July 11, 2015 Release Part 2: Spotlight on Chardonnay and I4C

I want to help you get your Chardonnay on! Think about dropping down to Niagara for the fifth annual I4C, the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration, Friday July 17 to Sunday July 19. This is an exciting event where 30 or so local wineries host about the same number of international wineries, to present the best of cool climate Chardonnay. At least 120 Chardonnays from Niagara and around the world will be poured at the official events, and of course the local wineries will have all their wares on hand, if you visit their tasting rooms.

While the fun and geeky School of Cool on Friday during the day is sold out, there are still tickets for the large events, the fantastic Barrels and Bonfires barbecue and tasting at beautiful Thirteenth Street Winery on Friday evening, and the grand tasting and dinner Saturday evening. Many of the smaller Saturday daytime events are also still available, and of course the wineries themselves will be waiting for visitors much as usual.

This release featured a number of very good Chardonnays, some of which will be available for tasting at I4C. I will lead in by reminding you of the three Chardonnay-based wines I reviewed for the June 27, 2015 release:

  • the excellent 2012 GRGICH HILLS ESTATE CHARDONNAY, Napa Valley (Vintages #346304, $66.95), one of my favourite California Chardonnays to be released here in some time;
  • the value-priced 2013 CALAMUS STEELY UNOAKED CHARDONNAY, VQA Niagara Peninsula (Vintages #210062, $14.95);
  • and the fun and beguiling 2014 MALIVOIRE MUSQUÉ SPRITZ, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula (Vintages #189670, $19.95).

At the time of writing, all three wines are still available in Vintages.

From the current release I am featuring two fine Ontario Chardonnays, a brilliant wine from South Africa, and two of Canadian Thomas Bachelder’s foreign Chardonnays, one from the Willamette Valley in Oregon and a Côte de Beaune. I believe that all five wines will be available for tasting at I4C as well.


CAVE SPRING CELLARS ESTATE BOTTLED CHARDONNAY 2013, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula

Vintages #256552 • $18.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
This wine is fresh and vibrant, with a modest oak-spice frame underpinning aromas of fresh lemon, green apple and white flowers, that still allows a stony minerality to peek through. The wine is bone dry, with elevated acidity, nicely balanced with a little yoghurt texture to add richness, and that slightly softens the crisp fruit and mineral notes on the palate. Good length. Perhaps my favourite Cave Spring Chardonnay from the recent vintages I am familiar with.
Tasted June 26, 2015 • CAVE SPRING CELLARS LTD., (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


FLAT ROCK THE RUSTY SHED CHARDONNAY 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula

Vintages #1552 • $24.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 90/100
This is Flat Rock's selection of best barrels from the estate Chardonnay. Expressive fresh lemon, lemon curd, ripe yellow apple and white flower aromas nestle in an obvious (but not obtrusive) oak resin and vanilla frame. The wine is bone dry, with elevated acidity, balanced alcohol and a rich and slightly creamy palate. I like the fact that there is a seam of limestone minerality that kicks through the richness and fruit. While this can be drunk now, it really deserves another year or two in cellar.
Tasted June 26, 2015 • FLAT ROCK CELLARS (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #931006 • $37.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 91/100
This is a lovely expression of Chardonnay from one of South Africa's iconic producers. The wine pours rather deep yellow, with an intense nose that suggests reductive winemaking — a hint of matchstick, slightly smoky, and flinty minerality — and presents aromas reminiscent of rich lemon juice and green and yellow apples. The wine is dry, with crisp acidity, balanced alcohol and a slightly creamy texture. Oak resin places a slight bitterness under the vanilla and fruit flavours that seem riper on the palate, and minerality builds to the long finish.
Tasted June 26, 2015 • LIQUID ART FINE WINES (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review

It’s fascinating to follow Thomas Bachelder’s global winemaking career. While he is based in Niagara, and makes some very successful local Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs here under his own label, he also makes wine in Oregon and Burgundy. We get to taste and compare these wines, a rare chance to see a winemaker working with different terroirs.



Vintages #332536 • $37.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 90/100
Here I find some burnt matchstick reductive aromas which, as they subdue with aeration, become a tautly mineral attack, overlaying a citrus-lemon and yellow apple layer of fruit. Crisp acidity and stony minerality on the palate are balanced by a yoghurt-lactic element. Fruit is secondary, but suggests lemons and yellow apples, with constrained vanilla and oak spice. This needs some time, but all the elements are in place. Have patience and let this lie in the cellar for at least two to three years.
Tasted June 26, 2015 • S. SCHIRALLI AGENCIES LTD., (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #273334 • $29.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 91/100
This wine approaches quite gently: fresh, light vanilla and resin aromas frame pretty yellow apple and lemon fruit, with a suggestion of stony minerality. It raises its voice a little on the palate: the resin and vanilla generate a sensation of sweetness that slightly dominates the apple and lemon fruit, and picks up on the mid palate as the minerality builds and carries through to the finish. While still subtle and fairly unassuming, the wine flexes its muscles just enough to suggest hidden depths. Wait. Let it gather itself. And then in another year or two sit back and listen to its story.
Tasted June 26, 2015 • S. SCHIRALLI AGENCIES LTD., (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review

My third post about this release, about other more or less mainstream white wines, continues here.



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