Thirteen cool Chardonnays for i4C

"... when July rolls around and Niagara’s International Cool Climate Celebration (i4C) is on the horizon, there’s a heightened interest in the grape throughout the wine community ..."

available in Ontario on July 8, 2017

While it’s always time for good Chardonnay as far as I’m concerned, when July rolls around and Niagara’s International Cool Climate Celebration (i4C) is on the horizon, there’s a heightened interest in the grape throughout the wine community. This year the festival is July 21-23, and presents over 150 wines from 59 winemakers and ten countries, including Canada of course. There is always a great combination of information, education, wine tasting, food and conviviality, so check out their website here to find out about tickets.

But if, like me, you can’t afford the time and money to hang out at the official events, why not buy some great Chardonnays and enjoy your own tasting at home. I have rounded up thirteen wines, one of which is a Canadian sparkling wine, that are being released at Vintages July 8th. If I’ve counted correctly, eleven of them are actually being presented at i4C, so the connection is pretty close!

This is an exciting lineup indeed. The five Canadian Chardonnays are among the country’s finest, and I would make the case that they are Canadian benchmarks:

  • 2014 Hidden Bench Estate Chardonnay VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment
  • 2015 Norman Hardie Unfiltered Chardonnay VQA Niagara Peninsula
  • 2013 Tawse Quarry Road Chardonnay VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula
  • 2013 Bachelder Wismer Vineyard Foxcroft Block Chardonnay VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment
  • 2011 Benjamin Bridge Brut Sparkling Wine Méthode Classique, Nova Scotia

Three very good and competitively priced wines from Australia reflect a concerted country-wide effort to create slimmer, trimmer and less oak-dominated wines, and these show that trend brilliantly:

  • 2016 Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay Margaret River, Western Australia
  • 2015 Giant Steps Chardonnay Yarra Valley, Victoria
  • 2015 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Chardonnay Coonawarra, South Australia

Three French wines include a beautiful Chablis premier cru, a robust Saint-Véran, and a very good Chardonnay from Jura, just east of Burgundy:

  • 2014 Domaine Laroche Les Vaudevey Chablis 1Er Cru AC
  • 2014 Collovray & Terrier Deux Roches Rives De Longsault Saint-Véran AP
  • 2013 Marcel Cabelier Vieilles Vignes Côtes Du Jura Chardonnay AC

The final two wines are value-laden offerings from New Zealand and California:

  • 2016 Invivo Chardonnay Gisborne, North Island
  • 2015 Murphy-Goode Chardonnay California

Enjoy some cool Chardonnay!


HIDDEN BENCH ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment

Vintages #68817 • $29.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 91/100
This fine Chardonnay is sourced from all three of the estate vineyards on the Beamsville Bench. Bright fruit aromas suggest green apple, lemon zest, honeydew melon, and a note of pineapple, over subtle cedary resin and oak spice. On the palate, the vivid acidity cuts through the hints of barrel, focuses the citrus-apple fruit, and defines the lengthy stony-mineral finish. There is so much life and vivacity here — it's lovely now, but what a great framework for the future, suggesting that it could enjoy many years of cellar time.
Tasted June 23, 2017 • MARK ANTHONY BRANDS (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #184432 • $39.20 • 750ml. • WD Score 91/100
This is the 2015 edition of Norman Hardie's Niagara Chardonnay, and to me the style of this wine has drawn much closer to that of the County. It partly shows with the exceedingly slim alcohol level of 11.9%, but is also reflected in the edgy, just ripe fruit that allows a nuance of green herbs to blend into the smoky-flinty lemon-lime, green apple and honeydew melon nose. The wine is bone-dry, with vivid acidity and a medium-weight body. A leesy creaminess balances the crisp fruit, and the herbal element continues to add interest to the palate. Oak is subtle, and the finish is long, saline and stony.
Tasted June 23, 2017 • HARDIE WINES (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


TAWSE QUARRY ROAD CHARDONNAY 2013, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula

Vintages #111989 • $35.80 • 750ml. • WD Score 91/100
Winemaker Paul Pender has developed Chardonnay from the Quarry Road vineyard into one of Niagara's recognized benchmarks. The wine is pale straw in colour, with a trim smoky-flinty and mineral-infused nose, that hints of lemon-lime, green apples and pears. Bone-dry, with vivid acidity, the palate is slim and focused. Three years or so of bottle aging has integrated the oak nicely, leaving just a nuance of resin that adds to the depth. Totally delicious cool climate Chardonnay.
Tasted June 23, 2017 • TAWSE WINERY INC. (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #512178 • $44.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 90/100
Now with a few years in bottle, the wine is beginning to show some mild evolution. It is medium-depth straw-yellow in colour. Noticeable volatility, that I associate with the Bachelder style, is fairly evident, with subtle lemon, green apple, cedary resin and a growing toasty, nutty component. Firm acidity drives the palate, balanced nicely by the creamy texture, while the fruit takes on a slightly riper character, adding honeydew and white peach notes. The oak spice, nutty and cedary notes linger on the finish.
Tasted June 23, 2017 • S. SCHIRALLI AGENCIES LTD., (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


BENJAMIN BRIDGE BRUT SPARKLING WINE 2011, Méthode Classique, Nova Scotia

Vintages #381533 • $49.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 91/100
Benjamin Bridge is Nova Scotia's premier producer of sparkling wine, in this case a traditional method Chardonnay. The wine is pale straw in colour, with a complex nose ranging from lemon-lime and green apple fruit, mint and green herbs, and a toasty element with a hint of white chocolate. While technically off-dry, the acidity is so searingly high that the residual sugar is very difficult to detect. Even after five years in bottle, the palate is incredibly fresh and youthful, again I expect because of that acidity, and all of this implies that there is a very lengthy drinking window if the wine is properly cellared. Well worth a WineDiscovery exploration.
Tasted June 23, 2017 • LIFFORD WINE & SPIRITS (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


VASSE FELIX FILIUS CHARDONNAY 2016, Margaret River, Western Australia

Vintages #416511 • $24.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 90/100
This is a fine and nuanced Chardonnay from Margaret River winemaker Vasse Felix. Hints of barrel spice and cedar underlie aromas of lemon juice and zest, green apple and under-ripe stone fruit. The palate is full of life — crisp and clean, with a lightly creamy texture — and the finish lingers with suggestions of lemon-lime and wet stones.
Tasted June 23, 2017 • B AND W WINES (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


GIANT STEPS CHARDONNAY 2015, Yarra Valley, Victoria

Vintages #243154 • $32.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
This is a slim, firm Chardonnay, with a little richness on the palate that balances the crisp acidity and some flinty-reductive character. Subtle aromas of lemon, green apple and pear peek through the flinty attack, and on the palate a nuance of oak-derived spice adds some depth as the fruit intensifies. Very drinkable now, this should benefit from modest time in cellar.
Tasted June 23, 2017 • VON TERRA ENTERPRISES LTD. (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


WYNNS COONAWARRA ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2015, Coonawarra, South Australia

Vintages #468728 • $17.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
Bright pale straw-yellow in colour. The nose is smoky with a hint of SO2 that dissipates fairly quickly, revealing notes of lemon, green apple, pear and white peach. Dry, crisp and clean, subtle notes of oaky resin and vanilla gently underpin the fruit, and allow for a stony minerality to rise on the finish. Very pleasant and a fine value.
Tasted June 23, 2017 • MARK ANTHONY BRANDS (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #416057 • $38.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 91/100
This is a lovely, sharply etched Vaudevey from the cooler 2014 vintage. The nose shows a subtle complexity: a stony, chalky presence frames aromas of lemon-lime and green apple, with tickles of lees and cheese rind. The palate is crisp, clean and linear. Perhaps the fruit is a little broader on the palate, with a nuance of pear and honeydew adding interest, but the vivid acidity drives the underlying stony, crushed-shell character into the crisp, focused finish. This is classic cool vintage Chablis that is drinking beautifully now, but will reward many years of cellaring.
Tasted June 23, 2017 • SELECT WINE MERCHANTS INC. (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #488858 • $24.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
Saint-Véran is the Chardonnay-only AOP that surrounds Pouilly-Fuissé in the southern Mâconnais. This example is medium-depth yellow-gold, with notes of honeysuckle and white flowers, and aromas of honeyed lemon, yellow apple and melon fruit. The palate is rich and creamy, with some light inflections of oak, but the bright acidity lightens the weight of the palate, and allows a mineral note to emerge on the finish. The beginnings of some evolution, but still lots of life.
Tasted June 23, 2017 • VINOLUNA (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #485839 • $19.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 88.5/100
This is a pleasant Côtes de Jura Chardonnay that, despite a little oxidative character, shows no influence of Jura flor. The wine is medium-depth yellow, with ripe fruit aromas that suggest lemon and yellow apple, with subtle peach and pineapple, as well as constrained oak spice and resin underneath. While there is some oxidative bruising to the apple fruit on the palate, the bright acidity gives the palate a contrasting freshness, that continues into the lingering finish. An interesting Chardonnay well worth discovering.
Tasted July 4, 2017 • ANDREW PELLER IMPORT AGENCY (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


INVIVO CHARDONNAY 2016, Gisborne, North Island

Vintages #499855 • $16.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 88/100
This is a ripe Chardonnay from Gisborne, a warmer region in New Zealand's North Island. Constrained oak spice, resin and vanilla frame aromas of ripe lemon, apple, melon and pineapple. The wine is dry, with balanced acidity and a sense of sweetness and richness in the fruit on the palate. Round, with some richness, and overall fine balance, all at an excellent price.
Tasted June 23, 2017 • NICHOLAS PEARCE WINES INC (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #507871 • $22.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 88/100
This is a moderately priced (for California) Chardonnay that shows some weight and ripeness. The wine is medium-depth yellow, with aromas of lemon, red apple and melon, backed by an oaky resin tone. The palate presents riper fruit, suggesting yellow rather than red apples, and some peach and pineapple, and the barrel impact remains fairly constrained. There is just enough acidity to balance the wine and dry the finish. Pretty representative of the genre.
Tasted June 23, 2017 • B AND W WINES (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



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