I’ll ask you to make the finest chardonnay ever produced down on the flats of the peninsula. A wee bit of sémillon blended in has done wonders for this wine, like the Niagara white appellative version of Côte-Rôtie. It is here where sémillon transforms texture and this amazing thematically-charged chemical reaction so that grape tannin and extract rise to an exceptional occasion. There is so much on the aromatic front and the prescribed “baby fat” is expressed by a delicious flinty note. Chewy is part of the palate opera and tart Niagara orchard fruit is juiced into the piqued and ambrosial flavours. Can you tell this wine excites? That will only increase as the fat renders into the salsa. Imagine the Poetica possibilities. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted January 2018  southbrookvineyards  @SouthbrookWine  Southbrook Vineyards

Closson Chase Chardonnay South Clos 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $39.95, WineAlign)

South Clos from the archetypal estate vineyard block with vines up to 18 years-old on the south side of the Closson Road is one of Ontario’s premium chardonnays. Barrel fermented and aged for 16 months in French oak, 20 per cent new, “Le Clos” ’16 is perhaps the richest, creamiest and most mouth filling of all, from the hottest of seasons. It’s in a state of youthful bliss, finding a soft spot now, though a closed moment is coming, before it speaks of a true South Clos personality. Baking apples, preserved lemon and a whispered feeling of honey that is not quite there. I’d suggest enjoying one before the summer and then waiting on the rest to see what will be. Will be released during the Closson Chase 20th-anniversary party June 23rd. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted April 2018  clossonchasevineyards  @ClossonChase  @ClossonChase

Bachelder Chardonnay Wismer Vineyard #2 “Foxcroft Block” 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (547299, $44.95, WineAlign)

Wismer-Foxcroft delivers a simpatico and workable growing season for Thomas Bachelder to craft a sensible, unpresumptuous, repeatable and perfectly balanced chardonnay in 2015. The togetherness of another classic Bachelder fresh glade and generous barrel note front is equally centred but I don’t envision much movement or morphisms any time soon. The palate is all about the liquefaction of the kept solids having settled into textural precipitate so that pleasure is derived more by sips than smells. That’s a fine thing from chardonnay, especially from one as much Beauned as it is Niagarafied. The happenstance of fine spicy bytes mark the last moments with the ad hoc and scrupulous WFN2. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted April 2018  bachelder_wines  @Bachelder_wines  Bachelder Wines

Good to go!

Godello

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Because the night in Gaiole

Badia a Coltibuono

Badia a Coltibuono is not your average, been there, seen that Tuscan edifice. The castello is an awesome display of architecture meets hortus conclusus and a walk through its hallowed halls will lead a mind to wander. You can hear its creaks, sense the weight of its history and feel its ghosts. It was night by the time we arrived, already peering down the descent of a palate’s waning slope, nearing the end of a capacity cultivated day. It was a surreal and perfect time to experience the awe of Badia a Coltibuono.

Related – Castellina in golden light

The monastery was founded in 1051 by the Vallumbrosan order of Benedictine monks and many important manuscripts and deeds were housed here for hundreds of years. It was here where some of the earliest mention of towns, castles and villas of the Chianti area could be found. In the 15th century the Buon Raccolto (good harvest) Abbey, (Abbazia or Badia in Italian) was extensively developed under the patronage of Lorenzo dei Medici. The current owners are the Stucchi-Prinetti family and as I would ironically find out quite soon enough, they are the successful purveyors of the publications of Lorenza de Medici, wife of Piero Stucchi-Prinetti, on Tuscan cookery.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale, Steven Robinson and Godello came to taste through 35 wines provided by 20 producers from the Chianti Classico commune of Gaiole in Chianti. We arrived tired but our strength was quickly and magically restored by the curative powers of Gaiole sangiovese. Located in Siena province Gaiole is one of two sub-zones with exactly two neighbours, in this case Castelnuovo Berardenga to the south and Radda to the west/northwest. It is one of the more complicated, diverse and checkered Chianti Classico zones, with many switchbacks, elevation changes and soil types. That said a thread certainly runs through, of wines that carry their own confident and specific structure. This tasting confirmed that the sangiovese of Gaiole have great aging potential, albeit often wrapped up in robes of rusticity, shacked up with the finest of Chianti Classico.

Click here to watch a quick video of the Gaiole in Chianti wines

To gain a deeper understanding of Gaiole it would be prudent to pry open the packaging and peel away further layers of sub-zone identity with a look at the sangiovese produced specifically on Monti in Chianti lands. Such a visit and tasting would unearth at least one of the more essential facets of Gaiole’s variegation and then the climb back up and into the greater commune could be acquiesced with a new level of experience.

John Szabo attempting to communicate by necromantic means with the revenants of the numinous Badia a Coltibuono world

Meanwhile, back to Badia a Coltibuono and because the night in Gaiole. After we finished tasting it was past the 10pm hour and so our auspicious and unpavid hosts Roberto Stucchi Prinetti and Emanuela Stucchi Prunetti wondered if we should eschew trying to convince a restaurant to serve us and instead make dinner in the abbey’s kitchen. I volunteered. I spent the better part of 1987-2013 cooking in restaurants and running my catering company and here I was making the decision to offer my culinary services to Tuscans of lineage dating back to who knows when. To custodians of Lorenza de Medici’s manifestos of Tuscan cookery while the family ghosts roam the castle halls. A moment of panic and a “what have I done” internal dialogue ensued. Then I set to work.

We kept it simple, local, traditional and went about using up product that recent cooking classes had left for the next arbitrary and unhinged cook who happened to find his way into this culinary vestibule sbalorditivo that has seen so much and lived to tell many a tale. The scene and hasty whip up of two platters of different but complimentary pastas could not have happened so quick without John’s fiduciary charges, the ambient distraction of Brad’s intense discourse with Roberto, Steve’s stoic, harmonic and sommelier savvy stature and Emanuela’s sous-support. An hour later we were seated at Badia’s dining room table. I’m quite certain I heard someone say “please bring me my wine” and then the voice of the captain saying “we haven’t had that spirit here since thirteen sixty-nine.” At some point I went for air and a stroll through the castello halls, feeling not exactly alone and yet quite positively at peace.

It had been 22 years since I last made pasta in Italy. This time for @coltibuono and alas, it was eaten #sigh

As with the rest of the territory, the 2017 vintage presented one of the greater challenges in recent Chianti Classico times. After the intense heat of the driest of summers it was essential that growers waited out the early September rains, followed by the beautiful and phenolic ripeness ensuring warmth of the next three weeks. “I noticed that most producers had already, inconceivably, finished harvesting by the 15th of September!!! A haste that can’t be positive.” These are the wisest of words from Rocca di Montegrossi’s Marco Ricasoli. It remains to be seen but Marco’s prophecy will ring true and be confirmed at Anteprime’s Chianti Classico Collection in February 2019.

Though we had a very hurried tasting session in the early night hours of September 25th, 2017, I did taste every wine presented to us by the association of Gaiole winemakers and distilled them down into the production of these 20 notes. I expect some of you will be familiar with this group of producers and I pledge to investigate the depths of their collective soul when I attend CCC ’18 in Firenze next month.

Brad Royale surveys the sangiovese of Gaiole in Chianti

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $27.99, WineAlign)

Badia a Coltibuono’s Chianti Classico is truly representative of 2015, or as proprietor Roberto Stucchi Prinetti notes “a microcosm of CC, a very diverse area.” This Gaiole in Chianti sings in the three-part harmony of the Gallo Nero territory, of Gaiole, through the voice of sangiovese and as close in honour to the territory as it will ever get. This take is rusty, rustic, red citrus sweet-scented, of cinnamon and strawberry meets ripe sour cherry red fruit. The medium to high acids and fine, unobtrusive chain of tannins take it where it just needs to go. Easy and proper. As I said before, classic. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted twice, September and October 2017  coltibuono  noble_estates  @coltibuono  @Noble_Estates  Badia a Coltibuono  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (683474, $38.95, WineAlign)

It was a big year and the fruit was certainly ripe so the house style of putting fruit first and oak second means that Badia a Coltibuono’s CC Riserva ’12 is now heading into secondary character. Not raisined mind you but drying a touch and developing some spice cupboard baking scents. Tart and firm, developed, evolved and quite liquid chalky in its tannic grain and established structure. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (3962, $23.95, WineAlign)

Really classic and traditionally annotated Chianti Classico tastes just like this and is especially worthy when the clean and transparent adjunct of technology brings tradition well into the 21st century. A fine and amenable vintage and 1000 years of Ricasoli expertise combine to fashion a Chianti Classico of high commercial esteem. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September and November 2017  francescoricasoli  churchillcellars  @barone_ricasoli  @imbibersreport  Barone Ricasoli  Churchill Cellars Ltd.

Casa al Vento Chianti Classico Aria 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Aria 2015 carries a profile like many young and ripe Chianti Classico, a sweet-scented spoon of red cherry fruit and fine, liquid gelid acidity. Chalky to a degree which will settle after a year more in bottle. Aria is simply a fine expressive, unaccompanied, unadorned and unadulterated melody sung by sangiovese for Gaiole in Chianti. “At ease with the thought that this nova won’t burn out.” Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017  @casaalvento  borgocasaalvento  @AgriturismoChiantiCasaAlVento

La Casa Di Bricciano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Casa di Bricciano is is nothing if not delicious Chianti Classico and also not wholly representative of the sangiovese ideal. Listed at 80 per cent varietal with the other 20 per cent likely merlot and cabernet sauvignon it’s an IGT drama played out with style. It’s beautifully clean and effective stuff. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  lacasadibricciano  La Casa di Bricciano

La Casa Di Bricciano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Casa di Bricciano’s Riserva ’13 carries a stylistic that is eerily similar to the Annata ’14 but takes to welling, oozing and leading to a syrupy liqueur. Swirling in this pool of viscous plummy fruit there is this sense of confidence, finesse and stylish polish. A bit sweet perhaps but seriously good. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017

Podere Ciona Chianti Classico Proprieta Gatteschi 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The lower altitude vineyards of Podere Ciona were replanted in 1999, 2003, the rest in the winter of 2011-2012. Their annata 2014 is primarily sangiovese with nine per cent merlot and a pinch of alicante bouschet. Lorenzo & Franco Gatteschi’s Chianti Classico is a true exception to the term normale, especially in consideration of the challenges presented by 2014. Though it is quite reductive it’s also also intensely floral and bursting with aromatic spice. There is bite at twice the effectiveness of the typical, middle of the road CC and plenty of life in this bottle. It will release its charms slowly, for seven years, easy. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2017  podereciona  @PodereCiona  Podere Ciona Estate and Vineyards

Podere Ciona Chianti Classico Riserva Proprieta Gatteschi 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The Gatteschi family’s 2013 is a special sort of Riserva with that understood sangiovese character of wisdom gained so early in life, long before it should know what classica it can and will become. The late-picked sangiovese comes off estate vines as late as the first two weeks of October and is supported by merlot, picked two weeks earlier and alicante bouschet sometime in between the two. Élevage happens in large format French oak. It’s an extremely complex weave of fine acidity overtop red ropey fruit with accents in spice and citrus. Quite remarkable really. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Fietri Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Ripe and sultry fruit, perhaps just a bit into the ultra ripe which may lead to some dried fruit sooner rather than later. The high acidity indicates early picking so the conundrum does spell a quandary. The package is a deep well that includes oak driven chocolate. It’s big for ’15 Chianti Classico and not exceptionally fresh. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted September 2017  Azienda Agricola di Fietri

I Sodo Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

I Sodi’s Gaiole in Chianti Riserva is on the volatile and over the top youthful side but you can really get a grip upon the terrific red berry and herbal-savoury accents. Certainly led by raspberry but red currants are quite prevalent. Must admit the palate leaves a fuller and more demanding impression which is always important as opposed to the other way around. The change of gears from accelerated vitesse to grip on the road around turns and into pits is a sign of great Italian design. The finish carries dried fruit and compressed acidity with not overly aggressive tannin. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February and September 2017  Agriturismo Le Trappoline – Azienda Agricola I Sodi

Dinner at Badia a Coltibuono

Podere Il Palazzino Chianti Classico Riserva Grosso Sanese 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Il Palazzino is owned by Alessandro and Andrea Sderci and is located in Monti in Chianti, in Gaiole in Chianti, 20 km northeast of Siena. Their flagship wine is this Grosso Sanese, a sangiovese of gorgeous aromatic waft with complexities provided by fresh cut roses, deeply mined minerality and fresh sliced morning summer fruit. Great tension, so much more variegation from the earth and a natural, let it be who it is and from laissez-faire from Monti village emotion. This is CCR with true soul and it truly is a really clean and natural wine. Really fine tannin, sweetness from round acidity and architectural design set in the past with innovation for the future. Amazing CCR. Drink 2019-2029. Tasted February 2017    Agriturismo Il Palazzino  #ilpalazzino

Matteoli Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Matteoli is a young, primary, seemingly natural meets organic and playfully funky sour cherry sangiovese, distinctly Gaiole but striding away from the norm and the middle of the road. Some tart, tight and bracing acidity plays to a sweetish finish. Should develop some curiously cool secondary character. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2017  @agricolamatteoli

Castello Di Meleto Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (332114, $18.95, WineAlign)

Castello di Meleto’s is really refined sangiovese, taking a deeper step into the calcaire, welling with some hematic and even ferric notes, developing towards secondary functionality. Here alights the cerebral induction sangiovese with even a slight scant drop of syrupy liqueur. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  castellodimeleto  @castellomeleto  Castello Di Meleto

Castello Di Meleto Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna Casi 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Vigna Casi 2013 falls very much in line with the vintage for Chianti Classico but with an added and deeper delve into a Gaiole soil variegate. With each passing taste of ’13 Riserva the most excellent vintage continues to show off its gifting capabilities. The liqueur is not only borne of what this Annata sangiovese brings but the continuum is persistent, insistent and will carry the fruit well into adolescence. It’s bright, juicy and just plain exceptional. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (222810 $19.95, WineAlign)

Rocca di Castagnoli’s is perhaps one of the prettiest Chianti Classico 2015s, certainly out of Gaiole and even anywhere in the greater territory for this vintage. The virtues of ripeness, properly timed picking, acidity and just enough structure comes through in union, focus and finesse. All this while always in control of its classic style, with colorino and canaiolo tucked in behind and in support of sangiovese. Such a properly executed CC ’15. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  roccadicastagnoli  profilewinegroup  @Roccacastagnoli  @ProfileWineGrp  Rocca di Castagnoli  Profile Wine Group

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Stielle 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (459529, $45.95, WineAlign)

Le Stielle in 2013 and its just faint hint of high acidity mixed and boxed with volatility is just on the most correct side of ripe meets structured life. When Gran Selzione gains such a cherry and fine salty mineral meeting of the structured minds it’s a special thing indeed. This is a fine GS with precision and understated, refined and capable power. Really fine, even just firm enough to deliver 10-15 years of slow developed 100 per cent sangiovese expression. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent $29.99, WineAlign)

It shouldn’t come as such a big surprise that Rocca di Montegrossi’s 2015 Chianti Classico is riper, richer and more immediately accessible than its previous annata, a wine I noted as “the most subtle and slightest dusty ride through a decidedly old-school Chianti Classico.” With a minor distraction and sacrifice to structure this step up to the modernity plate and organically configured (Gaiole) Monti in Chianti sangiovese boasts darker, intensely tart plum fruit and pinpoint accurate Rocca acidity. That said it’s just so fresh-squeezed, red citrus, thematically hematic delicious early. Hard to resist means less thought afforded patience and longevity but such is sangiovese life. It’s neither a better wine not is it a more or less important Chianti Classico to what has come before. It’s simply 2015, from a place where vintage really matters. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted twice, September 2017   #roccadimontegrossi  @RoccadiMontegrossi  #roccadimontegrossi

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigneto San Marcellino 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (B.C. $63.49, WineAlign)

Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi’s Gran Selezione boasts more than its share of Chianti Classico history and epochal location in its DNA. Legend dates back to 1039 for Azzi di Geremia Ricasoli and just as far back for the 1000 year-old Pieve San Marcellino. The vineyard gains more archetypal status with each turn of the calendar and the use of just a little bit of endemic pugnitello is awarded the singular varietal assist for Gaiole. With the 2013 vintage well tucked into the back pocket of this iconic Gran Selezione there is this sense of calm and refined, controlled intensity that just begs to get out, but the tannin and rigid structure have it well sealed in. This is what happens when the best fruit and a near perfect vintage come together. It’s fineness of tannin takes on great responsibility and it can do nothing but be a match to the task. Rocca di Montegrossi’s single entity Vigneto San Marcellino is sangiovese of density, intensity and power. It is assuredly one of the finest examples of the vintage. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted September 2017

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

San Giusto a Rentennano is a name of Etruscan origin, an estate that overlooks the upper course of the Arbia river in the farthest southern reaches of the Chianti Classico zone. The estate began life as a medieval monastery of Cistercian nuns and was called San Giusto alle Monache, “of the Nuns.” San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico 2015 is a stunner. Virtuous, scrupulous and composed, it was surely picked on the perfected vortex point of acidity and ripeness. That it sports refined tannin to lead into structure speaks volumes on how it is more than a serious CC. It is in fact destined for greatness. The chain is long and woven for sustained pressure and sytemic viability. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017  #sangiustoarentennano    #sangiustoarentennano

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico Riserva Le Baròncole 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

In 1957 San Giusto A Rentennano was inherited by Enrico Martini di Cigala and in 1992, by his nine children. Today Anna, Lucia, Elisabetta, Francesco, Alessandro and Luca are partners in the estate company. Riserva le Baròncole 2014 is composed from 97 per cent sangiovese plus canaiolo, the 14th Baròncole of a Riserva that was first bottled in 1975. The rains of summer did not deter this determined Chianti Classico, thanks to great farming practices, favourable weather conditions at harvest and under the circumstances, the strictest grapes selection possible. A beautiful liqueur wells in this rich and aromatic, spiced and spicy CC, quite exceptional for 2014. The top of the quality pyramid is reached with its rich constitution and age conscious ability. Chalky in fine grain and sweet tannins, no green notes, good acidity and properly rendered (20 per cent new) barriques and big (5 hl) barrels. Get with the baron. It’s a prime “esempio” for Gaiole in Chianti. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Badia a Coltibuono

Good to go!

Godello

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Castellina in golden light

Gallo Nero of Rocca delle Macie in Castellina in Chianti

Each time I travel to Chianti Classico the conversation regarding sub-zones rises closer to the surface. The deep and profound understanding of sangiovese as contributing to the greater good and power of Chianti Classico will not soon be superseded but producers are increasingly adamant about presenting their wines in the context of località and cru classificata. An annata is coming soon from which the names of both commune and village will proudly by worn on the bottle. With time comes change, however slowly, as necessity draws nearer and clearer into focus.

Granted there are some exceptions in Chianti Classico where fruit from neighbouring communes get together to make a Chianti Classico blend, so to speak, but these examples are few and far between. The Gallo Nero producers own, farm and harvest grapes from estate vineyards surrounding or in very close proximity to their production facilities. Chianti Classico is a highly territorial place, protected to the ultimate end of and by a family’s (or a custodian’s thereof) genealogy, history and legacy. As the region continues its march into the most modern of golden age there is a palpable and emotional push to celebrate the places within the place.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

The thinking or imagining about the landscape of Chianti Classico is more often than not acquiesced by a general feeling of winding roads through hilly landscapes, verdant vineyards and lines upon lines of cypress trees leading up drives to Etruscan estates. Generally speaking there is plenty of truth in such a conjuring but the distinct vistas, angles, geologies and visually speaking, the casts of light are so very different from one collateral enclave to the next. In Castellina there is a sense of wide open space and undulation you just don’t find in neighbouring lands. Borders are shared with Castelnuovo Berardenga to the southeast, Radda to the east, Greve to the north and Barberino Val d’Elsa to the northwest.  There can’t help but be some venn diagram drawn circles to adduce commonalities with neighbouring communes but Castellina is unique to itself and to its 66 producers associated with the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico. In many respects and though it may be a generalization to say so, the sangiovese of Castellina are of the most lush, full-bodied and modern wines in the region. There is a thread that runs through, deep, mature and wise, an echelon of tangibility, from umbrage through illumination to loop a Castellina character from beginning to end and back again. The circle always returns to a point where Castellina is bathed in golden light.

This past September an ambassadorial group of Canadians paid visits to three historical properties in Castellina in Chianti. John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale, Steven Robinson and Godello took another step into the world of understanding, unearthing and disseminating the particular characteristics of communes and in the case of Castellina the epiphany was found in the consistency of the wines. It may be abstract to say but the Chianti Classico found here offer the greatest probability of correctness, high quality and regional guarantee. Read these 21 notes from Bibbiano, Castello di Fonterutoli and Rocca delle Macie, then judge for yourself.

Bibbiano

Related – Chilling with the bad boy of Chianti Classico

My second visit in as many years with Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi reinforced the duality of landscape and sangiovese personality that the highly cerebral and zealous winemaker accepts, cherishes and celebrates through his wines. Bibbiano’s extraordinarily unique plateau position is a place of great dichotomy. The vines of Montornello slides gracefully down on the northwestern side and on the southwestern, Vigna del Capannino. “With glaring clarity is the determinate or indeterminate Bibbiano slope each wine draws their fruit from. In some cases one or the other and in others, a combination of the two. Montornello and Vigna del Capannino. The descending vineyards on either side of the Bibbiano plateau offer up an incredible study in contrasting Chianti Classico geology.”

We tasted eight wines with Tommaso, some of which were revisits for me. He also shared three new vintage samples, first a 2016 barrel pull from fruit drawn off the northern side. From tonneaux it gave beautiful, sexy fruit, spicy, tart, of great acidity and fine, spicy tannins. Structurally speaking this can only be from Montornello, albeit from wood, unblended with concrete sangiovese, so tannic, and very much in spice. The 2016 southern side is sangiovese grosso, from 25hL Slavonian oak botti and again, could only be the Capannino side with its big, thick and cakey fruit, massive, spicy and long. A 2016 blend or “taglio” may or may not have had some malvasia nera in there, from French tonneaux. Such perfume, alarmed, unparalleled, velvety, mouth coating and intense. With spice again and tight, taut, tannic (tight grain) structure. Really cakey and the thought again is just wow.  Here are the notes on the eight finished wines.

Bibbiano Listrice 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Listrice is a blend of trebbiano and malvasia, pretty much 50/50, a fantasy name says Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi. Il Istrice is a simple, fresh, straightforward white representative of the area. It’s salty, directly tart and made from fruit pulled only off the northern site/side of the Bibbiano estate. Is this so named because the northern vineyard’s fault dip is steeper near the surface then shallower with increased depth? Perhaps one day Tommaso will concur. There were approximately 2000 bottles produced. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted September 2017  bibbianowines  lesommelierwine  @bibbianowines  @LeSommelierWine  Bibbiano Chianti Classico  Le Sommelier, Wine Agency

Bibbiano Rosato Scappalepre 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Scappalepre, as in “the run away hare,” another whimsical name for a Bibbiano wine. This follows the growing number of specifically designed Tuscan rosés, especially for the Chianti Classico territory, to join the trendy ranks but with great sangiovese purpose. Scappalepre is from 100 per cent sangiovese fruit picked off of north and south vineyards and harvested purposely for Rosato. It is picked early, at least a few days before for Chianti Classico. Not quite saignée method but with a wealth of Rosé possibility, fresh and structured, confusingly phenolic and up there in the 14-plus per cent alcohol realm. A wine of sugars, acids and alcohol. It’s in a league of its own. Approx. 2000 bottles produced. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted  September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2015, Tuscany, Italy (168286, $23.95, WineAlign)

“It’s a very genuine grape. It will never try to have fun with you,” explains Tommaso Marrochezi Marzi. This could easily have been said about the 2014 sangiovese though we know by now that the grape’s resilience has and will continue to bring itself about, and around. This 2015 shows its colours early, often and in great fruit strength. It’s beautiful and expressive, a spoken varietal message that is clear and understood. It should be enjoyed while it talks in fruit this way. Silky smooth, textured like fine satin, caressing and even sexy, sulty and lush. No colorino now and perhaps its inclusion with be more likely when the new vineyard grows up but for now the indigenous grapes are used in the Bibbianaccio IGT. Here again raised in all concrete for the élévage lending freshness, properly oxidative, anti-reductive character. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

John Szabo M.S., Steven Robinson, Brad Royale, Silvia Fiorentini and Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The first vintage not called Montornello is now a Chianti Classico Riserva on its own with that (northern slope) vineyard separated as a Gran Selezione. The smooth depth of sangiovese fruit character here is entirely Riserva though without edges or toughness. No grit, some minor grip, fineness and silkiness of tannin. The perfect summer of September allowed picking to happen at the end of the month, in delivery of enough quantity and quality for both Riserva and Vigne di Montornello Gran Selezione. A Riserva as polished, modern, clean and drinkable as they come and a terrific effort for the challenging vintage. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigne di Montornello 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The artist formerly known as Chianti Classico Riserva is now Vigne di Montornello beginning in 2014, from the northern side so not a single-vineyard so to speak but a collection of very specific vineyards. Spent 18 months in a mix of wood, the thread carried forward from the Riserva but with a more focused, intense and layered approach. Having already needed a reset of the compass to wrap my head around the Riserva now taking in some Capannino side fruit, the recalibration also involves moving upwards in pyramid quality. The plan is for the best of Montornello fruit to work with precocious acumen so that it may immediately transport this GS to a new plenary place for Bibbiano. It’s offer of gratification is fleeting in comparison because it’s a conceptual baby as compared to the Capannino, in this or any near future vintage really. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Capannino 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Capannino 2013 is monstrous, from ’58 and ’62 sangiovese grosso vines put in by Giulio Gambelli, then grafts from that material for masale propogation in 1999 and the 2000s. The departure from Brunello is here, a huge, muscular, dare it be said Bibbianaccio of the sangiovese Bibbiano family, in GS form, thick, tannic, brooding, exceptionally structured, robust and 15 years away from announcing its true plans. This bottle is subdued however slightly from a spot of TCA but not enough to warrant skipping on past. Wow. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted September 2017

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Capannino 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The vineyard “Del Capannino” was planted in the 1950’s by the late great Giulio Gambelli, assistant to Tancredi Biondi-Santi. Not surprisingly and in connection to Brunello di Montalcino it is a clonal planting of sangiovese grosso, with further propagation done in the 1990s. The rich Albarese soil of Del Capannino enjoys the finest exposure and microclimate on the estate and is considered the best expression of Bibbiano’s “genius loci,” the spirit of the place. The first single vineyard vintage was 1998 and the Riserva designation switched to Gran Selezione in 2014, retroactive to the 2010 vintage. Today Bibbiano uses Botti (di rovere) Grande and Tonneaux (beginning in 2008) after barriques had been used for years. Still and always has been 100 per cent grosso, the only producer to do so in Chianti Classico. And so theirs is a liqueur that of course takes your mind to Brunello but this is purely Castellina and Chianti Classico so don’t be confused or tempted to settle for idyll comparisons. This has freshness, purity and that enticing meets teasing acidity, certainly consistent with and of no divergence to Bibbiano style. Ties to CC and CCR are blatant, necessary and so very pleasing. There is great structure but you can think about drinking this in its youth. It wont let out all its secrets but it will begin to tell its story. A story of territory. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February and September 2017

Bibbiano Bibbianaccio 2011, Igt Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Bibbianaccio comes to light in its inaugural vintage, “the bad boy of Bibbiano.” Who is this bad boy, wine or man, referring to Tomasso Marrocchesi Marzi perhaps, or is it something other? The 50 per cent sangiovese, (40) colorino and mixed varietal (including malvasia bianca) blend is an ode to a time before, when Chianti Classico regional wines were blends filled with whatever grew in the fields and men were men. This (mere production of 2,000 bottles) one is forged with extended battonage, malolactic is done in tonneaux and then the blend is assembled and sent to Slavonian oak. The bad more likely refers to a departure, a break from the stylistic and the the territorial approach. His purpose is “to show that we are capable of anything,” insists Tomasso. His rebel is floral and it reminds me of a northern Rhône syrah-viognier, in a sangiovese-colorino with white grape addendum body. Colorino brings the colour, but texture is also ushered in. The punch downs, the stalks mined in, the wood and the compression all give this a vivid, fleshy reality. It’s also much more tannic than the straight-shooting sangiovese. Bibbiannacio is yet another wine tasted in Chianti Classico with no frame of reference, or certainly not one that I have ever tasted before. It is drawn fruit on down from both sides of the Bibbiano plateau but I really taste the calcaire, liquid chalky and mixed with that tannin showing that some further bottle time is needed. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February and September 2017

Castello di Fonterutoli

The Mazzei family lays claim to Chianti Classico’s origins in a document authored by Ser Lapo Mazzei in 1398. In correspondence from the 16th of December between “the keen notary” and Francesco Datini, “the merchant from Prato “Ser Lapo Mazzei made reference to “Chianti” as a production region and denomination. In 1435, when his granddaughter Madonna Smeralda Mazzei married Piero di Agnolo da Fonterutoli, the holding became part of the family’s estate. Since then, for 24 generations, the Mazzei family have produced wine at Castello di Fonterutoli.

Filippo Mazzei led us through a tasting of seven wines, including the experimental and visionary “Mix 36,” an IGT composed of 36 clones of Fonterutoli planted sangiovese. We then followed Filippo across the road from the estate and village to Osteria di Fonterutoli for lunch and some spirited discourse on sangiovese and the future of Chianti Classico.

Mazzei Badiola 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (662197, $19.95, WineAlign)

Badiola is a sangiovese-merlot, 70-30 mix and its name comes from the tiny Roman times (circa 998) church set in one of the estate vineyard at 650m. This so happens to be the highest elevation in the area. Badiola sees 10 months in mainly used barriques for the intent to fashion a fruity, round, “everyday” Super Tuscan. It’s actually a bit lactic, dark berry dusty and with some solid grip. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  marchesimazzei  profilewinegroup  @MarchesiMazzei  @ProfileWineGrp  Marchesi Mazzei – Castello di Fonterutoli  Profile Wine Group

Castello di Fonterutoli No. 10 2014, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

No. 10 is something akin to a lottery pick, chosen from a group of samples and this specific sample was number 10 in the testing. It’s a dusty, properly volatile, minor bretty young sangiovese (with some other varieties mixed in) and led by dark currant to black cherry fruit. It’s neither avant-garde nor a legend but it is very particular in style. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017

A week’s worth of sustenance in Toscana #5- Pici con ragu di cinghiale at Osteria Di Fonterutoli

Mazzei Chianti Classico Riserva Ser Lapo 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (288530, $22.95, WineAlign)

Fonterutoli’s Chianti Classico Riserva Ser Lapo is named for Filippo Mazzei’s ancestor “Mr. or Signore Lapo,” the first to use the word “Chianti Classico” on a wine label, in December of 1398. This Riserva is 90 per cent sangiovese with 10 merlot and while it no longer fetches three florins, 26 soldi and 8 dinari for 6 barrels, it consistently represents one of the finest values for Riserva level on the CC pyramid. This 2014 spent 14-15 months in barriques and its classic, old time, rustica red tart fruit sangiovese with fine tannins wastes no time into the sidetracked distraction of unwanted meanderings. Walks the Chianti Classico line with classic distinction. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2017

Mazzei Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $75.00, WineAlign)

Some malvasia nera and colorino are blended in with the 92 per cent sangiovese, raised in 60 per cent new barriques plus tonneaux. The Mazzei GS is selected from the best parcels and finest quality grapes within those parcels. This is the fourth vintage, 2010 being the first and from a lineage for the wine known as Castello that began in 1995. Was not a Riserva before but just the Castello (IGT). It’s 2013 to be sure but with a deeper, nearly hematic and brooding character. Still the Fonterutoli dusty red fruit but with some iron fisted tannic management. It does carry this sexy feel and yet it’s so serious, so ’13. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2017

Filippo Mazzei in discussion with Brad Royale and Steven Robinson

Castello di Fonterutoli Mix 36 2013, Igt Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Castello Fonterutoli’s Mix 36 IGT Toscana is a brilliant stroke of insular blending genius, from a plot with the 36 sangiovese biotypes planted together but all from the same rootstock, planted in 2003 and 2004. It’s from a very clay vineyard at 300m. An experimental wine to be sure, the commotion variegates layer upon strata, of multi-sangiovese personality interwoven with 35 more variations of its own distinct character self. The becoming may be muddled but it’s simply delicious, fruit juicy, high in acidity though the tannins seem tamed and rendered. Filippo Mazzei insists this to be considered at the top of the pyramid, on a Gran Selezione level. He’s more correct that even he might realize. Just bloody delicious multiplicity of sangiovese. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Castello di Fonterutoli Concerto Di Fonterutoli 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Concerto di Fonterutoli is the Super Tuscan that started in 2001, originally with 20 per cent cabernet sauvignon. In the nineties there was only half a hectare, and so ’94 was then the last vintage. Over the last 20 years there has been a gradual migration to sangiovese and a restoration of this historical vineyard, but now there is a return or at least a mimic of what was done 20 years ago. So it’s a return to the 80-20 split, not a wine from Concerto Vineyard but a fantasy name, bringing two together, now sangiovese from Fonterutoli and cabernet sauvignon from Siepi. It’s deeply cakey, rich, tannic, very wooden sheathed, with almost a sweetness as a result, more like Napa than almost any wine from lands in Chianti Classico. It wells with big, sweet, grainy and chalky tannins. Huge monster of a wine. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2017

Castello di Fonterutoli Siepi 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Siepi is the 200m vineyard, west of Fonerutoli, a historical place that already had vineyards planted when the family arrived in the 1400s. This is the only exception to what is being done at the estate. Sangiovese (1995-2000) and merlot (1985) grown, picked and vinified separately. It’s essentially a single-vineyard blend, though on two sides of a road. A 50-50 split, separated and then brought together. It carries more tartness, high acidity and fine tannic structure. Very fine, less cake then Concerto and more of a seamless affair. Merlot in certain parts of Chianti Classico just seems to have this affinity, alone and in partnership with sangiovese, in ways that cabernet sauvignon just does not. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca delle Macie Estate, Castellina

Rocca delle Macie

Sometimes it just feels like Rocca delle Macie sits at the epicentre of not only Castellina in Chianti but the greater territory that is Chianti Classico. Consorzio President and estate proprietor Sergio Zingarelli is certainly a principal reason for the sentiment but it’s more than that. No other three-tiered pyramid set of examples for Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione speak to the perseverance of presence and consistency of quality in the Ontario market (plus 40 other countries) and yet it feels as though Rocca delle Macie is just beginning to reinvent its oeuvre. Zingarelli’s late father Italo, a former boxer and producer of spaghetti westerns, bought Rocca delle Macìe in 1973 and today the company produces wines off of six estates, including Macie, Fizzano and Sant’Alphonso. Sergio and his wife Daniela, daughter Giulia, son Andrea and Marketing and Communication Manager Thomas Francioni welcomed us into the Zingarelli home for a comprehensive tasting and the most exceptional home cooking. Not to mention the finest gelato in Toscana and Andrea’s very special craft gin. I made notes on the following six wines.

ry  And in #castellinainchianti we taste @chianticlassico @roccadellemacie with The Presidential #sergiozingarelli

Rocca Delle Macìe Moonlite 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (400879, $17.95, WineAlign)

Moonlite 2016 gathers vermentino, chardonnay and pinot grigio (40/40/20) from vineyards in southwest Toscana, not far from Grossetto. The lands are really, ostensibly, technically in the Morellino area. A white Super Tuscan so to speak, it’s fresh but also rich and funny in that it’s almost as wet stone smelling as it is pear fruity. There is this ubiquitous Italianate feel about it, not necessarily Tuscan but as a regional white (not sangiovese) it’s harder to define. The vermentino lends a saltiness and the nearby seaside a secondary note as such. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  roccadellemacie  profilewinegroup  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  @roccadellemacie  Profile Wine Group

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (741769, $18.95, WineAlign)

This VINTAGES Essential in Ontario delivers a contiguous style continued since the brand switched to fresher, less brooding gears over the past five or six years. Sees 10-12 months in large Slavonian casks (5000L), from many estates and a selection of vineyards. Freshness is a virtue and depth of fruit as important as anything, in a consistent, well-mannered and fleshy experience, top to bottom. Carries a small amount or Bordeaux varieties.  Last tasted September 2017

Rocca delle Macie’s Chianti Classico 2015 makes the adjustment and will be perfect for the current market, now changing in style again, away from dark colour, with less cabernet sauvignon, to be so very sangiovese and to celebrate the vintage. The classic fresh, bright and righteously dusty red cherry is just so very subtle and refined for what sangiovese can be. You will be hard pressed to find a more amenable, reachable and commercially getable Chianti Classico from a vintage ready to roll. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017

A week’s worth of sustenance in Toscana #4- Ribollita da Daniela Zingarelli

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Tenuta Sant’Alphonso 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

Tenuta Sant’Alphonso is the single vineyard Chianti Classico, from one of five estates, mostly clay and dictated by 100 per cent sangiovese. French oak of smaller size (25 hL mostly, up to 30) is employed because of the clay. The robust flesh and tannins need it and are coupled by it, but also refined by it. Aggressiveness only goes so far in sangiovese and then it hits you over the head so accepting the depth in espresso, dark chocolate and the eventuality of balsamic needs to be understood. The use of cement tanks (and less time in Inox tanks) helps to stave off reduction. This is one of the more Riserva like CCs on the market, carrying many characteristics that happen with more and smaller barrique aging. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (930966, $23.95, WineAlign)

Rocca delle Macìe’s is a selection of the best grapes pulled from all four estates, but in different (separate) vinifications and vivifications, aged in French barrels, half new and half 2-plus year old. The methodology looks for consistency in every vintage, because it’s the gathering of best fruit, (including half the fruit from the Sergio Zingarelli Vineyard). Very round, fleshy, composed, integrated, a high acidity (more than many) vintage, dry and intense.  Last tasted September 2017

The vintage is not so much one for Gran Selezione but that category’s loss is the Riserva’s gain. This is a very balanced and structured Riserva with a healthy dose of oak and an even greater sense of the Zingarelli family style. It’s crucial and obvious, correct and loyal, so very modern. Why shouldn’t it be? Let is settle for one year. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Fran Selezione Riserva Di Fizzano Single Vineyard 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (699454, $33.95, WineAlign)

Fizzano is the historical single vineyard that Sergio’s father Italo purchased from The Bertoli family (who did not have any vines) in 1984. From 1985 to 2010 it was CC Riserva and moved to the category of Gran Selezione for the 2010 vintage, keeping the Fizzano name. Mostly (95 per cent) sangiovese with five merlot, only French oak (20 per cent barriques), from calcareous (with quite a mix of sandy) soil. iIt’s a silky affair, ripe in tannin and from fruit so much so. One of the oldest vineyards (planted in 1985 to 1990) but needing replanting, to a higher (5,000+ plants per hectare) density. Not so much exceptional length but now having evolved into a really round, balanced and amenable CC. More than almost any GS.  Last tasted September 2017

Certainly the most affordable Gran Selezione on the market, Rocca Delle Macie’s From Castellina in Chianti is remarkably defined and tannic. The (32nd) vintage prepares for another profitable possibility, with ripe fruit, solid structure and those formidable edges. The re-branded single-Fizaano vineyard Riserva to Grand Selezione is again worth every bit of that advantage. Big, balanced and in the end, still brooding, let this rest for another two years. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted January 2017

Rocca Delle Macìe Roccato 2010, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $51.95, WineAlign)

Roccato is the second Super Tuscan of the estate (along with Ser Gioveto), this beginning with the 1988 vintage. It’s a 50 per cent sangiovese and 50 cabernet sauvignon split and the reasons for pouring a not so current vintage will become clear. Aged only in barriques Roccato is rich beyond the pale and with the first (very apparent) volatility and bretty culpability, though remarkably not as tannic as expected. It’s quite a smooth, silky, velvet cupboard but filled with acidity. This seven year point of age is certainly part of the mystique and secondary character is beginning (or has well begun to take this next step). Most supple and round and then the finish goes into chocolate ganache, dark toffee and a feigned note of sweetness. Will likely carry more cabernet sauvignon in the future and conversely Ser Gioveto (not tasted) will likely become a Chianti Classico Riserva. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Gallo Nero of Rocca delle Macie in Castellina in Chianti

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

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Bourgogne in a word: Climat

Chambertin Clos de Beze
photo (c) Scott Zebarth

Bourgogne is but a place built upon a word, of wines designed and articulated through their very own personal vernacular. The region’s most important vineyards are defined in a word, in summary and without comparison. Climat is the word and you may be shocked to hear how it is expressed as a highly complex chain of topographical, elemental and ethnological conditions. The glossary is much longer than you might think and adds up to quite a versatile declaration. To arrive at the distilled quotient of one, no less than 20 words are employed, exercised and ushered into explanation. The lineage travels through geography-geology-topography-landscape-position-relief-aspect-exposure-slant-elevation-slope-soil-vegetation-weather-microclimate-humankind-heritage-history-tradition-knowhow and temperament. While we understand the intellectual autonomy of choosing the unescorted word Climat as acting on behalf of all these conditions, what makes it so specific as to be exclusively owned by the people of Bourgogne?

It’s really quite simple. The people of Bourgogne coined the term or rather it came to them, as naturally as signs and portents but in the most positive, abiding and permanent of ways. Climat as in the Latin verbum sapienti, “a word to the wise,” meaning it stands alone, suffices, tells the whole story. Many will ask how many base and necessary conceits comprise this peerless notion that is Climat? The answer is not how many but that it belongs to the Bourguignons and no one else, so deal with it. Climat is the perfect oxymoron, a low and slow developed and yet truly miraculous occurrence, or perhaps a marvel but also forever etched in stone. It’s hard not to feel some trepidation when it sounds like preaching through a biblical voice because like the phrase that speaks to the Ten Commandments, the word implies that nothing else is as absolute and unalterable. In the case of Bourgogne it is owned because of 2,000 years of recorded history, thanks to the educated and the phrénique, of monks, farmers and intellectuals whose minds were connected to a feeling in the pit of their stomachs and to the earth below their feet. Climat keeps you, as it were, on your toes.

Chablis Left Bank, Bourgogne

It’s hard to imagine one word separating something so complex, multiple and diverse from everything else. In the English language “word” can be commensurate with the phrase “I speak the truth.” Climat may or may not have one single meaning, but in this univocal part of eastern France it is used to convey a collective sense of geographical affirmation, acknowledgement and agreement. It may also indicate that some special place has impressed a group of agriculturalists, viticulturalists and consumers so favourably that they would emphasize it as fixed and unchangeable. Farmers and winemakers can try to do the same elsewhere in the world but good luck coming up with a name or a term as precise, succinct or possessive of some semblance of equal meaning as Climat.

“Les Climats sont des parcelles de terre précisément délimitées”

Precisely defined parcels or plots of land. Another way of seeking a definition is to take the what not to do or not to think approach. It insists that Climat should not be misinterpreted. The notion is unrelated to meteorology but is a specific term unique to Bourgogne, designating a specific vineyard site. Bernard Pivot writes “in Bourgogne, when we speak of a Climat, we do not look up to the sky, we keep our eyes to the ground.” 

“Climat is the DNA of each wine

singuliers et multiples”

“Each Climat is a vine plot, with its own microclimate and specific geological conditions, which has been carefully marked out and named over the centuries. Each of them has its own story, produces wines with a distinct character and taste and keeps its own place in the hierarchy of crus (Regional Appellation, Village, Premier Cru, Grand Cru). Over one thousand named Climats extend along the 60 kilometres of the thin strip of vineyards running from Dijon to Santenay, just south of Beaune, and among them are some of the most famous names from the world of wine ; Chambertin, Romanée-Conti, Clos de Vougeot, Montrachet, Corton, Musigny…”

Bourgogne – Regional Appellations

It begins with the broadest of the Bourgogne appellations at the base of the pyramid with regional wines that are the rock and the platform upon which all Climats may stand. Included in this category we find Crémant De Bourgogne, Rouge et Blanc. I asked Laurent Drouhin of Domaine Joseph Drouhin “what does Climat mean to you?” His response. “First of all Climat is a name that is used exclusively in Bourgogne. A Climat to me refers to a specific location in Bourgogne which produces a wine with a unique character only found in that location. That is why in Bourgogne we highlight the name of the wine (Climat) more than the grape variety. I like to say there are thousands of Chardonnay produced in the world, there is only one Montrachet. A good example is the corner of four Climats which are next to each other and produce very different wines due to specifics in the soil and exposure. Montrachet/Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru Caillerets/Batard Montrachet, Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru Les Pucelles. Four fabulous wines, with incredible character and so different. Basically those four Climats are unique and vineyards are touching each others. Well, That is Bourgogne, That is Climat.” On his regional Bourgogne he told me this. “The Bourgogne Pinot Noir is a blend of several appellations from all over Bourgogne (around 13). So not a specific Climat. There is no vineyard designated as it is a blend of other declassified village level wines such as Macon Rouge, Ladoix, Maranges…. The wine is more of a melody which reflects the elegance and subtlety of the Pinot in Bourgogne.”

Joseph Drouhin Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2015, AOC Bourgogne (512574, $24.95, WineAlign)

Dive straight into the regional generalization of Bourgogne with Drouhin as the conduit and the driver. Here is where you initiate with all the usual suspects; red cherries, earth and herbs. Done and done, right and proper. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted November 2017  maisonjosephdrouhin  philippedandurandwines  @JDrouhin  @Dandurandwines  Joseph Drouhin  Philippe Dandurand Wines

Cedric Dechelette is the General Manager of Maison François Martenot, the company that includes Négociant and estate owner Moillard, along with sparkling wine producer Labouré Gontard. Dechelette has been involved in the Bourgogne wine trade for over 30 years.

Labouré Gontard Brut Rosé Crémant De Bourgogne, Traditional Method, AOC Bourgogne (460816, $20.95)

This blush Crémant is a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and aligoté. The base wines of the Crémant come from the different subdivisions of the Bourgogne vineyards. Their base wines however are predominantly produced from the vines of the Côtes and Hautes Côtes of Beaune and Nuits and the Côtes Chalonnaise. Different soils confer from limestone and marl in the Côtes de Nuits, Côtes de Beaune and Côtes Chalonnaise and granite in southern Bourgogne. The combing of Bourgogne from north to south delivers a true amassed regional expression for Bourgogne AOC, including such a broad, proper and creamy full Crémant like this Labouré Gontard. Feel the texture of layered terroir and note the blush citrus in its precise acidities. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted November 2017  lgcf_paris  hhdwines  @HHDImports_Wine  Les Grands Chais De France  H.H.D. Imports Inc.

Domaine De Montille Bourgogne Blanc 2014, AOC Bourgogne (515692, $50.00)

Bourgogne Blanc was never so ambitious, Climat-driven, sober and meditative as this from first Hubert de Montille and today, son Étienne. From toy to bona-fide Bourgogne business, Montille takes regional purpose to the highest level it can afford and with the quest to age. The goal is set for complexity and tertiary aromas, whether Bourgogne AOC or Volnay Premier Cru Taillepieds. This Blanc is so very primary and even herbal, with a specific Bourgogne garrigue, owing to the presence of holly, a thorny scrub bush. The stuff is found in the Beaune vineyard Les Aigrots, from an old dialectical word, “Argifolium.” Texture is viscous, salve-like and peculiar as a result but nothing seven to 10 years couldn’t resolve. The sharp acidity would say the same. If drinking anytime soon it would be a good idea to decant. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted November 2017  domainedemontille  @2Montille  Domaine de Montille

Bourgogne Village

The last example causes some wonder as to what may lay between regional Bourgogne AOC and Village level wines. Decanter Magazine just recently reported the announcement by the BIVB that there is in fact a new level of Bourgogne wines coming soon. The new Bourgogne Côte d’Or was inaugurated in Beaune just this past weekend and will be integrated as a Bourgogne Régionale AOC, not exactly a new appellation but it is the 14th regional Bourgogne AOC. Regulations will dictate vine density (9,000 plants per hectare as opposed to 5,000 at the regional level) and only Pinot Noir grapes can be used for the reds, from vines grown across all villages of the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, from south of Dijon to Maranges. Producers will be able to include grapes from young vines that would not necessarily be used in Village level wines. Prices should fall somewhere in between regional and Village and the new category “should be seen as the top of the regional pyramid, just below Village level,” according to Cécile Mathiaud of the BIVB.

Meanwhile long before the wine there were three geological phases; Quaternary, Tertiary and Jurassic, to set the landscape. During the latter period a shallow tropical sea covered what today is France. Major limestone and clay deposits were formed in a variegated mix that generally speaking runs from harder and more prevalent deposits (in the north) to friable, less regnant and heavier clay (in the south). Today in addition to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay there are Gamay and Aligoté. In Saint-Bris there is Sauvignon Blanc and in Irancy Pinot Noir can be blended with César. The investigation into this essential level of Bourgogne travels in and out of many hamlets and the precisely delineated vineyards associated with the parent village. A Climat is located in the Mâconnais, an outlier is found in Irancy, a not so common white in Marsannay, and an allowable lieu-dit noted on the label in Pouilly-Fuissé. More Village AOC examples are found in a Chablis of a Climat that is essentially Premier Cru, one of the best villages of the Côte de Nuits and the aforementioned Montrachet.

Louis Latour Mâcon Lugny Les Genièvres 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $23.95, WineAlign)

Latour’s lieu-dit Les Genièvres is a warm, rich and distinctly Mâconnais chardonnay, even in its surprising depth and richness for the appellation, coupled with the warmth of the vintage in delivery of terrific value for the money. Bourgogne for all the right reasons, most of all a food happy way to get satisfaction from and with chardonnay. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2017  louislatour1797  markanthonyon  @LouisLatour1797  @MarkAnthonyWine  MaisonLouisLatour  @MarkAnthonyWine

Domaine La Croix Montjoie Irancy 2014, AOC Bourgogne (269414, $35.95, WineAlign)

From the outlier for pinot noir in Bourgogne, only Irancy tastes like this and carries such linear, in your face, interfaced structure. Irancy is found in the Grand Auxerrois region, on the right bank of the Yonne river, fifteen kilometres South of Auxerre and South-West of Chablis. Domaine La Croix Montjoie was created in 2009, named after a cross located at the intersection of Vézelay and Tharoiseau. This cross signals the spot where pilgrims coming from Avallon first caught sight of Vézelay and felt overjoyed. The domaine is led by a Bourgogne dream team; Sophie and Matthieu (agricultural engineering and oenologist), Thierry and Jean-Louis (farmers), Christophe and Hervé (vineyard workers). Their Irancy is firm, properly and effortlessly acetic in its rising tones. It’s dramatically bright, ripe, veering to darkening cherry and exhibits great tension. While tart, slightly lactic and quick to the punch it’s also peppery and crunchy. This northern pinot noir is blended with césar, a deeply hued variety of only five planted hectares in the Irancy appellation. It is said to have been brought to the area by the Roman legions. Mostly (75 per cent) aged in tank so the freshness steals the show with just enough structure to see five more years of firm pleasure ahead. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted several time May to October 2017  #domainelacroixmontjoie  beauwinespiritsake  @davidbeauroy  Domaine La Croix Montjoie – Vins de Vézelay  

Jadot’s winemaker Frédéric Barnier shed some fascinating insight on how he and his team deal with many different parcels. “As you know we are producing a large range of wines and are really focused on trying to reveal each place. To explain better we are trying to have the same process from a Village to Grand Cru (same ageing same cask same percentage of new oak). We want to show that a Meursault is not a Marsannay and not because we have made something special on the wine but just because they are different. For the Marsannay White, this wine is coming from a blend of three different plots we are farming. One of it is planted with Chardonnay Rosé which is pink but it lost the color after fermentation. It is a rare wine from Côte de Nuits. Most of Marsannay is red or a few rosé. 2011 is showing very well now. Whites are rich but still fresh from an early vintage picked on the very first days of September.”

Louis Jadot Marsannay 2011, AOC Bourgogne (522136, $41.95, WineAlign)

The rare and elusive Marsannay blanc is a fine and beautiful thing, laden with dry extract, intense grape tannin and the pure intensity of liquid limestone. It is here in this wine from the northernmost commune of the Côte d’Or where the idea of fruit and of chardonnay is just an afterthought because the sheer and non-mitigating saltiness of this stony Bourgogne is simply hypnotizing. This is a steal of great Village proportions. I would stack this up against many Premier Cru two and three times its price. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted November 2017  louisjadot  halpernwine  @ljadot  @HalpernWine  Louis Jadot    Halpern Wine

Kerrie de Boissieu, Oenologue at Château de Lavernette explains that “Climat is a vineyard designation.  It is the custom in Bourgogne to give names to parcels.  Today, those names mean very little to us personally but they do allow us to compile a history for each parcel and follow it better.  We have Pouilly-Fuissé vineyards in two different Climats: Maison du Villard & Vers Châne. There is no one named Villard in this area now and I don’t know where their house is or why the parcel carries their name. The parcel faces west – southwest so it captures the afternoon sun making it a more luminous wine – cheerful and easily approachable. Vers Châne means “towards Châne” The parcel faces east – southeast capturing the morning light.  It is a colder, stonier, more complex mistress that needs to be coaxed to cooperate. It is well worth the trouble though as it has a nicely chiseled structure and ages gracefully.” I asked Kerrie to comment on Château De Lavernette Vers Châne Pouilly Fuissé 2014, the wine and the vineyards. “This wine has always been our chouchou (favorite).  Xavier and I bought the vineyard in 2007.  It belongs to us and not to Château de Lavernette.  The first time we harvested the grapes was the day our son, Basile, was born and it made for a really exciting day.  There are two parcels divided by a row of peach trees (peches des vignes).  It is in an amphitheater protected by a forest on the northern side.  The soil is a rocky scree with limestone tumbling down from Les Rontets.  The wine seems to be marked by each of these elements: peach blossom, stone fruit, woodsy underbrush and saline minerality. Hand-picked, whole-cluster pressed, indigenous yeast, fermented and aged in Bourgogne oak barrels (228 L, 20% new) for 22 months.  

Château De Lavernette Vers Châne Pouilly Fuissé 2014, AOC Bourgogne (496372, $42.95, WineAlign)

The lieu-dit locale for Lavernette’s Pouilly-Fuissé is called “Vers Châne,” a chardonnay that might mean “down a silk road.” This is in fact a true expression of polished texture, a Pouilly-Fuissé warm and rich if decidedly linear-focused, with some real vanilla-tinged, toasty barrel notes. That the appellation speaks most truth when the combination of ripeness and smoulder are mixed and then married to the specific PF acidity (like preserved lemon), then reality bites. The smoky, flinty edge is a little over the edge but two years should help to soften, match with the downy texture and ultimately settle the score. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted August and November 2017  #chateaulavernette  @NaturalVines  Château de Lavernette  

Domaine Oudin Chablis Les Serres 2014, AOC Bourgogne (WineAlign)

Just south of Chablis there are hilltop vineyards above and around the village of Chichée where Les Serres draws its superior fruit for what is ostensibly (though not labeled as such) Premier Cru. Jean-Claude and Christiane began here in 1988 and it is now Nathalie and Isabelle who use Les Serres old vines fruit (some up to 70 years) for this transcendent and worthy Chablis. Les Serres are “the greenhouses,” an apropos moniker for a wine that not only receives but gifts so much warmth and generous fruit without ever straying from its stony and salty roots. The texture here is above and beyond textbook for Premier Cru and elevated for the sharp vintage. So settled at this point it is just a pleasure to taste. Drink 2017-2026.  Tasted November 2017  #domaineoudin  vinsdechablis  @purechablis  #domaineoudin

When I asked Luc Bouchard which Climat most defines the notion for the estate he replied “from Bouchard estate we are very proud of the Climat of Beaune Grève Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus, monopole of Bouchard since 1791, a unique terroir with gravely soil (unique in Beaune ). The roots go very deep into the soil (9 m), so if we have a very dry summer there is always enough water far below and if there is heavy rain storm, the drainage is so good that the water is not directly swallowed by the grapes. That explains the consistency of the wine, it’s unique texture and ageing potential.” On his Gevrey Chambertin 2015 he had this to say: “The 2015 vintage is a superb vintage; normal quantity and high quality from Bourgogne generic up to top Grand Cru. Gevrey is one of the best villages of the Côte de Nuits and our sourcing of grapes come from four different growers (from different locations too) that allow us to have a better representation of the appellation and a better balance. Gevrey 2015 shows a deep and intense garnet red colour, intense bouquet red fruit and a touch of gamey taste. Good structure and very nice balance, ripe tannins, with a long finish. Can be drunk from now (with good aeration before) and can be aged for five up to 10 years.”

Bouchard Père & Fils Gevrey Chambertin 2015, AOC Bourgogne (661330, $59.95, WineAlign)

Bouchard’s 2015 is incredibly forward Gevrey Chambertin, full of fruit, flowers and a beautifully integrated red liquid chalky syrup. It’s just plain getable and is the godfather to all of its peers. If you want to show the world and everyone in it who knows or knows nothing about high-level Bourgogne then perhaps consider this to be the journey’s departure point. Gevrey and especially in the hands of Bouchard is such a gate for what it means to build pinot noir from the earth upwards. It explains what needs in a language you can understand and makes an offer you can’t refuse. Pour this every day simply because it is quintessentially ripe and structured stuff. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted April and November 2017  bouchardpereetfils  woodmanws  @BouchardPere  @WoodmanWS  Bouchard Père & Fils  Woodman Wines & Spirits

Mont Chauve En Pimont Chassagne Montrachet 2012, AOC Bourgogne (496372, $67.95, WineAlign)

Still in a state of hyper reductive possibility this is an ambitious and beautifully calcareous Chassagne, full of deep lemony preserve and variegated waves of acidity. Though it breathes of some age development it is in fact a greatly structured chardonnay that will continue to benefit from further development. Where texture and complexity meet. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted October 2017  aupieddumontchauve  #BNDWines  Au Pied du Mont Chauve  Devon Masciangelo

In addition to running his own Domaine de Bellene and négoce Maison Roche de Bellene, Nicolas Potel has drawn upon some secret resources to deliver old wines made new again. His sourcing of older parcels from producers who somehow hid these top vineyard gems from the world is a gift of generous proportions. Ask Nicolas what he thinks about Les Climats and the hardest working man of leisure, diplomat and ambassador extraordinaire for the wines of Bourgogne will open up his heart and his mind. Says Potel, “the characteristics and Climats of every site and village are truly unique. To make a very good village wine, you need to ideally source grapes from south, central and northern areas of the village. This way it shows the full expression of the village for the vintage in question. Single vineyards based on identification of one site. Volnay is all about elegance. Nice tannin, structure and acidity with pure fruit character. The terroir in Volnay is always very transparent in the wine because of this elegance. What about Gevrey-Chambertin? Last February I tasted the 1999 Village and 2001 Premier Cru Petit Chapelle and today, the ’01 Village. Immediacy meets reflection to bring clarity into the light. This is a wonderful example of the beautiful relationship between producer, Village and Climat.

Roche De Bellene Gevrey Chambertin “Collection Bellenum” 2001, AOC Bourgogne (514430, $74.00, WineAlign)

Though time has exorcised some fining away of the more grainy and delicate texture of this Village level Gevrey Chambertin it hangs securely in the balance between youthful and aged. As a lovely mature pinot noir it should be considered as occupying space in the categorical order between Village and Premier Cru, once destined for greatness but now in the waning, twilight of its career. What happens in this space is a complex combination of cured red fruit, weighty earthiness, mushroom, truffle and dried herbs. All merely hints mind you so several years of life will persist to deliver further pleasure. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted November 2017  domaine_de_bellene  nicholaspearcewines  @RochedeBellene  @Nicholaspearce_  Bellene  Nicholas Pearce

Southwestern slope in Gevery Chambertin
photo (c) Scott Zebarth

What is Climat?

Our fiends at the Bureau Interprofessionnel des vins de Bourgogne (BIVB) have established the reference point for the written understanding of the true meaning of Climat. I posed the question of concept to several producers and négociants. Most pointed straight to the BIVB website for answers “Over the past 2,000 years, the Bourgogne winegrowing region has benefited from the experience of men and women, from the observation of the soil, and from the region’s unique microclimates. This has given rise to a patchwork of plots whose qualities have been identified and acknowledged: the Climats and lieux-dits. The Climats and lieux-dits give Bourgogne wines their unique identity. Their names bear witness to the region’s rich history. Their origins lie in the environment, local heritage, savoir-faire (know-how) and human history. The term Climat is unique to Bourgogne. It is the Bourguignon expression of the notion of terroir.”

“The Climats and lieux-dits are the ultimate expression of the notion of terroir. They guarantee the unique characteristics of each wine and offer an unrivaled taste experience. Climats are precisely delineated plots of land that enjoy specific geological and climatic conditions. When combined with human effort and translated through the two great Bourgogne varietals of Pinot Noir for reds and Chardonnay for whites, they give rise to an exceptional range of appellations that are classified according to quality and which enjoy international renownThe Climats confer their own unique organoleptic qualities onto the wines of Bourgogne, such as their appearance, aromas, flavours and texture.”

“exceptional range of appellations that are classified according to quality and which enjoy international renown…the result of the alchemy between men and women and the natural world”

“Some Climats were first referenced as far back as the 7th century, such as Clos de Bèze in Gevrey. For centuries, the reputation of Bourgogne wines was driven by the monks of Cîteaux, and then by the Dukes of Bourgogne. Some wines, such as Clos Vougeot and Montrachet, which bore the name of the Climat where they were grown, acquired a reputation that extended beyond French borders. In 1935, the National Institute for Origins and Quality (INAO), made official the usage of the word “Climat” and began using it in legal texts applying to all Bourgogne appellations, whatever their level of hierarchy. The Climats are a sign of excellence and on 4 July 2015, the Climats were included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Lieux-dits are also plots recognized for their own topographic or historical specificities. Their precise geographical location is not registered by the INAO. A certain number of producers choose to feature the name of their lieu-dit on their labels, such as Pouilly-Fuissé, Le Clos Reyssié.”

Gevery Chambertin
photo (c) Scott Zebarth

Bourgogne Premier Cru

Les Climats are Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) defined vineyards or rather the DNA of the vineyards and the official term is specific to wine while the reference lieux-dits is an administrative one. While there are some who consider Climats as also relating to things atmospheric, the pragmatic consensus keeps the discernment ground into dejection depressions, alluvial fans and geological anomalies in an otherwise south by southwest set of exposure slopes for the best of Bourgogne wines. Still others would argue that while dirt makes an impact it is climate that inflicts the most drama on a wine but even more important than climate and soil, it’s the people who give the terroir its cultural identity. The notions of accumulate knowledge that can be transmuted from generation to generation is how each village has managed to produce a specific style of wine from vintage to vintage.

Four exceptional Bourgogne Premier Cru

Domaine Theulot Juillot Mercurey Premier Cru La Cailloute 2014, AOC Bourgogne (473793, $31.75, WineAlign)

Theulot Juillot’s is a Mercurey Premier Cru with a direct connection between Bourgogne and Ontario by way of the great region’s educator and ambassador Jean-Pierre Renard. Given and extra year in bottle  the form tannic grip has loosened, if only a lace or two while it continues to match fruit with umami. Persists in its display as one of the more over-performing reds from one of the most out performing villages in all of Bourgogne. Last tasted on several occasions, June-October 2017

From vines planted in 1979 and 1980, the crest of the ridge at 300m is a prized locale in Mercurey that sees fit to fresh, vibrant and structured pinot noir. The beautiful dichotomous relationship between ripe and juicy opposite firm and sweetly tannic is met in this functional Mercurey, a Premier Cru of upbeat excellence. Very representative of place because of the grip but it goes light years beyond the lithe and the under-performed. You could pour this for Burgundy label chasers and they would cry sweet Nuits St. Georges. Raspberry and strawberry with plenty of umami minerality and that firm tannin up the back. Really tempurpedic acidity never reacts and always supports. Theulot Juillot may suggest five to eight years of cellar time but this is a 10-15 year Mercurey. No fooling. Drink 2018-2029. Tasted September and October 2016  #domainetheulotjuillot  #domainetheulotjuillot  Jean-Pierre Renard

Louis Moreau

Louis Moreau studied oenology-viticulture at Fresno State University (California) before working in several vineyards across the state. In 1994, after eight years in the United States, he returned to France to take over the family business, succeeding his father Jean-Jacques. He then expanded his facilities to leverage the harvests yielded on 110 hectares comprising the family’s two estates, namely Domaine Louis Moreau and Domaine de Biéville. Today, Louis Moreau produces and markets Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru, with a focus on finding the best quality and respecting the environment. Since February 2016 Moreau has been the Vice-President, Commission Chablis of the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne.

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2014, AOC Bourgogne (124362, $43.00, WineAlign)

Vaillons is drawn from sub-appellative blocks in Les Epinottes and Roncières, with some vines as old as 65 years and yields quite low for where concentration trumps quantity. Very rich and concentrated is indeed the mode here, with good mineral bled from stone and very little in terms of sour or lactic edges. This is amenable Vaillons to be sure. A purity subsists and solicits simple and non-specific pairings, like Dorado, Sea Bass or Magret de Canard. There is this amazing salinity that hints at iodine, lemon and lime, but I would not call it salty. I would call it really refined Chablis. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016 and several times May-October 2017  chablislouismoreau  louismoreauchablis  artisanal_wine_imports  @MoreauLouis1  Louis Moreau  @artisanalwineimports

“The word Climat is from Bourgogne and designates a viticulture terroir,” explains Megan McClune, Directrice at Domaine Jessiaume. “It is a certain piece of land, with vines, that is named, has a story and specific geological and climate conditions.  The Climat is the association of land, grape variety and craftsmanship. We strive to produce all of our wines so that each wine expresses where it comes from in the glass.  We produce three wines from one parcel of land in Auxey Duresses les Ecussaux. This definitely expresses the notion of Climat. Santenay Premier Cru Les Gravières is a very special piece of land.  We have a history of over a hundred years in this piece of land.  The soil is quite rocky and produces a wine with a peppery finish year in and year out.”

Domaine Jessiaume Santenay Premier Cru Les Gravières 2013, AOC Bourgogne (487488, $50.00, WineAlign)

Built in 1850, Domaine Jessiaume was purchased in 2007 and is owned and operated by the Scottish family Murray. Situated right at the gates of the important Côte de Beaune village of Santenay it comprises 37-plus acres, with large plots in Santenay, holdings in the Premiers Crus Auxey Duresses Les Ecusseaux and Volnay Les Brouillards and a section of Beaune les Cent Vignes vineyard. Les Gravières is located at the northern end of the village, on the border with Chassagne-Montrachet. Jessiaume are indubitably Santenay specialists and the famous limestone, oolite and marl plot of Les Gravières (to which a new wall was recently added at its base) is interpreted beautifully bright, from cherry tones to cherry strength. The mesoclimate is fully realized in this sunny ’13 and the wine represents the heart and meat of Bourgogne, from that textbook bright fruit and back down to earth. It’s taut and nearly bracing, just a perfect example of a very specific and storied Climat. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted March and November 2017  domainejessiaume  beauwinespiritsake  @DmneJessiaume  Domaine Jessiaume  

Domaine Chanson Pernand Vergelesses Premier Cru Les Vergelesses 2013, AOC Bourgogne (227199, $66.95, WineAlign)

South of the hill of Corton is where Chanson owns five-plus hectares in Vergelesses, the most famous Premier Cru that gave its name to the village of Pernand. You can feel the lower slope heavy clay but also the upper stones, first in power, grip and texture and then through a liquid red chalky streak. Pernand from the Celtic, “the (spring) source that is lost” and Vergelesses from the Middle French verge, meaning “rod,” a reference to the parcel’s long shape. It is a name which dates back to when Charlemagne owned vines on the Montagne de Corton. Just coming into its zone around now after the toast, grilling notes and calculous grittiness have begun to soften and fade. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February and November 2017  domainechanson  @domainechanson  Domaine Chanson  John Hanna & Sons Ltd.

Premier Crus of Chablis, Montrachet, Mercurey and Nuits-St.-Georges

Domaine Louis Max Nuits Saint Georges Premier Cru Les Damodes 2014, AOC Bourgogne (469080, $94.00, WineAlign)

Here is an outsanding Nuits Saint Georges from a marl and limestone vineyard just a stone’s throw from Vosne-Romanée. Les Damodes sings a northern NSG song and its ladylike name carries a legend that tells of fairies inhabiting the rocky landscape. The formations looked like tall ladies in long dresses, “les dames hautes,” or “damaudes,” then “damodes.” The vines in the furthest northeastern block north and east of the village look to the east and the soils are poor so the expectation elicits a thoughtfulness to solicit tension and finesse. That it does, first from a stony-lime-pomegranate-red cherry purity and then a fineness of acidity meets tannic honesty. Domaine Louis Max holds widely in Bourgogne, in Mercurey and Rully, as well as the south of France estates of Château Pech-Latt in Corbières and Domaine la Lyre in Côtes-du-Rhône. Les Damodes is a perfect example of a larger, modern-day producer making a small, site-specific Premier Cru from a storied piece of land. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted several times, May to October 2017  #domainelouismax  Louis Max

Marchand Tawse Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru Champ Gain 2014, AOC Bourgogne (470112, $114.00, WineAlign)

Champ Gain is located in the northern reaches of Puligny-Montrachet, above Les Folatières, edging off the eastern slopes of Mont-Rachet and in between the appellations of Saint-Aubin and Meursault. It’s essential perch on the rump of the mountain at 350m lends a perfect south-east exposure. The soil is highly variegated, even for Bourgogne, with friable and broken clay-limestone littered with pebbles and stones. A classic élevage of 18 months in (25 per cent) new wood delivers an archetypal if texturally modern Puligny. The name is simply “field reclaimed by the forest,” which separates itself from no other vineyard in the region but one Premier Cru‘s “gain field” is another’s “perdre la forêt.” What really distinguishes Pascal Marchand’s Champ Gain is texture, not just in how it glides, caresses and layers but in how it ties up its laces so taut, tight and in the end it’s an impenetrable Bourgogne. The force field around its fruit is a pure mineral tide that is yet to ebb and flow. It’s coming soon though, despite the crackerjack vintage that elevates the entire gain. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted several times May to October 2017  marchand_tawse  moraytawsewine  burgundy_direct_imports  @MARCHANDTAWSE  @MorayTawse  @Burgundy_Direct  Marchand-Tawse  

Bourgogne Grand Cru

Historically speaking, when did this omniscient term Climat switch to the wine business? It may have origins and or co-existence in the Jura, but it is definitely a word that belongs to that part of eastern France. So why is or better yet, when did Bourgogne become the birthplace of terroir? We know it to be a matter of nature and people, both of which need time, hope and literacy to transmit information. You need place and you need monks. Record keeping, true delineation of land and the erecting of the walled in vineyards (Les Clos) really began after the monks were handed down the torch from the Celts and the Romans.

Between the 15th century and the French Revolution the vineyards began to be divided up and the notion of Climat emerged. The 18th and 19th centuries saw the ranking of Climats and terroir. Regulations were introduced during the 20th century. The word “Clymat” appeared for the first time in Chablis in 1540 and then again in 1584 in a document about the Clos de Bèze. The first mentions of Climats in this sense were recorded by Abbot Arnoux in 1728 when he described the vines of the “côte.” The movement to define and spread the word about the Climats led to the first classifications of the vineyards, by André Jullien in 1819, Dr. Denis Morelot in 1831 and Dr. Jules Lavalle in 1855. The names of the villages on the côtes was added to the name of their most famous Climat, with the first being Gevrey-Chambertin in 1847.

The first protection systems were introduced:  The laws of 1905, 1919 and especially 1935, which defined the notion of the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. In 1944, the names of the Climats classified as Premiers Crus were added to the decrees for Village appellations. On July 4, 2015 the term Climat was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Aubert De Villaine, President of the Association for this inclusion said “nowhere else has the quest for harmony between a wine and the place it is produced been as subtle and sophisticated as in the Bourgogne region with the Climats. The Bourgogne region has a universal value.”

Didier Séguier of Domaine William Fèvre

Domaine William Fèvre can be used as an ideal example of a launch point from where control is transferred from the operating system to the process and ultimately, the programmer. That would be winemaker Didier Séguier, he who takes a calm ferment and squeezes out its vital juices to render Chablis with all the attributes it has come to define. Séguier the winemaker is a generous fellow, a giver of Chablis, gift-wrapping kimmeridgian-affected fruit in 50 per cent oak and tank equality for all his Grand Cru.

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru 2015, AOC Burgundy, France (641381, $130.00, WineAlign)

Fèvre’s Les Clos takes a bit of an unexpected turn so from 2015 it currently goes stone cold and remains intensely locked. From what we know the vintage should be generous from the start but in this instance Les Clos makes use of every ounce and fibre of kimmerridgian being to lay only salt, fossil and stone before you. The fruit kept hidden away makes you pine for fleshy orchard apples. Nothing can really prepare you for the Les Clos iron gate, especially when you were expecting a welcome mat laid out at your feet. Take the time to charm and be charmed, at least 15 minutes with a glass or 15 years if you can offer up the time. The Grand Cru will slowly open up and speak in a vernacular of controlled energy, fineness of acidity and exceptional balance. This will be one for the ages.  Drink 2021-2035. Tasted April 2017  williamfevre_chablis  woodmanws  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS  @domainewilliamfevre  Woodman Wines & Spirits

The greatest pleasure to welcome Jean-Pierre Renard and Nelly Blau of @vinsdebourgogne to Toronto.

The only true intrinsic reality gained through a discussion about Climat is accessed by the tasting and assessment of examples that represent a full cross-section of Bourgogne. The appellations of Chablis et du Grand Auxerrois, Côtes de Nuits and Hautes Côtes de Nuits, Côtes de Beaune and Hautes Côtes de Beaune, Côtes Chalonnaise and Couchois, the Macônnais and the Châtillonnais are best understood by comparative studies of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from regional Bourgogne to Village and through Premier and Grand Cru wines. With more than 100 appellations (84 officially recognized) it would take a lifetime and then some to cover them all and several more to come to grips with the very specific meanings and interpretations of their personalized Climats. By that time the moving target would change so much that starting again would be the only option. Make the most of the time there is, which is the way of the Bourguignons.

If you are looking for an answer as to why Bourgogne wines are so expensive, subscribe to the following idea. If to you unadulterated Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, respected producers and Climat mean anything at all then the Bourgognes are worth the price, if only because they are the rarest group of wines on the planet. Consider the region sixty kilometres in length, with 28,715 hectares under vine split up into thousands of different plots. Each are tiny by comparison with most of the rest of the world’s identified terroirs. We can’t all afford Bourgogne but at every level the quality is reflective of the cost. Truly. We can however search for terrific value in the multitude of villages where quality has improved dramatically in recent times. Names like Chablis, Montagny, Saint-Véran, Mercurey and Santenay are but a handful. All of Bourgogne waits for you.

Sources

https://www.bourgogne-wines.com/

https://www.climats-bourgogne.com

http://www.decanter.com/

Chambertin Clos de Beze photo
(c) Scott Zebarth

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Flights in and out of Niagara, ere Terroir

The Niagara crew getting a load of #BallsFalls in Jordan

In May of 2017 the 12th annual Terroir Symposium brought many magnificent folk to Ontario. They were dreamers, disruptors, international luminaries, thought leaders, visionaries, creative influencers, innovators, chefs, hoteliers, drink experts, writers and business leaders. With VQA Wines of Ontario and the Wine Marketing Association of Ontario as chaperone, a dozen of these invitees flew from Billy Bishop Airport to Niagara District Airport for an ante-Terroir Talk Sunday fun day in wine country immersion. I joined Robert Gilvesy, Fiona Beckett, Jeremy Bonia, Magdalena Kaiser, Jamie Drummond, Nikki Bayley, Dick Snyder, Ursula Heinzelmann, Christoph Thörle and Jim Poris for the excursion. In between return nine-seater shuttles we ran through flights at Flat Rock Cellars and Henry of Pelham Estate Winery. Who amongst us was not taken by these VQA wines and their unselfconscious excellence?

First a hot air balloon and now this!!!

After a quick first pit stop at Ball’s Falls to show off Niagara’s famous escarpment limestone to the international contingent, we settled in at Flat Rock to taste six wines with Cellarmaster Allison Findlay. Next it was a dozen at Henry of Pelham Estate Winery with proprietor Daniel Speck, Ryan Corrigan of Rosewood Estates and Suzanne Janke of Stratus Vineyards. A blow your mind lunch was prepared on site by Wellington Court Chefs Erik Peacock and Cait Bermuhler. Here are the notes on the 18 wines.

Revisits with @Winemakersboots and a seven-year Crowned epiphany

At Flat Rock Cellars

Flat Rock Cellars Riddled Sparkling 2010, Méthode Traditionnelle, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (383315, $29.95, WineAlign)

Time makes a difference so here the extended lees age (six months further, to 60) takes Riddled to another level. Considering the cost and attention to time, in the broad realm of traditional method sparkling wine there are some that are given away. Riddled. A whole lot of biscuit warmth, sody saleratus, gingersnap, tart Ida Red apple, breadth and a smile-inducing creamy palate. There is more wisdom and calm from 2010 so do not come around demanding tension and over-exciteability. Think Grower’s Champagne with Ontario heart and soul, dedication and purpose. The extended arm of Madronich-Johnston love is here, this year. It won’t get much better than this. Great length. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted October 2016, March and May 2017  flatrockcellars  @Winemakersboots  @FlatRockCellars

Flat Rock Cellars Crowned Sparkling Brut 2009, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (Winery, $45.20, WineAlign)

Crowned ’09 was disgorged this spring after seven years on the lees, sealed under crown cap and sent to market with a crowning achievement in mind. Feather gingery, faintly oxidative, this Blanc de Blancs wafts in copper-veined breezes and fennel frond ahead of its palate piercing chardonnay intensity. It delivers a cooler climate interaction than the Riddled, with preserved lemon and please concentrate if you will on it as a wine of heavy forethoughts. What with it resting on its lees, in limbo this long out of practice, necessity and as a result, now fortuitous and of great luck. The animal was created early on and now anything less might be difficult to justify and accept. Plus the bar is raised for the entire Sparkling community. Here the perfect example of low, slow and minute by minute evolution. Only 500 bottles (plus one) were made. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted May 2017

Flat Rock Cellarmaster Allison Findlay

Flat Rock Cellars Gravity Pinot Noir 2013, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (1560, $30.25, WineAlign)

Flat Rock’s ever involving vines (on 33 hectares planted in 2001 and 2002) enter a new phase with indicators blinking and refreshing in this 2013 Gravity Pinot Noir. Youthful adolescence and gregarious fruit expression initiated in 2010 and carried through the 2012 vintage. Those years saw to a world of astringency and tension relegated to mites in the rear-view mirror. The wine is now in a nexus cross-roaded with exigency holding pattern. To understand its confusion and survey fast forward to its future is not easy. Gravity is a bit large right now, seemingly advanced, but to me the fight is between that fruit abundant state and the return of, though eased by meditative Jedi tension. Gravity just needs a parachute to bring it back down to earth. That lifeline may not materialize in this 2013 but that does not take anything away from its discriminating and diagnostic tones. Brightness, astatic inflection and succulence. This vintage may suffer from some level of snafu but it will age, evolve and breath. That much fruit has to have some level of expectation. The follow up ’14 and ’15 will win the hearts of horses and men. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted October 2015 and May 2017

Flat Rock Cellars Gravity Pinot Noir 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (1560, $29.95, WineAlign)

Seven months have softened and mothered Gravity’s adolescence in ways to now see it as the most feminine, certainly of the last four vintages. Pretty dabs, perfumes of natural conditioning, warm days and warm nights in the bottle. More accessible than previous takes and of a new modernity perceived. Sweet dreams and sweet fragrances, roses and cinnamon, nothing fancy here mind you, with no bite and no gathering moss. Cherries and vanilla, lavender and simple pleasures. Straight up Gravity, no pull down, no drag and no excess weight. At $30 and from the best barrels, this trumps $40-50 most locales not called Lowery, La Petite Vineyard, Central Otago, Hengst or Pfinstberg. From my earlier, March 2014 note: “In a vintage potentially muddled by warmth and a humidor of radio frequency, duplicating berry phenolics, Flat Rock’s Gravity remains a definitive, signature house Pinot Noir. In 2011, the head of the FR class from its most expressive barrels shared the limelight (and top juice) with the Pond, Bruce and Summit one-offs. In ’12, Gravity’s sandbox was its own. The style is surely dark, extracted, black cherry bent, as per the vintage. Yet only the Rock’s soil does earth in this variegate, borne and elevated by the barrel’s grain. There are no fake plastic trees in a Flat Rock Pinot. “Gravity always wins.”  Last tasted October 2014 and May 2017

Flat Rock The Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2013, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (1552, $24.95, WineAlign)

It’s as if this label had bided all this time to be the benefactor of 2013 fruit. This Rusty Shed, this 20 miler with the track record to age, a wine that sheds baby fat over a 10 year mineral through echelon stratum, in ways few other peninsula to bench chardonnay can do. This Jay Johnston handled surfer of a wine, buoyant and balanced, centred and able to withstand turbulence, oscillation and tidal sway. Here with sumptuous and spiralled fruit gaged in lode intervals and a tartness held in lope and line by a membrane of extract and tannin. Best ever. Showing well, repeatedly and to forecasted repute. Impressing critics and consumers alike. Bravo. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted June 2016 and May 2017.

Flat Rock Cellars Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (578625, $24.95, WineAlign)

This is an outlier for the Nadja’s Vineyard riesling, with deeper concentration and compression than before. More Mosel and less Twenty Mile in 2015, of light alcohol and an increase in off-dry, extract meets acidity. There have been Nadja’s with more air and exhale but I can’t recall one with such density in vitality. A great Nadja to be sure but of a deferential sort of character. Two or three years should bring it back into its self-imposed and created line. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2016 and May 2017

VQA wines at Henry of Pelham Estate Winery, May 2017

At Henry of Pelham Estate Winery

Rosewood Estates Gamay Rosé Emerald Shore Vineyard 2016, VQA Creek Shores, Ontario (Winery, $15.95, WineAlign)

The inaugural gamay Rosé is from fourth leaf vines in the spot where the famous sémillon once lived. It delivers essential gamay aromas; strawberry modified with a tisane into raspberry and cherry, salinity clarified and fined. It’s lactic tonal, nicely tart and with a Beamsville mineral, very specific and just this emerald side of intense. Finished dry, but was allowed to go through three quarters malo to bring the cream and the layers. Finished by the incumbent winemaker Ryan Corrigan who once “lived out of a backpack and chased grapes,” committing in fleeting methodology, to northern and southern hemisphere harvests. In 2017 Niagara is all his. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted May 2017  rosewood wine  @Rosewoodwine  @rosewoodwine

Welcome to @rosewoodwine Ryan Corrigan. Gamay and Cabernet Franc are in fine hands.

Henry Of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay 2015, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (616466, $29.95, WineAlign)

Spice and toast more than anything else come to define the early life of the SPR ’15 chardonnay. Not overtly or overly fruit forward at this (nearing) two-year mark, but green apple, pear and the unusual tangy bite of south asian palm (Salak) snake fruit are just around the corner. This speaks to the phenolic grab and go, the hang time and then that barrel exploit comes through. The palate delivers sappy moments and then the weight of the wine is felt. If texture were quantifiable in aromatics, it would be the SFR that would provide such intellectual fodder to describe what that might feel like. The perfume is layered, chewy, unctuous and viscous. Another year should inflate the fruit and integrate the wood. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted twice, May and September 2017  henryofpelham  @HenryofPelham  @SpeckBros  @henryofpelham

Wellington Court Chef Erik Peacock and Cait Bermuhler’s appetizer trio

Rosewood Estates Chardonnay Origin 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $28.95, WineAlign)

Rosewood’s Origin 2014 is highly representative of Beamsville chardonnay, pacing a bridge that connects the cool of the climate and the nook in the escarpment’s abutting warmth of the overall Bench. The skins matter, as per the departing winemaking Ross Wise expertise, if only and alt-heightened in elevating texture, but even more so the rusty, soil tart, intensely wound and taut orchard fruit speciality. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May 2017

Wellington Court Chef Erik Peacock and Cait Bermuhler’s salt grass point oyster, beet mignonette, cucumber gel, horseradish foam

Stratus Vineyards Stratus White 2013, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (660704, $38.20, WineAlign)

There can be little doubt that anticipation would haver to run high for the aromatic, elongated and coolest of Niagara white wine vintages, especially for the chardonnay, but also for the iconic, four-varietal (with sauvignon blanc, sémillon and viognier) blend. The five sensory tenets are solicited and provided for; salty, sour, sweet, briny and umami. The last is exotic and punchy, so this White does it all, speaks for it all and completes it all. It is the most designed and seamless their’s can be.  Last tasted May 2017  stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

In 2013 viognier is back in the varietal mix, in reprise of its earlier role in support of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling. A different sort of vintage here for the White, seemingly led by a circular turning of chardonnay and viognier, like a cat chasing its tail. This really goes round and round with no obvious signs of where it will stop. Quite fleshy and lime juicy with stone fruit flavours in righteous abound. Really amalgamated and seamless even for itself. It is here that I think of it as The White. Niagara’s White. Lake Effect™. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted November 2016

Rosewood Estates Riesling Origin 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $22.95, WineAlign)

Smells like Bench riesling spirit. The energy comes from the über vineyard’s way of emission, gasseous and vital, linear, introspective and direct. This may just be the most aridity and brine ever teased from a Mima’s riesling, acidity coveting sugar notwithstanding, startling from beginning to end, with spirited shots of lime. Underrated and honest, the consistency of this riesling is possessive of great triggers and so beautifully defines the mineral Bench. Early suffocations blow off with ease and in the denoument there are crunchy stones, forever and always something to like. Mima’s never really needed an abundance of sugar for balance and kudos to that. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March and May 2017

Wellington Court Chef Erik Peacock and Cait Bermuhler’s simcoe asparagus, ramp aioli, sous vide hen’s egg, puffed wild rice

Stratus Gamay 2014, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Winery, $29.20, WineAlign)

When asked about his approach to gamay winemaker J-L Groux responds with “continuously with changes.” This is what takes place in 2014 with the barrel time cut back by a full year, now only nine months, if nothing else for to place ultimate emphasis on fruit. Sounds simple but it’s anything but in a Groux universe. His gamay now gifts fresh strawberry and raspberry, a slight 13 per cent alcohol spine and the uplifting effect of zero-noticeable steaminess, steminess, aggression or grass. In contrast to many overly and overtly ambitious Ontario gamay here Stratus enters the antithetical to harsh realm and instead occupies the amenable-ethereal void. Less pressing means smoother transitions and weightless chimera. This captures varietal and place with its coax of maximum fruit. The plantings are from 1992 and 2001 (with an imperfect memory that includes the possibility of 1985 too). Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted twice, May 2017

Thanks for hosting Daniel. Cab-Merlot ’12 SFR @HenryofPelham is one for the ages @WineCouncilOnt @winecountryont

Henry Of Pelham Pinot Noir Speck Family Reserve 2012, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

Always the elder, wise and delicate if elegant statesman for Ontario pinot noir. There is real demure and reserve, Speck family style and this dried red berry savour to both aromatics and flavour. Tart is an undercurrant and red currants run above. Right in its wheelhouse now, for a spell and then the slow fade will come. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted May 2017

Henry Of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Baco Noir 2015, VQA Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

From vines planted in 1984, a more than significant fact of experience, wisdom and acumen from this baco noir. Couple that with what is arguably the finest varietal vintage in many years makes this the collector bottle for the baco fanatic. The rubbery reductiveness is so nicely offset by the flowers, the red fruit and the delicious appeal. Easily the finest ever, by anyone and especially this most prominent house. Great ripe acidity and fine, fine tannin. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted May and June 2017

Wellington Court Chef Erik Peacock and Cait Bermuhler’s confit lake huron pickerel, fingerling potatoes, chorizo vinaigrette, celery, capers

Rosewood Origin Cabernet Franc 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

It’s a deep, dark fruit, rich currant, pyrazine and savoury vintage for the Origin. It’s cabernet franc that brings strawberry, raspberry and ripe rhubarb to the table. It’s tart and layered, rich and even a touch hematic. Quite pure, red fruit driven and of finely tuned acidity. Never tries too hard, refuses to hide the naturally green character, does nothing to sheath or blanket and leaves the fruit to shine red, bright and vital. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May 2017

Stratus Cabernet Franc “Decant” 2014, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $95.00, WineAlign)

“A designer’s hands are tied. They are only as good as their opportunities.” The words of the brilliant bottle designer Karim Rashid fully apply to the mirrored universe in which winemaker J-L Groux works, here with a deferential and ulterior cabernet franc, bottled with its lees. When I first tasted it in February (in advance of this auspicious release), its unfiltered state spoke of a hyperbole of perfume, marked by exoticism. The aromatics gave far east five-spice, star anise, cardamom, miso and incense, all natural by-products of its purposed ferment. More grain spoke out but also a roundness of tannin and a smoothness both coating and comforting. There was chocolate accentuated by the treatment, with thanks to those lees left in the bottle. The chopped up and constructed bottle catches the lees while the volume flows out and the function out of form mimics the thought of lees delivering structure and yet they are invisible, caught in a hidden net or nook, out of sight, out of mind. But it’s not about pouring. It’s about the hand, or the slight thereof. Then there is the copycat idealism of strata in the vineyard, of geology transferred to the bottle and kept there, like a ship perfectly preserved inside. This cabernet franc will age better, as is the plan, with thanks to the lees that you’ll never have to deal with. There were 110 cases made. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted twice, February and May 2017

Wellington Court Chef Erik Peacock and Cait Bermuhler’s earl grey friand, poached rhubarb, vanilla mascarpone mousse

Henry Of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2012, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (616433, $39.95, WineAlign)

The warm 2012 is an ideal vintage for this very specific cabernets and merlot blend, a wine as deliberate and iconic to the Niagara effort as any that have come before or currently exist. The vintage falls into a line that remembers 1998 and 2002 (with a half wink for 2007 and three-quarters nod to 2010). The brightness of red fruit and the dusty grounding of that fruit into earth integrates quietly and when acidity joins, the balance is pitch perfect. The fineness of that acidity will allow the mild astringency and dark chocolate by barrel to melt with slow dripping ooze into proper and educated tannin. Is this Cabernet-Merlot Speck Family Reserve one for the ages? In a word yes and likely to rival that 1998 for a 15 year run through excellence. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted May 2017

Run any machine on the harnessed marmalade energy of this @StratusWines Riesling Icewine #specialstuff #niagaraonthelake

Stratus Riesling Icewine 2015, VQA Niagara On The Lake (56671, $30.25, 200ml, WineAlign)

The Stratus Riesling Icewine 2015 simulates a true orange and apricot marmalade with a preserved lemon note and a bitter pitch edge. It actually goes into grapefruit a touch, develops unction as it fleshes in the mouth and never fattens or sweetens too much. A show off in triumvirate display of quality, beauty and rhythm. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted May 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

How can i4c the future through cool chardonnay?

Every stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one man band, but #i4c Sunday @ravinevineyard is always #homewardbound

It’s #i4c, the coolest of chardonnay celebrations. It’s a pilgrimage to a local mecca attracting thousands, arriving to praise chardonnay in all its glory. It’s chanted with incantatory connotation by patrons cantilevered like alluvial fans across the Niagara Peninsula. It teaches us about more than chardonnay because the rapidity of climate change is real and the desire for fresh is yet unquenched. This transcends chardonnay. It’s about growing grapes and making wines in places we all previously discounted. Recently scoffed at. It concerns farming higher, further and edgier. This conference and this grape together let us know that we must change.

Few ideals or notions are hotter these days than those relating to cool climate viticulture and the selvage regions from where such wines are produced. That is why each summer for the past seven Niagara has attracted a world-class global presence for its most important annual congress. The seventh installation of the International Cool Chardonnay Celebration made an ironic and apropos choice in California’s Karen MacNeil to act as keynote speaker at The School of Cool. Ironic for obvious reasons because MacNeil spends most of her time talking about and educating on matters pertaining to growing areas generously gifting maximum sunshine to its grapes. Apropos because like any top quality orator she chose to speak about a rapidly changing world and a paradigm shift for wine growing, producing and ultimately consuming being led down an extreme, on the fringe and ultra cool path.

@KMacwine on @coolchardonnay Refrigerated sunlight, conscious marginality, sophisticated choreography. #i4c17

Cool, as in temperature and slowly developed phenolic ripeness. Cool, as in places like Champagne, Nova Scotia, Austria, Uruguay, northern Chile and Ontario. But MacNeil was quick to point out that the greatest terroirs may yet to be known, despite the proverbial Canadian wine cognoscenti already in the possession of harnessed and usable power through information, knowledge that tells us that five of the 15 (also known as one-third) coldest wine regions growing quality grapes, are found in Canada. “Elegance is directly connected to coolness, the slow dance, refrigerated sunlight,” waxes the poetic and rhapsodic MacNeil, “from couch potato chardonnay to lift, spirit and class.” She admits to pitting the world versus “us,” as a challenge against “them,” the overwrought, overblown and over-produced. She asks the question, “why are they not over it already, these cream puff of chardonnays?” and then “oak is like a tattoo, it doesn’t always look good with age.”

If all these warmed by the hot, hotter and hottest sun and fashioned to express this in hyperbole wines all taste so similar, is this really something reassuring and knowable? Apparently it still is, this persistent overloaded ice cream sundae style of chardonnay that will just not go away. But wake up and smell the altitude and the stone-based, craggy outlooks of  “marginal” vineyard locations. “All of the world’s greatest grapes are only great if they exist on the edge,” said the great Willamette Valley Oregonian David Lett. “Complexity is only achieved, paramount to success, by a slow dance or heartbeat. A great wine revels itself sequentially, over time,” insists KMac, as opposed to mindless and soulless. With acidity at the crux of cool climate wines she talks of “conscious marginality” and “sophisticated choreography.” This is how we should see the future, not only in chardonnay, but in all wines subjected and connected to global climate change.

Says @johnszabo apparently winemakers matter too. #i4c17 @coolchardonnay I do it my way #schoolofcool

Related – A link to the School of Cool presentation download

In the first of three Friday School of Cool sessions at White Oaks Conference Resort and Spa it is MC Master Sommelier and WineAlign Partner/Critic John Szabo who introduces the “soil smackdown.” The question “is there a best soil type for chardonnay” is meant to instigate a healthy discourse but like every #i4c that came before it quickly turns to a dissing of the “m” word. Paul Anamosa of Vineyard Soil Technologies, the main man down in California, is the first to speak. He rambles on about trace minerals, nematicides, oils and clay minerals – kaolinite is the smallest and yet still a very big molecule. “I don’t know too many winemakers with deflated ego problems,” is interjected. “Minerality is a metaphor, not a simile (like what it shown on the aroma wheel). It does not get up and impart flavour into the wine. It’s a romantic notion. Limestone doesn’t give up its water readily or easily.” Here we go again.

Anamosa will give up the idea that poor soil structure allows for a low and slow hydration transfer, with no spikes up or down and this uptake certainly affects vine growth, nutrient transfer and ultimately flavour, but its the elements found in the water that effect these impressions. Not “minerality.” Must be hard to go through life with such a scientifically nihilist approach. It sounds exhausting.

I don’t know too many winemakers with deflated ego problems. Paul Anamosa @coolchardonnay #soilsmackdown #i4c17

Three winemakers go pro on the mineral ideal. Paul Berger of Berger-Rive has been making his wine since he was four-years old and unsulphured Rosé no less. He talks of clay over limestone, places where “the ground is in love.”  Thomas Bachelder monkifies the soil plant matrix made to transmit minerality. “It’s as much about photosynthesis in the new world but minerality is still apart of it. Jory soils in Oregon bring a salty tang, a savour. It’s true.” Shiraz Mottiar notes that calcareous soils that start wet and sticky eventually turn to concrete. “They don’t crumble, there is no soil tilt, they are angular, evolving and difficult, self-compacting and that hard-pan deals with high mineral content. So we use cover crops for developing soil tilt and friable structure.” There points for the mineral team. Szabo concludes with “anyone getting the sense that this is pure crap? We’re going to continue with the program anyway. Monkeys in a parallel universe are doing this and doing it better.”

In the second session, “Chardonnay, I do it my way,” Szabo told several hundred #i4c junkies “apparently winemakers matter too.” I thought Invivo Wines’ Mark Boardman said it best. “Rob (winemaker “Crusher” Cameron) is not trying to make a $100 Burgundy here folks,” but rather chardonnay can be so happy in so many places, in so many ways. Here it’s from one of the warmest parts of New Zealand, with high rainfall, on Pacific coast of the South Island. It’s about pleasing the customers, being approachable and “nice” on the palate. “Respect, not patronize the consumer.”

François Morissette, vigneron of Pearl Morissette talked technique. “Whatever we press, we oxidize. We do not oxidize wine, we oxidize must.” There’s a big difference. The stabilization of these wines are attributed to this idea of getting rid of all oxidizable compounds before they enter into the next stages of the winemaking process. Pleasing aromas, flavours, textures and ultimately the sum of the above elevates the cool chardonnay game and speaks to the future. Ravine Vineyard’s Marty Werner remarked on the high degree of heat units but also the cool nights in 2014 so his chardonnay received no cooling, some sulphur for a night, straight to barrel and left a bit empty. Why? “Because it’s different in Niagara, you need to get some oxygen in there, so that we develop some more fruit characteristic.”

Dr. Jamie Goode

Heidi Noble, Owner & Winemaker of B.C.’s Joie Farm coined the term “juiceidity.” She told the crowd, “when (cellarmaster) Karl speaks it’s incredibly important and poignant,” he knows the truth about location, from the most northerly tip of the Sonoran desert but in a zone of what Karen MacNeil called “conscious marginality,” a micro climate of cool within a hot zone.

And finally, le grand ami himself Norman Hardie. “Solids matter to me,” he explains. “We pump out the separated clear juice until the point where I feel like we are getting to the danger zone.” They make use of horizontal tanks, “so the ratio of solids to juice is much higher.” Solids are critical to expressing terroir but too many solids and it’s too reductive. “I’ve gotten braver and braver as time’s gone on.” Mackenzie Brisbois talked about the 2015 vintage, her first full one at Trail Estate. Her methods include hyper-oxidized, cold-settled, natural ferments in stainless steel, put to barrel towards the end, 4o per cent new, 60 neutral, full malo, 10 more months, sulphured, racked out of barrel and a coarse filtration so it’s called unfiltered. “Hopefully my lack of filtration helps you to hear the music in my wine.”

The third School of Cool session looked at dosage in bubbles. “The Sugar Trials,” or as moderator John Szabo M.S. told us “sparkling wines are wines of process and one of the most important events happens right at the end of the trail and that’s called dosage.” Essentially, the crux of what it is, the sugar trials define how much, if any, should be added.

A Sunday #i4c @coolchardonnay morning at the P & P and Josh Ritter covering Modest Mouse. Johnny Cash next.

Dr. Belinda Kemp led the panel discussion and her research at Brock University’s CCOVI lies at the heart of the Ontario wine industry’s investigations. Tawse winemaker Paul Pender had this to say. “Balance is something I strive for but rarely achieve.” He noted that it’s about pleasure, hedonism sometimes, ultimately something that makes you smile, and tastes good. It’s always a moving target, so many things effect how it tastes and more so your perception of sugar and acidity, even what you had for breakfast this morning. “Sugar kind of takes away terroir.” Dr. Jamie Goode added, “it turns out we all live in different taste worlds. Because we model touch, taste, smell and all the sensory perceptions into an unconscionable, alt-reality which bears no real resemblance to how a wine actually tastes. It’s highly personal.”

The i4c weekend takes winemakers, journalists and consumers from White Oaks’ School of Cool and over to Niagara Airport’s hangar for a grand, cool affair. It shuttles past lunch tastings scattered across and throughout the Niagara Peninsula and Escarpment locations and lands at Ridley College for the worlds most grand chardonnay event. It culminates on Sunday at Ravine and Redstone wineries for brunch and if you’ve not had your fill, more chardonnay. Most of all it brings people together but not without an army of volunteers to make it happen. It functions seamlessly because of people like the Cellar Sisters, Angie Jewell and MJ Macdonald, Paul Dearborn and Kari-and Macknight Dearborn. The Cool Chardonnay weekend delivers year after year with thanks to VQA Wines of Ontario, Dorian Anderson and Trisha Molokach and the chefs of Niagara. The media are treated (better than we deserve) because of Wine Country Ontario’s Magdalena Kaiser, Joanna Muratori and Ryan Zanette.

I was not able to taste and review every chardonnay on hand at #i4c17 but I did get to a better percentage than I actually thought I had at the time. Many of these wines are available in small quantities through the VINTAGES Online platform through August 3rd so you have exactly three more days to act. Here are 69 reviews. If you are thinking about injecting some cool chardonnay into the rest of your summer plans then read on and make your picks. I hope I’ve been of some assistance.

Are you ready for an #i4c17 @coolchardonnay Saturday night?

Invivo Chardonnay 2016, Gisborne, North Island, New Zealand (499855, Agent, $16.95, WineAlign)

A nicely green and cool Gisborne composed chardonnay is just the ticket for warm nights, frâche-inflected appetizers and a good chill. This is quite fleshy, creamy and tangy, just stopping short of citrus-sour piercing and intense. It’s that creamy sherbet and tangy gelato character that balances it out. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted June and July 2017  invivowines  nicholaspearcewines  @InvivoWines   @Nicholaspearce_  @InvivoWines  Nicholas Pearce

Maycas del Limarí Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2015, Limarí Valley, Chile (143768, $18.95, WineAlign)

Lovely vintage and cool-climate conditioning with A-plus exemplary effort from the Limarí specialist. The ripe and bright fruit is buoyed by classically rendered acidity that never relents. I really like the elegance and the way the wood is just a spice accent, not a cream churning machine. Not to be missed. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May and July 2017  maycasdellimari  #thevineagency  wines_of_chile_canada  @Maycasdellimari  @TheVine_RobGroh  @WinesofChile  @maycasdellimari  The Vine – Robert Groh Agency  @WinesOfChile

Cheesecake Bar by Chef Frand Dodd, Trius Winery and Restaurant

Trius Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (346064, Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

Quite flinty and mineral smoky, even for Trius and Niagara chardonnay so it would seem that winemaker Craig McDonald prepared this larger batch with a friendly reductive environment. The aim, goal and result adds up to locked in freshness and a decoding of oak to relegate the label as secondary to the post-modern future of this bottling. It’s crisp, crunchy, spoken of and for place with edging cut with spice. The creamy centre is present and delivers texture, not weight. Really fine effort. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  triuswines  @TriusWines  @triuswines

Esterházy Chardonnay Leithaberg DAC 2015, Burgenland, Austria (511386, Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Tangibly full and rich style of chardonnay with a flinty, smoky limestone foundation edge, a pierce running through the barrel spiced mid-palate and quite generous length. Really fleshy, lemon-citrus sparked, clean, precise and stony good. Of markedly fine compression, layers woven of tart and stone. A highly composed and forged composition, in action and temperament, so kudos to the great work out of a warm vintage. It’s a complete wine all the way through, perhaps restrained at first but structure is the key to its success. An Austro-pure, appellative finessed chardonnay if ever there was from a place where the grape thrives unencumbered and blessedly expressive. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted twice, with Stefan Tscheppe, July 2017  #esterhazy @esterhazywein  austrianwine  Esterhazy Wein  @NaturalVines  @oesterreichwein  @AustrianWine  @BirgittaSamavar  Marzia Gallo  @austrianwine

Pierre Sparr Le Clos Sainte Odile Brut Crémant D’alsace, Traditional Method, Ac, Alsace, France (457788, Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Sparr’s site specific Crémant would seem counterintuitive to the free and easy-going genre which prides itself on the purpose of wide-ranging food matching but the divergence here in minimal. Le Clos Sainte Odile is equally proportioned though it carries a marked increase in lees and texture. Smells more like Champagne and acts this way too, so in that sense the quality improves and food will benefit several fold. The length is exceptional. Still creamy Crémant but with more layers and fine complex stills. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted June and July 2017  #pierresparr  profilewinegroup  vinsalsace  drinkalsace  #PierreSparr  @ProfileWineGrp  @AlsaceWines @VinsAlsace  Pierre Sparr  Bernard Sparr  Maison Pierre Sparr Successeurs  Profile Wine Group  @AlsaceWinesOfficial  @vinsalsace

Pierre Sparr Crémant D’alsace Chardonnay Brut Méthode Traditionnelle, Ac Alsace, France (416040, Agent, $20.00, WineAlign)

In Sparr’s eponymous Crémant bottling the dosage is evident in every facet of fizz being to balance out the sour acidity and formidable tension. The most Champagne like of the flight is contextual, textural, elevated and serious. It is a bit on the sweet side (at 8 g/L of RS) as compared to (3.7 TA and pH of 3.29) with 18 months minimum on the lees and aging in oak casks. There is no shortage of fruit and that acidity is surprisingly lively. Tasted with Bernard Sparr who says quite simply, it’s “easy to drink.” Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  #pierresparr  profilewinegroup  vinsalsace  drinkalsace  #PierreSparr  @ProfileWineGrp  @AlsaceWines @VinsAlsace  Pierre Sparr  Bernard Sparr  Maison Pierre Sparr Successeurs  Profile Wine Group  @AlsaceWinesOfficial  @vinsalsace

Marcel Cabelier Crémant De Jura Organic 2014, Jura, France (738641, Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

A most engrossing and provocative Crémant, at first aromatically onion skin sweaty and sweetly caramelized. No citrus to really speak of and then lemon sweetness to taste. Sapid to be sure, leaner, crisp, on the path to a searing style. Fascinating when you consider the dosage number is upwards to 12.3 RS while the actual acidity is 5.26 TA. An elevated 3.37 pH and a ripeness from the warm vintage really helps to hide its sugar, incredibly so. Texture never hurts as well as this spent 24 months on the lees. Will age nicely into secondary waxy territory. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted with winemaker Nicolas Haeffelin at i4c, July 2017  #marcelcabelier  #andrewpellerimportagency  #jurawine  #marcelcabelier  @APImportAgency  @JuraWine   #marcelcabelier  @APImportAgency  @JuraWine

Cremaschi Furlotti Chardonnay Single Vineyard 2015, Do Loncomillo, Maule Valley, Chile (511097, Agent, $22.00, WineAlign)

DO Loncomilla lies at the heart of the Maule Valley, a place of serious Chilean history. The Battle of Loncomilla was the decisive campaign of the 1851 Chilean Revolution between conservative government and liberal rebel forces. It’s also apparently a terrific place to grow chardonnay. Winemaker Gonzalo Perez’ 2015 is a fuller expression, with green apple piquancy to nose, a wealth of fruit, tart done so right and a true barrel-blessed chardonnay bite. It reeks of stone, acts restrained enough to seem (at times) unsure but in its quietude there is a mineral sway to say this must be the way. It solicits a follow me down the stone road, up to a very orchard palate with gregarious flavours and compressed acidity. Serious, almost brooding chardonnay but very new world. Chewy and very long. The soils are volcanic and alluvial, aiding and assisting to gather into this highly complex, 100 per cent malolactic, reductive, tart and biting chardonnay. The most surprising and intriguing find at #14c17. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  cremaschi_furlotti  @winecremaschi  @cremaschifurlotti

Coteau Rougemont Chardonnay La Côte 2015, Quebec, Canada (Winery, $24.00, WineAlign)

From La Famille Robert and the latest, newest, impressionable cool climate frontier in Rougemont Quebec, climate change delivers another stellar chardonnay attack, here with something quite supple, almost creamy, acid-driven but surprisingly far from scathing and eminently drinkable. These vines are planted on sun-drawing south facing slopes with more than ample pebble and schist in the soil, enough no less to streak a wire of balance through the softened, downy fruit. Well done. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  coteaurougemont  #CoteauRougement  @VinsduQuebec  Vignoble Coteau Rougemont

Creekside Chardonnay Queenston Road Vineyard 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Comes barreling out replete with the highest of chard tones mixed with plenty of richness lifting and layering oak. Quite ambitious, full malo felt, of waves more than dollops of vanilla. The acidity comes later because nothing can get in the way of the creamy texture and voluptuousness. Cool but secondary to these flavours and mouthfeel are incendiary savoury tendencies. Adding things up all being equal the Queenston Road, St. David’s Bench vineyard, with its clay-loam and the eventuality of full-malo effect well, it’s really a thing of richesse. “I wouldn’t say this wine is a whole lot about minerality,” says winemaker Yvonne Irvine, “but it’s there in the bite on the finish.” Fair enough. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  creeksidewine  @CreeksideWine  @CreeksideWine

Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (586347Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

If you have had the opportunity to taste the Montague Vineyard chardonnay from Niagara’s Four-Mile Creek sub-appellation in at least four consecutive vintages you will know that its style is only exceeded by its consistency. Little has changed; the same warm, barrel-kissed style comforts generously pressed and extracted fruit. It’s not that I don’t deduce soft, downy and buttery fruit from Montague. I do, but this vineyard always offers a counter-point with some firmness and compression, as it does with pinot noir. This 2014 is smoky and faintly smouldering, even a touch flinty. Even if it is a bit baked, spiced or toasted it is also a more mineral vintage for chardonnay. On one hand it offers or gives up too much of itself (and too early), with creamy vanilla, ripe melon and sappy, stone-fruit. On the other it finds balance amongst the dense layering of bigger, harder and more productive moving parts. You are going to want to match this with some protein and a good reduction sauce. I’d look to pulled pork, zesty kohlrabi slaw and a tangy BBQ sauce, duck confit with a savoury-spiked demi-glacé or coq au vin, just to name a few. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted January 2017  inniskillinwines  cbrandscareers  @InniskillinWine  @CBrandsCareers  Inniskillin Vineyards  

Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay 2016, Margaret River, Western Australia (416511, $24.95,  WineAlign)

Same price and highly credible follow-up is what we can all hope to taste and make comment to the great winemakers of this world so kudos to Virginia Willcocks of Vasse Felix for doling out another eminently drinkable Filius. Still holds the Australian cool-climate chardonnay candle from the Margaret River though it’s a touch fleshier, riper and creamier in 2016. The combination of salt and stony-mineral adds up to grip and the tightness means some air is needed. A mess of grilled langoustines would also work. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted June and July 2017  vassefelixwines  margaretriver  @vassefelix  @MargaretRiver  @MargaretRiverWi  @vassefelixwines  @MargaretRiverWineRegion  @margaretriverwines1

Château Des Charmes Paul Bosc Estate Chardonnay 2014, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario (511345, Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Here is fine example of a winery showing off their rockstar barrel program in a starman of a chardonnay. The dreaminess on the nose and the early 1970’s ambient and textured guitar unction on the palate just get you stoned. “Didn’t know what time it was and the lights were low…Some cat was layin’ down some rock ‘n’ roll, ‘lotta soul.” Tart, lots of wood, bite, so much structure. Is it too much? Not when it’s the kind of chardonnay and music that can stand the test of time. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted blind at NWAC17, June 2017 and at #14c, July 2017  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint Martin 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (289124, $25.25, WineAlign)

The vintage is a ripe, accessible and easy to love one so this marks a 90 degree turn for the Saint Martin. This is Laroche’s most important cuvée, sold in 80 countries and collected from select plots across 60 hectares of vines. Structure will always direct this cuvée and so long as Gregory Viennois is winemaker you can be sure that a taut entry will be joined by some subtle oak richness (in 2015, eight per cent in large, 25 year-old, 55 hL foudres). It’s just an aromatic hint but look forward with eyes closed and inculcate the texture addendum. Acids are soft and caressing. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted July 2016 and 2017  laroche_wines  selectwinemoments  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines  @SelectWinesCanada

Southbrook Chardonnay Triomphe 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (172338, Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

The fruit for Ann Sperling’s chardonnay Triomphe ’15 is sourced primarily from Saunders (Beamsville Bench) with auxiliary support out of Heather Laundry’s old vine Lincoln Lakeshore vineyard. There are older, non-clonal blocks with perhaps some Musqué mixed in so the aromatics fly, with no restraint applied by the wild ferment and (mostly 300L) neutral oak. This Triomphe is anything but reductive, a no stress chardonnay from such a far from sluggish, clean ferment. The simplicity and complicity explain how beauty is curated, from a vintage where reduction did not happen or beg to happen so why try to force it. The copacetic re-quiescence bears witness to classic Ann Sperling in such a vintage. Chardonnay of mellow smoulder, of old barrel spice and one to define a certain kind on a line of disparate and unique, cool climate, i4c selections. There are 800 cases made. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted January and July 2017  southbrookvineyards  thelivingvine  @TheLivingVine  @SouthbrookWine   @SouthbrookWine  The Living Vine inc.

Bachelder Chardonnay Niagara 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (302083, Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Thomas Bachelder’s ’15 chardonnay is a story of what happens ’round here, a chardonnay counting the years of peninsula life. It’s so representative, a comfortable stroll through the echelons and stages of a man’s history, in and out of Niagara eponymy and how it relates to a monk’s personal journey. It also traces the stages of vineyard life and for the winemaker, of fruit “slipping through my hands.” Out of 2015 chardonnay can be forgotten, with weather nothing to remember and on the heels of two most excellent seasons. It could easily pass “into the fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white.” Here is the time, place and harvest for Thomas Bachelder to interject and explain, to send a grape into a recognizable future, as far as the crow flies. He uses the barrel to pique the fruit into life, to inject French cream with the very intent in demand of its intention. Flavours are therefore sapid, piquant and variegated. In the end, you can drink this in August and into complexity, everything after. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  bachelder_wines  liffordgram  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON  @BachelderWines  @liffordwineandspirits

Joie Farm Unoaked Chardonnay 2016, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (511261Agent, $25.00, WineAlign)

Terpenes up front, orchard fruit and high acidity in ways that mimic riesling but the broad apple juice swirl and bite on the palate is all chardonnay. Shows sugar tempered by acidity in what is ostensibly fresh and simple, unoaked Okanagan juice. This is made in the vineyard, picked three times, from straightforward winemaking, making use of lots of solids,”lots of liquid aromatics,” as Heidi Noble notes. Champagne yeasts are employed to celebrate place. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017  joie farm  liffordgram  #JoieFarm  @LiffordON  @joiefarm  @liffordwineandspirits

Willamette dammit! @bachelder_wines @coolchardonnay #i4c17

Bachelder Chardonnay Willamette 2014, Oregon (273334, Agent, $25.00, WineAlign)

The richest Bachelder Oregon to date for reasons explained by the indubitable and unwavering Thomas is no doubt in leading part a result of one of the earliest vintages on record for Oregon Pinot Noir. His Willamette is a veritable intertwine of mineral, fruit and energy like there is no tomorrow. Also welcome to the lengthy one. The barrel is a caramel pillow, a downy wooden bench, a soft French cream dream. Drinkable is the understatement, pleasure the song. Willamette Dammit. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  bachelder_wines  liffordgram  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON  @BachelderWines  @liffordwineandspirits

Westcott Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (427484, Winery, $25.95, WineAlign)

This is one of the first near-premium chardonnays to hit the market from 2016 and so a decision needs to be quickly made if the style is more vintage or house in origin. There really isn’t any estate precedence for this superabundance of fruit on the “normale,” like Christmas coming early or Niagara peaches appearing in June. The ripeness goes beyond freestone fruit and into the tropical realms occupied by mango and pineapple. There is no denying the nectarous and appetizing nature so I’d like to think it’s really a seasonal somewhereness that drives the druthers. Drink this young and with some poached seafood. It will satisfy the pairing. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  westcottvineyards  @WestcottWines  @westcottwines

Domaine Berger Rive Manoir De Mercey Bourgogne Hautes Côtes De Beaune Clos Des Dames 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $26.95, WineAlign)

A restrained, faux-sugary, hautes Bourgogne, spirited near but so far from a Reuilly-like nose. You think it’s thin but know it’s not while the fruit struggles to steal the spotlight from the rocks. Very cool chardonnay with crazy natural sweetness and sneaky length. The warm vintage plus the limestone calcareous soil grows on you for sure and so that length shows off the best of its world and the talents of winemaker Paul Berger. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  @FWMCan  #BergerRive  fwmcan  @FWMCan

Traversa Viña Salort Chardonnay Reserve 2016, Canelones, Uruguay (511550, Agent, $29.00, WineAlign)

Chardonnay from Canelones needs to discovered and Traversa’s Reserve is a fine high-end place top start. The name is derived from a species of cinnamon called “canelón, growing along the banks of the homonymous river. This new fringe frontier for chardonnay is found here 50 kms or so north of Uruguay’s capital Montevideo. A specific sort of freshness is locked in tight, reductive in a gassing up the truck sort of way, subduing fruit and inviting mineral meanderings. It’s on the palate where things get very interesting, upon which the spice, buttered toast and brûlee of pears lay. There is a few percentage points too much wood on this next South terroir-Americanific frontier chardonnay but the substantial mid-palate fruit can handle the accents. A fine example in many respects. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted July 2017  familiatraversa  @TraversaUSA

Malivoire Chardonnay Mottiar 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

This is classic Mottiar chardonnay, lean, sharp, quivering and yet somehow so knowable and comfortable. As time goes by this generates the confidence to represent the Beamsville Bench as its prodigal son, the handsome one, of pulchritude and with the promise of great memories ahead. If it’s a bit reductive, taut and aerified chardonnay, so be it, but it’s also so very Niagara, essential, the essence of what happens on dolomitic limestone. The low (3.15) pH factor at go time caused a force picked at high acidity to maintain the lean style and a partial (not much) malo assists in effecting this high-level bench factor. Shiraz Mottiar’s eponymous chardonnay is the shit, for Beamsville and for what he does best. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  malivoire  shirazmottiar  @MalivoireWine  @ShirazMottiar  @MalivoireWine  

Rodney Strong Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2014, Sonoma Coast, California (465724, $29.95, WineAlign)

The first appearance of the Rodney Strong Sonoma Coast bottling is an auspicious one, announced with ripe and delicious clarity. Though the nose is a bit reserved there is no reductive quality and the orchard is but a mere stone’s throw away from really standing out. The wood shows up on the vanilla, caramel tangy and further, deeper into the apple tree’s palate. The finish brings a pie from out of the warm oven. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2016 and July 2017  rsvineyards  markanthonyon  california.wines  @rsvineyards  @ImportWineMAFWM  @CalifWines_CA  @Rodney.Strong.Vineyards  @MarkAnthonyWine  @CaliforniaWinesCanada

13th Street Sandstone Reserve Chardonnay 2013, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

No surprise the vintage is a major plus for the Sandstone and the natural funk it owns. And I mean owns. Only Sandstone has such geological drive, not unlike chardonnay from South Africa’s Hemel-En-Aarde Valley. In 2013 there is a sweetness to the fruit mixed with a misty humidity and finally that falling over backwards with feet stuck in the clay and the calcaire. Wildness from J. P. Colas here and with attentiveness to place and time. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted at #i4c16, July 2016 and #14c17, July 2017  13thstreetwinery  @13thStreetWines  @13thStreetWines

Hidden Bench Estate Chardonnay 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, (68817, $29.95, WineAlign)

Exemplary follow up to a terrific 2013 with more emerald gemstone, green apple bite and fine textured lees running through. Tart and yet not at the same time, seemingly sweet but only in the way that flavourful salts with added umami can collect, pool and co-exist. Just great focus, precision, fineness and balance. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted June 2017 and #14c, July 2017  hidden bench  @HiddenBench  @Hidden.Bench

Thirty Bench Small Lot Chardonnay 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

The nose on this chardonnay is pretty, alive, vibrant and pure. The palate is exceptional, fleshy and full. There is intensity and precision, class and seamless integration of fruit, acidity and texture. Really longDrink 2018-2024. Tasted blind at #NWAC17, June 2017 and at #14c, July 2017  thirty bench  @ThirtyBench  @ThirtyBench

Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

Ravine’s is one of those chardonnay blessed with uncanny ability to amalgamate the sumptuousness of fruit warmed by sun and kissed repeatedly by barrel. The equation renders delicacy and texture, so obviously and vehemently spoken in the 2015 Peninsula language. It really is all about texture with a plus-minus spice note codicil and cool unction drawn like butter in suspended animation, a pool into which all parts have melted. Needs a year to finalize the deal and sweeten the pot. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  ravinevineyard  marty_werner  benminaker23  @RavineVineyard  @marty_werner  @BMinaker23  Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery  Martin Werner  Ben Minaker

Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay 2014, Monterey, California (220343, Agent, $31.00, WineAlign)

Chardonnay sans wood doesn’t get more premium than this (save for some Chablis) so the use of unlined concrete tanks (a third to a half) allows the sort of micro-oxegynation that elevates the complexity game. Despite the hard-goings of working this way, the delivery is a crisp, crunchy and slightly edgy (and eggy) ’14 with addendum by the confluence of fog, sun and sea. Mer Soleil. More pear than green apple, the character speaks a Monterey note. The packaging has left ceramic behind in favour of electrostatic painted (second-purposed) glass, made to look like (and celebrate) concrete. This is surprisingly creamy so the solids get their say and the conclusion is of a chardonnay made this way that rarely achieves such a level of texture and piquancy. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  mersoleilwine  #andrewpellerimportagency  @MerSoleilChard  @APImportAgency  @MerSoleilVineyard  Andrew Peller (Andrew Peller Import)

House of Chards #i4c Lunch at Trius

Artesa Chardonnay 2014, Carneros, Napa Valley, California (657585, Agent, $31.00, WineAlign)

The differing and contrastive style in Artesa’s ordinario is literally chardonnay night in comparison to the estate’s reserve day. Absent is the mineral alloy streak, the temper and the level of fruit quality and density so that here the buttery and creamy oak is felt on top and down below. Acidity, tension and posit tugs of intensity are relegated and softened to the mild mannered and middle palate personality. This is 70 per cent estate fruit, simple, rich, soft and mildly spicy chardonnay, antithetical for completion recognition of the basic to reserve paradigm. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017  artesawinery  #andrewpellerimportagency  @Artesa  @APImportAgency  @Artesa

Adamo Oaked Chardonnay Willms’ Vineyard 2014, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Winery, $32.00, WineAlign)

This is the second vintage of the Willms, a rich and viscous chardonnay with green apple bite. More barrel (15 months, 30 per cent new) on this than others in an #i4c School of Cool flight and also Beaune-styled, ambitious otherwise but certainly the structured and gregarious one. Chardonnay as many would recognize, could be nothing other, some terpenic moments but the cool, sharp and spirited are mixed into the clay. Last tasted July 2017.

Adamo sources from the same vineyard that provides fruit for 13th Street’s Sandstone Reserve in the Four Mile Creek sub-appellation of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Planted in 1983, it is owned and farmed by Erv, Esther and Eric Willms. In its early stages the fruit acted and reacted as a lean, taut and tension fuelled chardonnay with party a sign of letting up. Eight months later the juicy flesh of orchard fruit pushes past the vintage’s grip and lets tis wine breath a sigh of relief. Chalk one up to yet another cool-climate, calcareous clay stuck moment in time. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted twice, at #i4c16, July 2016 and Taste Ontario, March 2017  adamoestatewinery  @AdamoEstateWine  @adamoestatewinery

Trail Estate Chardonnay Unfiltered 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $32.00, WineAlign)

A blend of vineyards, from Ed Hughes and (Wismer) Foxcroft, perhaps with some influence under the lingering auspices of the Norman Hardie school, here in the playful and progressive hands of Mack Brisbois. Mackenzie employs no sulphur at processing, allowing for chardonnay efficacious and liberally oxidized, settled, cold stabilized, non bentonite-affected, chilled and racked. Not lost is the ever-commented process of going at it with wild ferment, but also caution thrown to the wind via no temperature control (but yes on the Hughes fruit), with the final end game in search of and wanting a fruity Chablis side. Done up in half stainless plus 50 old 500L and two 225L barrels. The sulphur was added in October, the full malo achieved and then bottled in November. All of this technical mumbo-jumbo to say there is still quite a creamy, leesy, oaky feeling but like some others in Niagara (Robyn’s Block, Oliveira and Aberdeen) it totes great palate texture and a “fruitiness,” but it’s not fruity. It may not recreate the Chablis fruit to mineral purity but it is a righteous, proper and Niagara purity fashioned in PEC. There are 266 Cases. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted December 2016 and July 2017  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  @TrailEstateWinery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Westcott Vineyards Chardonnay Lenko Old Vine 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $32.95, WineAlign)

The iconic vineyard, the wise old vines, the chance to make some magic; these are all a part of the mystery and the mystique of Lenko placed in the hands of one winemaker at a time, fruit put to bottle in his or her own special way. It’s simple isn’t it? “Go far enough and you will reach, a place where the sea runs underneath,” take up the grapes and do what they need. In terms of chardonnay the vineyard is ground zero, the genesis, the oldest Chardonnay planting in Canada. In Arthur Harder’s hands the fruit reaches you with apposite if ambient sparks while its chords are strummed with 12 strings so that it never loses touch with its structure. A very expressive chardonnay from a benevolent vintage, Westcott’s breaks free from traditional Niagara with this tart and that tart. There is wind, wuthering and it has the uncanny ability “of turning the world so it’s facing the way that I’m going.” Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted July 2017  westcottvineyards  @WestcottWines  @westcottwines

Chateau Des Charmes Blanc De Blanc Sparkling Méthode Traditionelle 2014, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (511352, $32.95, WineAlign)

A different sort this one, with lots of barrel spice, liquid splinter creaminess, a heavier dosage to be sure, creamy lemon and almond skin, but also pith. Complex if commercially sweeter, rich and fatter, something School of Cool 2017 Sugar Trials panelist Rhys Pender MW agrees with. Making sparkling wine from the warmish Niagara-on-the-Lake regional-appellation (which includes the warm St. David’s Bench) has its pros and cons, the positives mostly tending to richness and the negatives the compromise to energy and verve. Winemaker Amélie Boury manages the dosage of 10 g/L RS with natural acidity (5.5 g/L TA), a forthcoming low pH of 3.16 and a late September pick. “For richer fruit” she notes and then a coupling texture by fermenting in barrels. Look for it on the ambit of tertiary personality after a few years of age. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Domaine De Mauperthuis Chablis Vieilles Vignes Les Malantes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (511063, $33.95, WineAlign)

From a new family (relatively speaking) to Chablis, the estate belongs to Marie-Noëlle & Laurent Ternynck. The old vines Chablis saw 12 months in foudres, on the lees, with fruit gathered from vineyards in Fleys. The cool spot comes with a higher altitude, on a windswept plateau and so harvest is generally five to six days later. And so their Chablis is cool, direct, taut and sapid stuff, as Chablis will go, from such a climat and handled so. Acidity runs rampant and travels quickly up and down and into parts of the mouth that stand up to take notice. Sharp and focused Chablis. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017  #mauperthuis  vinsdechablis  vinsdebourgogne  nicholaspearcewines  #Mauperthuis  @vinsdechablis  @VinsdeBourgogne  @Nicholaspearce_  Vins de Bourgogne / Burgundy wines  Nicholas Pearce

Mer Soleil Chardonnay “SLH” 2015, Santa Lucia Highlands, California (958975, Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

The sun always shines upon Mer Soleil’s “SLH,” a chardonnay equipped with exceptional fruit purity that welcomes but could go it so much more confidently alone without the mask-caking make-up. It needs a fraction of the wood it receives. A tour de force of ocean and sun (tied together by fog) delivers acidity, sapidity and the fruit is raised to keep things moving swimmingly along. So it’s got that going for it. Which is nice. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  mersoleilwine  #andrewpellerimportagency  @MerSoleilChard  @APImportAgency  @MerSoleilVineyard  Andrew Peller (Andrew Peller Import)

Good man this man. Great winemaker this winemaker #i4c @coolchardonnay

Tawse Quarry Road Vineyard Chardonnay 2013, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (111989, $35.80, WineAlign)

When I tasted Quarry Road 2013 out of four barrels three years ago the purpose was to take in the nuances and see only the trees. I for one could not help seeing the forest through the trees and imagining percentages of each combining for the final blend. Neutral Mercurey wood looked over infant three year-old vines spoken here with surprising density, tang and tropical melon in both aroma and flavour. This sits on the front palate right now. The mineral Ceres qualifies older fruit as the pretty and the gemstone, essential for Quarry Road, the most like (Meursault) in Burgundy. This fruit transferred to stainless on the lees from September to March before going into bottle now renders to make Quarry the purest expression from the best vineyard. The CLL toast delivers the taut, not yet reductive wood tightening, then and again now, mainly on the finish. Compressed citrus notes are late arriving and even if it is splitting hairs, the oak really impacts the finish. The larger CLL toast Mercurey barrel reveals a fresher, more reductive, less oaky feel. All together we now have one of Paul Pender’s most accomplished to date and all chardonnays considered, one of the finest higher end values around. I think he would agree. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted May and July 2017  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Maycas del Limarí Chardonnay Quebrada Seca 2013, Limarí Valley, Chile (331520, $36.00, WineAlign)

Maycas de Limarí’s Quebrada Seca or “dry-cracked” makes reference to the fragmented soils, a place of low-fertility and chardonnay loving terroir. This spent 14 months in (30 per cent new) but it’s not just the extended barrel time that separates it from the estate’s Reserva. Vintage plays a significant role in conjunction with the soil and it teaches so much about the virtues of patience and time. No malo but high sapidity, lots of bite and the verdant, healthy life are borne out of poor fertility. This is life affirming chardonnay from harsh climes. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  maycasdellimari  #thevineagency  wines_of_chile_canada  @Maycasdellimari  @TheVine_RobGroh  @WinesofChile  @maycasdellimari  The Vine – Robert Groh Agency  @WinesOfChile

Joie Farm Chardonnay “En Famille” 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (511113Agent, $36.00, WineAlign)

The developed layers of fruit are well integrated and interwoven into the mildness of both barrel and tannin. The sweetness of that sun-kissed fruit leaves a lasting impression from what has been brought into being by a warm and impressionable vintage. Exemplary three or four year Okanagan chardonnay that shows off its charming sucrosity. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  joie farm  liffordgram  #JoieFarm  @LiffordON  @joiefarm  @liffordwineandspirits

Sneak peak in the @TriusWines Meunier with Craig McDonald and a true Niagara Grand Cru @coolchardonnay site #lincolnlakeshore #oliveiravineyards #vqa #wildferment

Trius Showcase Chardonnay Wild Ferment Oliveira Vineyard 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (199273, $36.20, WineAlign)

When you consider the level of quality provided by the Wild Ferment 2014 it would be hard to imagine raising the bar any further but this is what winemaker Craig McDonald has managed with his exceptional 2015. The accomplishment is purely based on one year older, wiser and complexities developed Oliveira Farm vineyard fruit, the holy chardonnay grail, Lincoln Lakeshore playground. The site sits along the QEW below the escarpment’s Twenty Mile and Beamsville benches, a recipient of glacial till and rocks left behind by an ancient river running from a lake. It’s a chardonnay wonderland. Intensity of fruit purity, fleshy and real, remarkably juicy and notably crunchy has increased, upping the pleasure game and turning the impression knob up to 11. The windmill generates more power while always maintaining a classic Trius level of finesse. Then you think on the wood integration, equally impressionable because acidity is sweet and refined. Dry extract is also impressive, not to mention a fineness of grape tannin. The site’s unofficial designation as a Niagara Grand Cru should be upgraded with status. There is no better time than the present and the Wild Ferment’s 2015 ability is proof enough. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2017  triuswines  @TriusWines  @triuswines

Exquisite dish by Frank Dodd @TriusWines #houseofchards #i4c lunch . . . Lake Huron Whitefish, lobster and scallop sausage, crab croquettes, asparagus, sweet peas, celeriac slaw, seabuck

Trius Showcase Chardonnay Wild Ferment Oliveira Vineyard 2014, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (199273, $36.20, WineAlign)

With fruit from the Niagara chardonnay mecca Oliveira Vineyard and the addendum of yet another stellar varietal vintage it is this Craig McDonald speciality that helps to steal the show. Striking out with near-raging acidity (pushing and possibly exceeding the 8 g/L mark) the Wild Ferment is one of the most formidable expressions of 2014, if not ever. All the moving parts work fervently and impressively as if the motor is running and the machine careening around the speedway. To keep composure it is texture that brings about grounding, balance and cadence, from obvious lees perfection and 30 per cent new wood plus the rest forged by two to five year old barrels. This is creamy, energetic and tannic chardonnay, all conspiring to express itself with both weight and poise. From a maker who’s been around the block a few times, the ’14 WF will go the distance. And you can start now. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted at Cuvée, March 2017 an #i4c July 2017  triuswines  @TriusWines  @triuswines

Esterházy Il Magnifico Blanc de Blancs Brut 2013, Burgenland, Austria (511378, Agent, $37.95, WineAlign)

Esterházy was a Hungarian noble family with origins in the Middle Ages, generally bilingual, in Hungarian (as a result of their ethnicity) and German (as they were aristocrats of the Austrian Empire). The family was intrinsically tied to the Austrian composer Joseph Haydn (master to Beethoven) and the estate today shares the same desire; to epitomize the aims and achievements of the Classical era, Hadyn for music and today, Esterházy for contemporary Austrian wine. General Manager Stefan Tscheppe spins a tale of Nikolaus II, the wealthy late 18th and early 19th century prince who lived a charmed life, nicknamed by his sisters as “Il Magnifico.” The namesake sparkler is done in a Brut Nature style, 18 months on the lees and is possessive of a distinctive grapefruit liqueur. The vines grown on limestone-based soil and this is clearly picked on acidity, in the first to second week of September. Il Maginifico may not carry the weight or tone of Hadyn’s The Creation but it is a most excellent Blanc de Blancs composition. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017  #esterhazy @esterhazywein  austrianwine  Esterhazy Wein  @NaturalVines  @oesterreichwein  @AustrianWine  @BirgittaSamavar  Marzia Gallo  @austrianwine

Pearl Morissette Chardonnay Cuvée Dix Neuvième 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (303602Winery, $38.20, WineAlign)

It’s never easy to follow up greatness, even for this top quality Niagara chardonnay and yet I am almost ready to believe that this Dix-Neuvième delivers more richness of fruit than its predecessor. The stoicism lost from 2013 is woven texture gained, here in a tapestry of pure chardonnay fruit, beeswaxy, faint honey and an almost imperceptible reductive environment. Francois Morissette and Brent Rowland clearly had texture earmarked as the raison d’être for this ’14, almost to a fault but the result is bloody delicious. No Pearl Morissette wine ever gave of itself so young, so fast. Immediate gratification be darned there will be five blessed textured years ahead. And then the honey will set in. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted June and July 2017  pearlmorissette  @PearlMorissette  @lassvet  Pearl Morissette

Domaine Laroche Les Vaudevey Chablis Premier Cru 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (416057, Agent, $38.95, WineAlign)

A compressed chardonnay that strikes as a passion play between herbs and limestone and no surprise that the spoils go to the latter. The citrus is gassy, rising, bathed in atmosphere. The structure is predicated on stone, rock and struck flint. Chablis of metal and essential minerality, discovered and defined. This slow-ripened chardonnay will evolve one year for every month contributed by its growing cycle. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted June 2016 and July 2017  #domainelaroche  selectwinemoments  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines  Domaine Laroche, Chablis 

Mackenzie Brisbois, Trail Estate Winery

Trail Estate Chardonnay Unfiltered 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $39.00, WineAlign)

Auspicious beginnings transcend the customary for Trail’s winemaker Mackenzie Brisbois, case in point exhibit A with her first fledged County chardonnay, a whole cluster pressed, native yeasts and full malolactic beauty. Only a single barrel was made of this really tight, taut and youthfully vituperative one but it will mature, self-reflect and turn into a respectful and generous wine. There is a toasty note that currently smoulders in the glass but that too will gently peel away. The terrific render of acidity couples at present and will melt with the rest of the intensities. This is the estate’s first kick at this County cru, “things are going great, and they’re only getting better.” The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  @TrailEstateWinery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, (276261, $39.20, WineAlign)

Unction and creaminess, lost in a chardonnay dream because to nose it’s a sweet, floral, demure thing. Lees apparent so you can smell the work in progress and feel the texture. But it’s wound loosely tight with just enough give to make it so readily available. Beautiful little wine though I can’t help but imagine there’s more single-focus structure than a blind taste wants to give. Hope to come across this hard to get beauty again someday soon. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted blind at NWAC17, June 2017 and #14c, July 2017  hidden bench  @HiddenBench  @Hidden.Bench

Norman Hardie Chardonnay Niagara Unfiltered 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (184432, $39.20, WineAlign)

Norman Hardie’s 2015 Niagara is a reductive yellow goddess dressed chardonnay, connected to the fullest of its fruit, (slowly developed) creamy malolactic, touchstone acidity and grape tannic ability. There is this understated feeling in the throes of richness that the winemaker and the place always seem to agree upon. The display window celebrates and proudly promotes the somewhereness of this ’15 chardonnay. It is never a matter of Niagara versus County, there is little substance to be found, nor is it a necessary point of discussion worth investigating. It’s just highway that separates the two. Both are children of the Norm, both deserving of estate credibility and here, with this next excellent Niagara, taking the Hardie progression one step further. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted June and July 2017  normanhardiewinery  normhardie  Norman Hardie  @NormanHardieWinery

Domaine De Mauperthuis Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (511071, $39.95, WineAlign)

Winemaker Stéphane Saillet’s is a highly compressed, pure and precise Montmains. No wood was used because of the vintage, a season from which the ripe and developed fruit could clearly defend and take care of itself. Carries the essential tenets of texture and chew. Stéphane notes that the challenged ’16 will have some barrel (foudres) because “in the beginning there was nothing,” an important omen with which to help reflect on the fantasy and fantastic effort found in his 2015. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  #mauperthuis  vinsdechablis  vinsdebourgogne  nicholaspearcewines  #Mauperthuis  @vinsdechablis  @VinsdeBourgogne  @Nicholaspearce_  Vins de Bourgogne / Burgundy wines  Nicholas Pearce

Malivoire Chardonnay Moira 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $39.95, WineAlign)

Moira delves much further into the spice with a wood feel into texture, piquancy, savour, sapidity and on repeat in all of the above. The length stretches further as a deeper, more intense expression of Beamsville Bench terroir. It will need to settle and integrate with another year in bottle. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  malivoire  shirazmottiar  @MalivoireWine  @ShirazMottiar  @MalivoireWine 

Lightfoot And Wolfville Chardonnay Ancienne 2014, Nova Scotia (Winery, $40.00, WineAlign)

The name Ancienne and the proximate irony appraised is not lost for its translation as endemic or indigenous for wines made from Burgundian grape varieties raised on Nova Scotia soil. The sophomore chardonnay speaks in a vernacular a year to the wiser but at the expense of excitement, which is actually a good thing. A step back taken will result in two going forward, as I shall explain. The same regime exercised mimics the ’13, of 20 per cent new, 18 months in barrel, but a slight course altered with some reductive play in ’14, as an experiment but also as a plan. There seems to be more lees richness and spice notes that flit like direct darts on the palate. Different clones are harvested at different times, so now the vinifications are staggered and layered, which really shows on the stratified and almost germinating palate. Another year older allows these vines to bring diversified variegation, more Nova Scotia and as a consequence, less winemaking. The growth here is fascinating and enlightening. In the interim it may compromise the flavour profile and the wow factor but in the long run it is structure, longevity and impressibility that will give the green light to estate grown, Minas Basin success. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted June 2017   lwwines  jhortonns  rachelhopelightfoot  winesofns  @lwwines  @rachel_hope  @WinesofNS  @lightfootandwolfvillewines  Rachel Lightfoot  @winesofns

Bachelder Wismer Vineyard #2 “Foxcroft Block” Chardonnay 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (512178, Winery, $44.95, WineAlign)

Deeper and deeper into the micro terroir we go, with thanks to the monk himself so strike me down as a cool climate instigator if you must but Thomas Bachelder takes on the challenge, fresh and new as ever. This Wismer Block dubbed #2 is purely and expressly Foxcroft, a divided up for purchase and worked by many vineyard. Few do it justice like the unstressed symbiotic relationship between Bachelder and grower Craig Wismer. From the ideal session of 2013 we have creamy and cracked, fragmented mineral intensity in opposite attitude to Wismer-Parke but more on the fleshy and structured side. The wood is bigger and more integrated, the flesh ripping and of the sort of musculature that shows no aggression nor needs any explanation. It’s just big and beautiful, not to mention an ambassador for cool. Hello world. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted June and July 2017  bachelder_wines  liffordgram  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON  @BachelderWines  @liffordwineandspirits

Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Blanc De Blanc ‘Carte Blanche’ 2012, Short Hills Bench, Ontario (Winery, $44.95, WineAlign)

Reserved for Ontario sparkling but indicative of a bench-steppe foothills style because it just has that spark. Very much a ball of tart and compressed energy and so intense. A middle of the norm dosage at 8 g/L RS is managed in perfect oscillate with equal and opposing acidity at 7.3 TA. Such precision, ease and high quality serviceability is the equanimity quotient delivered by the estimable work ethic of winemaker Sandrine Bourcier. It boils down to recognition. The benchmark for Niagara Peninsula year-dated sparkling wine juices ripeness out of this warm vintage to perpetuate Cuvée Catharine’s unparalleled fizz consistency. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  henryofpelham  @HenryofPelham @SpeckBros  Henry Pelham

Lightfoot & Wolfville Blanc De Blanc Extra Brut 2013, Nova Scotia, Canada (Winery, $45.00, WineAlign)

Josh Horton and Rachel Lightfoot presented an early, less leesy glimpse of their 100 per cent estate chardonnay at i4c in July of 2016. It was a different animal than this recently disgorged (late February/early March) sparkling wine. The Extra Brut lives up to its designation, from fruit grown on the shores of the Minas Basin under the auspices of a markedly warm year with exceptional phenolic ripeness and 25 per cent malolactic gain. The time relative to texture lees accumulation is approximately 40 months and it’s an accurate representation of Nova Scotia low and slow. The flavours are wisely developed ripe and spicy, leaning into a moment or two of oxygenation, but seemingly richer than the amount of lees time that was given. Now emerging from the shell of not just a warm but a great chardonnay year (as previously proven by the Ancienne released two years ago). The notion here is of a sparkling wine that has been brought home, a B de B that you need to get to know. There are layers and layers of character that fold and unfold. The precision, focus and rendering is citrus tamed, mouthfeel in perpetual expansion and contraction, length linear and elastic. And it’s just the beginning. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted June and July 2017  lwwines  jhortonns  rachelhopelightfoot  winesofns  @lwwines  @rachel_hope  @WinesofNS  @lightfootandwolfvillewines  Rachel Lightfoot  @winesofns

Bachelder Chardonnay Johnson Vineyard 2013, Yamhill Carlton District, Oregon (416644, Agent, $45.00, WineAlign)

The best of the barrels, always remember the soil, the soil Johnson Vineyard chardonnay will send you spiralling deep into thought, like it or not. It’s origins in Jory, sedimentary soils draw energy from a source unseen, dug down into where the ancients dwell. Thomas Bachelder monkifies the soil plant matrix made to transmit minerality. “It’s as much about photosynthesis in the new world but minerality is still apart of it. Jory soils in Oregon bring a salty tang, a savour. It’s true.” Bachelder speaks of a wisdom once revered, now questioned and he’s fine with needing to work for a living. The Johnson chardonnay is beautifully tart, rich and complex, biting, full of energy, so cool, taut, structured and even still a bit reductive. But it really is pressed, juiced and spirited with lime, for success and to linger, for a decade post harvest, perhaps for even longer a quality length of time. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  bachelder_wines  liffordgram  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON  @BachelderWines  @liffordwineandspirits

Norman Hardie Chardonnay Sans Soufre 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $45.00, WineAlign)

Says Norm with matter of factness, as he always does, “it’s the regular Niagara chardonnay, but without sulphur.” So you ask the question up front? Is the unsulphured so different than the other? To the naked senses, no. The charm, power and generosity are all there. It took a full year to pass malolactic inspection. So why do it? Because it reminds of 2012, same slow malo, same deferential and determined kind of wine and the answer comes from something Norm says. “I didn’t have the guts in those days.” But he has them now and yet the decisions imparted this Sans Soufre will be different, with more guts and glory, say in 2022. Perhaps there is a softness about this naked one, something cotton candy about its aromatics and its texture. It’s fine-spun, ethereal and dissipating. It does not argue but you sense it’s possessive of an organized, controlled tension. But don’t be thinking this isn’t a planned piece of parenthood. Did I mention the tannic presence on the palate? How about the wind-up, into tart and the stiff breeze that blows through as if it’s already turning to fall. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted Twice, June and July 2017  normanhardiewinery  @normhardie  Norman Hardie

Tawse Robyn’s Block Chardonnay 2013, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $45.95, WineAlign)

The temptation and the desire to compare Robyn’s Block and the other Tawse chardonnays is unavoidable but in 2013 it’s a fruitless exercise. Neither warmth, tropical fruit, cold, rain, terpenes or high acidity are hallmark traits of Robyn’s Block 2013. So what is? When I tasted through Robyn’s barrels with winemaker Paul Pender back in April of 2014, the Mercurey (one year-old, CLL toast) from the oldest (32 years) vines off of the richest site worked wonders in tandem with new oak. Very primary, fermenting notes foretold of a reigned in, restrained Robyn. The Mercurey (new) barrel gifted tang and girth into which the barrel disappears, with sappy toast on the back end. It too was quite young in its evolution but was rich, thick and dense. The Céres (Mineral) barrel brought exclamatory fruit and was ready to drink. All together and three years later these barrels have conspired for all of the above but if I had to sum it up in five words or less I’d say Robyn is “full of energy, texture and beans.” She will turn out creamy notes as the decade turns but always maintain her sense of restraint, running sap and fleshy tone. The wine is nothing if not a fascinating introspection into the history and the future of this block.  Drink 2017-2023. Tasted April and July 2017  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Sperling Vineyards Blanc De Blancs Brut Nature 2013, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (511329, Agent, $47.00, WineAlign)

There is no dosage in this directly motivational Blanc de Blancs and plenty of potential palate weight with thanks to 30 months spent on the lees. There is something top single-vineyard cru Alsatian about the savoury and searing coolness in this style, as if it were more than just the sum of chardonnay parts, like some hypothetical pinot blanc and perhaps auxerrois. There is some reductiveness, a lovely washed rind cheese, lemon scrape melted into curd and fine bitters. The flavours are really quite lemony tart. Striking really. School of Cool moderator Karen MacNeil described this like “a nun in catholic school, severe and a bit starched. I’d like to try it a bit sweeter, to mollify the tension.” Though the consensus is one that sees it under-dosed, you have to admire Ann Sperling’s “decision based on lees contact time.” To make it longer. The sharp, angular edges are a by-product of its aggressive nature but like sémillon in its lean and gaunt youth this B de B will develop some faux honey and petrol with age. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted twice, July 2017  @SperlingVyds  @AnnSperling  @CRUOntario  sperlingvineyards  cruwine  Sperling Vineyards  Ann Sperling

Stratus Chardonnay 2014, VQA Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario (307645, Agent, $48.20, WineAlign)

The Stratus 2014 is more reductive than usual, in its case more of a vintage-related affair than others. The “Burgundy method” is employed, but in a “Niagara style” notes winemaker J-L Groux,  that is with native yeasts and a pick that can’t be too early. The wine saw nine months in (25-50 per cent new) oak. This ’14 is Groux’s last of the chardonnay mohicans because in 2015 it will be bottled with lees. This ’14 is nothing if not bloody delicious, ripe orchard fruit swelling, of mild acidity and seamless texture. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted May and July 2017  stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

Southbrook Poetica Chardonnay 2013, VQA Four Mile Creek, Ontario (366500, Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Always Ontario’s outlier, eccentric and non-conformist chardonnay and I say this with complimentary, best of intention flattery. The 2013 vintage is simply chivalrous to chardonnay and in Poetica’s corner, a perfect calm case of preux meets elegante. Here is a chardonnay of inherent oxidative wisdom, from cloud cover, cool, long breaths of Niagara air well into the elongated autumn and the address for what I refer to as “the age apparent one.” The iconoclast Poetica ideal conforms because it is matched with equal breadth by richness of fruit and confirms the way Ann Sperling makes her signature wine. Tasted blind my first guess would put this at five years old because of the exuding warmth so 2010 might just be the order. A 2012 Bench chardonnay might have also been the answer. But with Poetica the promise is like Meursault with uptown fruit, honey, vanilla, caramel, a Niagara vapour and ethanol. Such a telling display that only Poetica can play. Drink 2016-2024.  Tasted October 2016 and July 2017  southbrookvineyards  thelivingvine  @TheLivingVine  @SouthbrookWine   @SouthbrookWine  The Living Vine inc.

Viñas Ventisquero Tara Chardonnay 2014, Atacamas, Casablanca Valley, Chile (511337, Agent, $53.00, WineAlign)

Chile’s Atacama Valley frontier is one of the world’s great terroir expansions, a limestone soil-based flat, even further north than the Limari valley. Ventisquero’s winemaker Felipe Tosso has said that Atacama “breaks all the paradigms of what has been produced in the central-southern valleys of Chile.” The salinity in the land translates to notes in chardonnay of almost no precedence, like salty cotton candy and a fineness of acidity singular in chemical design and how it feels in the mouth. It’s like sucking on a stone lozenge that never dissolves. It’s relentless in its pursuit of fruit. Flavours coagulate liquid almond joy and transparent bitters but there is also a sweetness without definition, a simple limestone syrup that melts into the saltiness of the wine. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  vventisquero  univinscanada  wines_of_chile_canada  @vventisquero  @UNIVINS  @WinesofChile  @VentisqueroWines  @UnivinsCanada  @WinesOfChile

Charline Drappier

Champagne Drappier Blanc De Blancs NV, Champagne, France (599860, Agent, $54.95, WineAlign)

Made with five per cent pinot blanc this faintly oxidatively-styled Blanc de Blancs is gingery-leathery and felt as if by extended skin contact. It’s both tannic and orange pith spritzy, also mixed in with grapefruit and lemon. Twenty-four lees-affected months bring body that is fleshy, corporeal and with acidity in charge on the palate. Quite a full fizz with some preserved fruit attentiveness. The dosage is healthy but simply flavour gifting at 7.1 RS because the sugar is a combination of beet and cane aged in oak for 10-15 years. It’s a special Drappier liquor dosage developed at the winery. What it brings is not just sweetness but a complex sweetener that has evolved and developed over time while it has aged. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted twice with Charline Drappier at #14c, July 2017 #ChampagneDrappier  @FWMCan  champagne_drappier  champagnedrappier  fwmcan  Champagne Drappier  Charline Dppr  @FWMCan

Ravine Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay 2014, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario (Winery, $55.00, WineAlign)

The Reserve is 100 per cent estate fruit that spent 18 months in (50 per cent new) barrel. As it’s both barrel fermented and aged the variegation locks the fruit in so bloody tight so even now it’s reductive, smoky and flinty. A mineral chardonnay needs balance from over the top fruit and so track record, acumen and love will have it so. Marty Werner and Ben Minaker’s is a big, summery and gold platinum expression, very expressive, the two-lb steamed in seaweed lobster chardonnay, seemingly Meursault but just as likely from California. But as Ravine’s Reserve on the St. David’s Bench it is purely Niagara Peninsula. Fruit intensity, extract and controlled oxygenation shows off the best of what these men can do. It speaks to their efforts, knowledge accumulation, trials and finally to the culmination of their stamina. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  ravinevineyard  marty_werner  benminaker23  @RavineVineyard  @marty_werner  @BMinaker23  Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery  Martin Werner  Ben Minaker

Adam Mariani, Scribe Winery

Scribe Chardonnay 2014, Carneros, California (511139, Agent, $55.00, WineAlign)

Adam Mariani raised his 2014 in concrete and though we are distracted and of course fully willing to think about the fruit (especially in contrast to his Skin Contact chardonnay) it is the texture that grabs most attention. That this solicits older world comparisons is hard to avoid, but it’s not a Burgundian thematic. Like the garnatxa by Ramon Roqueta Segalés of Domaine Lafou, Scribe’s is a wine that has succeeded in mastering the oxidation process and the scents are of ripe peach, fresh, without overdeveloped sugars but instead a sprinkling of ocean salt. Finishes with a savoury mix of lime, tonic and the liquor of distilled flowers. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  scribe winery  nicholaspearcewines  @scribewinery  @Nicholaspearce_  Scribe Winery  Nicholas Pearce

Familia Torres Chardonnay Milmanda 2014, Catalunya, Spain (332171, Agent, $59.95, WineAlign)

Miguel Torres Jr. tells us his wine comes from a great white wine vintage; cool and rainy, though not great for reds. “I don’t believe in miracles from the vineyard. You have to do some things in the winery,” he adds, like the use of bigger (300L) barrels and a 50 per cent malolactic goal. His chardonnay is a juicy, terpenic, honorary cool climate Canadian. That’s not to say it isn’t barrel rich, but it too speaks a language of the lively, crisp, crunchy and bloody delicious. This is full, satisfying, spicy and buttery teasing chardonnay out of Catalunya and few gallop along with such equine gait and grace, at least not from Spain, without either softening like butter or hardening like stone. Here the twain is met. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  torreswines  @FWMCan  @TorresWines  fwmcan  @bodegastorres  @FWMCan

Scribe Skin Fermented Chardonnay 2015, Carneros, California (511147, Agent, $63.00, WineAlign)

Scribe Winery’s Adam Mariani introduces his antithetical Californian from the Sonoma side of cooler Carneros up on Arrowhead Mountain in the northern part of the region, planted in 2007 abutting the Mayacamas range on volcanic soils. The grapes are skin-fermented cold (in the farenheit 50’s) with native yeasts for five to six weeks until mid-December but over the past several vintages they (the winemaking team) have slowly gained the confidence to get them above 100 days. One bottle (served too warm) is amiss and oxidative and this really accentuates the skin-settling tannins on the palate. A second is beautifully lively, tannins a bit tamed, acidity in tact and fruit concerned and even obsessed with all things lemon. The aging is done in concrete egg and with a correct bottle this is not oxidized, nor is it an orange wine but it most certainly is a Carneros expression of great interest. It should be dealt with young. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  scribe winery  nicholaspearcewines  @scribewinery  @Nicholaspearce_  Scribe Winery  Nicholas Pearce

Artesa Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2014, Carneros, Napa Valley, California (457143, Agent, $67.00, WineAlign)

Artesa or artisan, from the Catalan, an affirmation of style gifted in name from the Barcelona family Raventos. This chardonnay from the base of Mt. Veeder is 100 per cent estate fruit, adjacent Hyde Vineyards, all hillside sits of elevation, sun and under cover of omniscent fog blowing in from San Pablo Bay. The character is unmistakable French (50 per cent new) cream barrel warm and buttered, yet young and still a bit closed for business. The 16 months in wood requires double that to integrate but a fine mineral streak cuts through the caramel. Nothing shocking mind you, grace meets weight and toasted chestnut melds into sweet marzipan. The quality of fruit is unquestionably high and the seamlessness a given. The style can be yours. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted July 2017  artesawinery  #andrewpellerimportagency  @Artesa  @APImportAgency  @MerSoleilVineyard  @Artesa

Chamisal Vineyards Chardonnay Chamise 2014, Edna Valley, California (511212, Agent, $86.00, WineAlign)

The aromatics are slow to reveal but if at first they are mildly mired in solder there is this sweet basil-herbal and lemon-balmy calmness on the entry. Takes some moments and then opens to a creamy, barrel-sweetened, tart and layered chardonnay. Looked at blind I’d certainly peg this as warmer climate, New Zealand perhaps but more likely and gracefully California. Indeed the Chamisal-Chamise of Edna Valley origins completes the picture. The first vineyard planted in the Edna Valley in 1973 near the Pacific and a long temperate growing season adds up to low and slow phenolic developed chardonnay. The warm vintage plus calcareous, clay-rich soil develops further flavour. Shy no more, the namesake flowering plant Adenostoma fasciculatum (chamise or greasewood) native to California bounds away with complex flavours. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  chamisalvyd  #andrewpellerimportagency  @ChamisalVyd  @APImportAgency  @Chamisal.Vineyards  @APImportAgency

Vasse Felix Chardonnay Heytesbury 2015, Margaret River, Western Australia (674648, $91.00,  WineAlign)

Heytesbury is Virginia Willcock’s top chardonnay and while it is one of Australia’s most iconic wines, it may never be made the same way twice. In 2015 the élèvage is in French oak for nine months (57 per cent new and 43, one to two years old) but no malolactic was encouraged. That’s a non-committal way of saying (and Virginia did in fact say) there was no malo in 2015 simply because it was not a vintage in which the acidity needed to be tamed. So with fruit so pure, strong and expressive, what else is there to say? Simply that you would be an idiot to tire of a fresh herb garden, blue slate shoes, ripe pomelo, a wedge of smoked cheddar, fresh scones and a crunch of mellifluous honeycomb. Heytesbury will gift all of this and more. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017  vassefelixwines  margaretriver  @vassefelix  @MargaretRiver  @MargaretRiverWi  @vassefelixwines  @MargaretRiverWineRegion  @margaretriverwines1

Benjamin Bridge Méthode Classique Estate Blanc De Blancs 2013, Nova Scotia, (Winery$119.50, WineAlign)

Tasted from a bottle disgorged in May 2017, there alights a plugged-in, three-pronged, dazed, charged and enchanted energy about the Bridge’s ’13 Blanc de Blancs. The history of go it alone pure chardonnay is a relatively short one for the estate so this quickly makes up for lost time or rather with haste sets the timer and heads out at first light. “Like sittin’ on pins and needles, things fall apart, it’s scientific.” Wild, of talking heads temper and yeasts, done up in demi-muids, with a wilder secondary fermentative push riding on the coattails of the primary fermentation. Everything in this wine is a productive child of the vineyard, of no third party sugars or consultations. “How do you do that without making a Pétillant Naturel,” I wonder aloud. It’s a second ferment, non-contiguous is the reason, even if the former is both influencer and mentor to the latter. It certainly falls under the category of “micro-cuvée. Like its cousin and predecessor (Blanc de Noirs 2011), this ’13 BdeB is mired intensely inward within its own specificity and is not so much a sparkling wine with competitive soul. It is a pure representative of chardonnay grown in Nova Scotia for one purpose. So let’s talk about true stories and wild, wild life. “You get on board anytime you like.” Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2017  benjaminbridge  caveman__jones   winesofn  @Benjamin_Bridge  @benjaminbridgevineyards  @WinesofNS  @benjaminbridgevineyards  @winesofns

Cuvée des Amis in grand format from le grand ami @normhardie at an #i4c @coolchardonnay grand tasting dances and trips the light fantastic with unconscionable concentration.

Norman Hardie Chardonnay Cuvée Des Amis 2014, Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $150.00, 1500ml, WineAlign)

As exceptional as chardonnay may have seemed from out of the 2013 Ontario vintage you haven’t lived or loved until you get a taste of (only in magnum format) Norm Hardie’s 2014 Cuvées des Amis. This chardonnay attacks and ascends, recalibrating the inner workings of the brain and how it develops conceptualization. It is a state of the art and all-knowing elixir to remind that ’13 was a vintage with profitable yields and a generously stretched canvas on which to practice on, for when things begin to get real. The CdeA spent 18 months in barrel, the first 12 (in 35 per cent new), the next six in neutral and the last six in stainless steel on the fine lees. The spin class in the mouth manages agility, dextrous, furtive movement and completes many pirouettes. The dance is pure joy but the intensity is equally to disturbingly intrusive, suggesting more settling time is necessary. The flavour pearls are delicate and come straight from the oyster so they carry salinity, power and brine. Pure lemon essence is received by intravenous injection. Sumptuous is translated from Hardie-speak as a four-letter, Prince Edward County word. It doesn’t get more real than right here, with the best fruit, the tripping of the light fantastic, previously unheard and unseen unconscionable concentration. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted twice, June and July 2017  normanhardiewinery  @normhardie  Norman Hardie

Took all night but it was so worth it. Welcome to #i4c17 @coolchardonnay #ilivechardonnay

Good to go!

Godello

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