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UPDATED: You say Chardonnay, we say dig in! Vintages release, i4c coming … plus new releases from Rodney Strong and Konzelmann

By Rick VanSickle

Everything is coming up Chardonnay for the next couple of weeks in Ontario and Niagara wine country.

First is the Vintages release at LCBO stores on Saturday with a delicious array of some top-notch Chardonnays up for grabs. Then it’s the world-class International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4c) taking place July 21-23 at various venues around Niagara.

You dig Chardonnay from the world’s best terroirs? This event is for you.

Also in this report are the other Niagara wines being released Saturday at Vintages, plus two delicious wines from Rodney Strong in Northern Sonoma and a pair of proudly Canadian wines from Niagara’s Konzelmann Estate Winery.

First, details on the i4c celebration:

The International Cool Climate
Chardonnay Celebration (the i4c)

Niagara wine

This weekend-long event is the créme de la créme of all Chardonnay events. Celebrating 30 Ontario wineries and 30 International wineries with the best cool-climate Chardonnay. You will have the chance to experience both educational and inspiring events. The School of Cool, Flights of Chardonnay, Dinners and Brunches all showcase this beautiful wine.

For more information click here

Dates: July 21-23
Location: Niagara
Cost: Varies on specific event, purchase all tickets online here

Four very cool Niagara Chards
coming to Vintages Saturday


Note: I mistakenly reported the Bachelder wine released Saturday was the Wismer #1 Wingfield Block Chardonnay (pictured above and reviewed below), which, I now realize is incorrect. The wine released is the #2 Vineyard Foxcroft Block, which I have not reviewed. Sorry for the confusion.

Bachelder Niagara Wismer Vineyard #1 Wingfield Block Chardonnay 2013 ($45, 94 points) — This was the last wine tasted in a long night of tasting and talking with Thomas Bachelder at his home this past spring, but it was jarring. A superstar in the making, one of the finest Chards Bachelder has made — and that’s saying a lot. It is tightly wound, yes, at this moment, but the limestone minerality and salinity speaks to the soul of this specific block that Bachelder chose for his top Niagara Chardonnay in 2013. Such aromatics, even at this early stage, suggests the best is yet to come. Pear, apple, for sure, a vein of fresh citrus and all intertwined with the subtlety of fine oak spice and flint. It’s deep, layered and seductive on the palate, a pure and exhilarating Chardonnay that never shows too much of any one component and stays in perfect balance all the way through the finish. Um, wow!

best Ontario chardonnay

Tawse Quarry Road Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 ($38, 93 points) — I freely admit to being drawn to mineral notes in Chardonnay — they add dimension and complexity to the experience. This version of Quarry Road has that in spades; a flinty/chalky/gun smoke quality that flows effortlessly from nose to palate and combines with fine oak nuances to form the backbone of this elegant Chard. With the mineral component, look for poached pear and a range of orchard fruits on the nose and underlying barrel spice notes. It is magical on palate with those flinty, chalky, almost smoky mineral notes that integrate so well with the depth of pear and apple skin and elegant spices. This is a highly structured Chard but still shows grace and nuance that will just improve with age. Bravo.

Ontario wine

Hidden Bench Estate Chardonnay 2014 ($30, 90 points) — The Estate Chard is a blend of the three vineyards owned and farmed by the winery. This Chardonnay spends 9 months in barrel, the majority of which is neutral oak, with 14% of the fruit aged in a concrete egg. So, obviously, a pure expression of the farm with little oak influence. The nose shows ripe pear, baked apple with creamy, but subtle, barrel spice notes and underlying minerality. It’s seamless on the palate with caressing and creamy orchard fruits, smooth and textured with a bright finish. Straddles new and old world styles.

Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2015 ($25, 90 points) — Such a nice wine at a delicious price point, look for a nose of bright apple, creamy pear and a smidge of peach, smoky/leesy notes and integrated oak spice. Shows elegance on the palate with creamy orchard fruits, seamless spice and a juicy, finessed finish.

Other Ontario Chardonnays released Saturday, but not reviewed:

  • Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 ($29)
  • Norman Hardie Unfiltered Chardonnay 2015 ($39)

Other wines from the
Vintages release Saturday

Foreign Affair Apologetic 2013 ($160 in magnum, 92 points) — Winery owner Len Crispino released this wine (appropriately) on Canada Day 2016 as a humorous nod to Canadians and their apologetic nature. Called Apologetic with “sorry” written on the front label and “not sorry” written on the back label, Crispino believes it is time from Canadians to stop apologizing and start celebrating the “plethora of excellence” that is all around them. “Our dream and belief is that Canadians can compete with the rest of the world, and win,” he says.

This is 100% Cabernet Franc with 52% of the grapes dried for 125 days in the appassimento style. It is a beautiful thing with a thick and rich nose of cassic, black currants, fine herbs, plums, gorgeous oak spice and sweet cedar undertones. The dark, juicy fruits are joined by kirsch, rousing spice notes and electric acidity on the palate. It has texture and elegant tannins and the stuffing to improve for 10 years or more. It’s a big wine made with 15% abv but shows poise and balance.

Kacaba Summer Series Rebecca Rosé 2016 ($18, 88 points) — A nose of candied red fruits, red licorice, watermelon and cranberries. It’s a friendly and easy-to-drink pink with an abundance of red fruits, touch of sweetness and mouth-watering acidity.

Also released Saturday, but not reviewed:

  • 13th Street Pink Palette Rosé 2016 ($16)
  • Cave Spring Indian Summer Select Late Harvest Riesling 2014 ($25 for 375 mL)
  • Contraband Sparkling Rosé 2015 ($21)
  • Dark Horse One Horse Town Pinot Noir 2013 ($25)
  • Hillier Creek Gamay Noir 2014 ($23)
  • Wildass Merlot 2015 ($17)

Flagship stores only

  • Benjamin Bridge Brut Sparkling Wine 2011 ($50)
  • July Classics Collection
  • Hidden Bench Locust Lane Pinot Noir 2013 ($48)

Two whites from Rodney Strong

Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc Charlotte’s Home Estate Vineyards 2015 ($19, LCBO, 89 points) — A nose of ripe honeydew melon, citrus, tropical fruits and lime. It’s has a bold expression on the palate with ripe melon, lemon, tropical fruit, lemon and zesty lime on the finish.

Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2014 ($27, Vintages, 91 points) — A nose of creamy apple, pear, vanilla toast, citrus and spice. This Classic Sonoma Chard shows spicy bite on the palate to go with baked apples, poached pear, vanilla cream and a range of toasted oak spices. Good acidity keeps it lively and fresh on the finish.

A pair of wines from Niagara’s Konzelmann

Konzelmann Canada White 2016 ($13, LCBO, winery, 87 points) — Probably should have reviewed this for Canada Day, buy, hey, we’re celebrating this country’s birthday all year long here. This is 100% Riesling with a nose of zippy lime, grapefruit, green apple and fresh cut lemons. It’s more rounded on the palate with notes of citrus, peach, honey and lime.

Konzelmann Canada Red 2015 ($12.50, LCBO, winery, 88 points) — A tasty blend of Zweigelt and Cabernet Sauvignon that has a nose of wild berries, currants, smoke, sweet cedar, cinnamon, cloves and raspberry. The red and dark fruits are forward on the palate with underlying earthiness and spice. Soft tannins make this an early drinker, but all in all, a nice wine for the money.