Credit and thanks needs to go out to Southbrook Winery's Bill Redelmeier for conceptualizing a throw-down to the U.K. of Ontario Chadonnay!
Bill has organized a selection of Ontario Chardonnay to be represented @ an exclusive tasting this May in London England, and I was fortunate enough to be able to pre-sample the wines soon to make the journey. I'll begin with the event, then the wines.
Held @ the Toronto Racket Club on Tuesday afternoon, I steeled myself to get through in enough time to get back to open the bar. I arrived, put my head down, and charged with glass in hand for the wines, working the room in a clock-wise fashion; I was a man-with-a-plan!
FOILED @ the first table, I'm met by Keith Tyers @ Closson Chase! Years ago Keith exposed me to my first blind tasting, striving for me to match pallete with wine knowledge - something that I have valued ever since - so I HAD to stop and chat ;)
THEN @ table #2 I had to speak w. Derek from Lailey about his joining Twitter...I knew then that things looked grim for getting out of there in a reasonable time, as Suresh Doss of Spotlight Toronto, Andrew Hanna, Norman Hardie, Thomas Bachelder, Martin Malivoire, Jamie Drummond & Bill Redelmeier himself all needed catching-up with...suffice to say that after giving-in to my desire to catch-up and socialize with such meaningful people in the industry, I was 2 hours' late @ cafe Taste (thanks for opening the joint, Julye)!
ON TO THE WINES: Though I tasted through 36 wines - all of which deserve mention - I will be leaving the full evaluation to the professional wine writers and simply give my feedback on those that my palette adored the most.
Represented in the 36 was an impressive gamut of styles of chardonnay. Please remember that chardonnay as a grape can bear more variation based upon methods of production, and is enjoyed in a staggering number of flavours, bodies, weights and aromatics. I do NOT present you with an account of all styles tasted, I present you with my top 5 based upon personal preference:
1) Southbrook 1998 Poetica: Rich, warm, gold and patina colours, exceptional depth, balance of acid and core of delightful caramelized fruit. A great example of ageablitity of Ontario whites. This wine was crafted by Derek Barnett (now @ Lailey Vineyard). Grapes were sourced from 'old vine' Chardonnay vines from Niagara River appelation as Southbrook had no vineyards of their own in the 90's. Very masculine in style.
2) Le Clos Jordanne 2006 LCJ Vineyard: Fantastic richness and elegance from this well-rounded wild-ferment chardonnay. Robe is lustrous yellow with bronze. Palette is harmonious, mouthfeel hints of juiciness from lees contact. A wine that exemplifies balance, though fruit is still in its' early years of production. Thomas Bachelder does Ontario proud with his Burgundian methodology!
3) Lailey Vineyard 2008 Old Vines Chardonnay: Sourced from the same grapes as the Southbrook 1998 Poetica (above), and crafted by these vines had an extra 12 years to mature (As both this and wine #1 were both crafted by Derek I'm interested in seeing this wine in 12 years' time!) Robe is rich straw w. flecks of bronze, steel and mineral on nose with nice vanilla notes.
4) Malivoire Wine Company 2004 Moira Vineyard: Another example of vines that are just "coming of age", Martin Malivoire asks for Shiraz Mottiar to develop wines in harmony with the environment (embrace the ladybug!) Robe is 'steely' yellow, nose has rich candied fruit and floral expression. The structure of this wine is exceptional, and I'm very impressed with the complexity. I'm glad this wine made it out of the library to see how the fruit would perform.
5) Norman Hardie 2008 Unfiltered Chardonnay: Beamsville (Niagara) fruit lends a succulence that works well with the extended lees contact of Norm's wines - well worth a visit to his winery to learn about his horizontal tanks for this gentle contact! The robe lends itself to visions of lush fruit, green-apple skin tones, with a nose likewise lush and fruity - more tropical - but still with a hint of vanilla. Fleshy mouthfeel (think of biting an aloe leaf) with core of mineral chalk, savoury on finish.
...MANY accolades however go out to the others represented, and I anxiously await the results of these wineries being showcased in London - Good luck representing not just your wineries, but Ontario as a region :)
Jeremy Day - Wine Geek