i4C – Celebrating Cool Climate Chardonnay
It’s almost that time of the year again for Chardonnay lovers to gather and celebrate one of Ontario’s favorite grapes at Niagara’s i4C festival (July 22nd-24th, 2022). A brainchild of some of Ontario’s top winemakers and entering its 12th year, i4C stands for ‘International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration.’ Put aside the idea that chardonnay isn’t popular- the proof is in the vines; it is the most planted white vinifera in Ontario. We do it well here, world-class in fact, with its hallmark fresh, acid-driven structure reminiscent of other cooler growing areas known for great chardonnay (yes, I’m thinking of you Chablis… ehem, ehem, you too Champagne).
So, what does the i4C weekend hold in store for those attending? Friday’s ‘School of Cool’ is always the big draw for industry insiders – past keynote speakers include Julia Harding, Karen MacNeil, Ian D’Agata, Steven Spurrier and Stephen Brook. This year sees a return by Andrew Jefford who hosted the 2020 virtual edition.
Why do I love chardonnay? Specifically, Ontario chardonnay? It is a blank canvas. When grown in the appropriate sites, it speaks of the climate and soils in which it grows (for example, in the racy, taught way the ones from Prince Edward County taste). Being on the aromatically neutral side, it also applauds (or admonishes) its winemaker and their use of oak, natural winemaking, and other such techniques. Chardonnay is a storyteller.
i4C runs the weekend of July 22nd-24th. Information, tickets, and events schedule can be found on the festival website: i4C – International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (coolchardonnay.org)
Here are some of my favorite Ontario Chardonnays from a recent tasting:
Rosehall Run 2019 ‘JCR’ Rosehall Vineyard PEC 12% $30
From Rosehall’s oldest parcel of chardonnay vines, this is a crowd-pleaser; it ticks the boxes of good fruit aroma/flavor concentration, fresh acidity, restrained but present oak. Refreshing, though not as mineral driven as many of its counterparts.
Trail Estate 2019 ‘V4’ PEC 10.7% $50
Showing its natural winemaking; funky, lifted aromas of green apple, pithy lemon. Lithe, juicy mouthfeel which wakes up the palate. Just under 11%, it is a lovely summertime sipper and a crushable, drink-young-to-harness-its-energy style.
Closson Chase 2019 South Clos 12.5% $42
This has all the right stuff. Aromatically, oak spice plays with a range of fruit characteristics; erring on the green apple/pear side, but also with ripe Meyer lemon note and a touch of flintiness complements. A precise palate, a beautiful seam of acidity and a balanced, long flavorful finish. Looking forward to tasting this again with a bit more age.
Westcott 2020 Estate Niagara Peninsula 13.5% $30
Not overly complex, but a welcome and pleasing wine. Nice amount of oak for a riper fruit profile showing golden apple along with orchard blossoms; still the aromas are a bit subdued, but perhaps a bit of bottle age will open them. Lovely palate, well balanced with a firm/soft goldilocks vibe.
20/27 Cellars Wismer Vineyard- Foxcroft Block, Twenty Mile Bench 14.4% $30
This is from a particularly warm parcel of Wismer Vineyard which is perhaps the reason that it is a more muscular style. The beauty is in its power, and though it carries 14% abv, it is still bright. There is a nice leesy texture happening here too. A departure from what I’m used to from winemaker Kevin Panagapka in that it is a richer style, but it speaks true to his philosophy of letting the terroir/vintage shine.
Feature Image: Westcott Butlers‘ Grant Chardonnay Vineyard | Photo credit: Westcott Vineyards