By Rick VanSickle
There is a day of celebration, it seems, for every grape on the planet, but one shines just a little brighter than all the others out there. Hello, Chardonnay, happy day to you!
Also in this report: 38 Ontario Chardonnay reviews to help you with your celebrations.
Thursday (May 25) is when legions of fanatics crack open their favourite Chardonnays to celebrate what many consider to be the greatest vinous gift the world has to offer. To be sure, Pinot Noir would like a word, same with Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and 10,000 other jealous grapes out there, but when it comes Chardonnay, especially here in Ontario, it rules the roost.
Chardonnay Day is a social media event that was created in 2010 by Rick Bakas to boost sales in the wine industry after the bank crisis of 2008. It was slotted around National Wine Day and the Thursday before the U.S. Memorial Day to keep up the celebratory spirits. Now wine lovers across the world celebrate this much-loved grape and share their feelings on social media using hashtags such as #ChardDay, #ChardonnayDay, or #InternationalChardonnayDay.
The Chardonnay grape hails from the Burgundy wine region in eastern France. It is favoured by winemakers because of its neutral taste which provides a wide range of creative possibilities. It is adept at expressing terroir, in that its taste is highly influenced by the environmental conditions of where it is grown, such as Niagara or Prince Edward County.
According to the website National Today, Chardonnay is said to have originated from a crossing of Pinot Noir and the nearly extinct Gouais Blanc grape varieties. It gained massive popularity in the late 1900s, and growing Chardonnay is now considered a rite of passage to new winemakers across the world.
Five fun facts about Chardonnay from National Today
It’s one of the most popular grapes
Chardonnay is the second most widely planted grape variety for white wine in the world with 210,000 hectares worldwide;
It’s sparkles, too
Chardonnay is used in producing still wines, as well as sparkling and sweet wines;
It is named after a village
This grape variety is named after the village of Chardonnay in the Mâcon region of Burgundy;
The Queen made it popular
The wife of Emperor Charlemagne instructed white grapes to be planted in their Burgundy vineyard to stop her husband’s beard from getting stained by red wine;
It’s a best-seller
Chardonnay is the best-selling wine in North America with over 840,000 bottles consumed per year in the U.S.;
There’s a day for everyone
Not a Chardonnay lover? Feeling left out? Fear not, there’s a day for you, too. To see an impressive list of all the grapes that have their own celebrations, as posted by the Travelling Corkscrew, go here.
Cool Climate Chardonnay celebration coming up
In Niagara, Chardonnay Day kicks off the push by the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4C) to put this grape in the spotlight from July 20 to 23 at various events and venues around the wine region.
This year, the festivities kick off early, with the School of Cool taking place on Thursday, July 20, which will allow guests to enjoy the weekend at a more relaxed pace. The i4C will host 50 wineries from six countries and feature over 90 Chardonnays. This year’s School of Cool keynote speaker is Master of Wine Michelle Cherutti-Kowal. From educational sessions to the Chardonnay in the Vineyard World Tour Tasting and Dinner, and the Moveable Feast Brunch, this is one of the most anticipated weekends for Chardonnay lovers on a packed calendar of events.
For full event details, click here.
To get you prepared for Chardonnay Day, we’ve scoured previous reviews on Wines In Niagara and offer this list of Ontario Chardonnays — from multi- and single-vineyard examples, to sparkling and even a sort-of example called Chardonnay Musque — that appeared on this site since Jan. 1.
This list of 34 Chardonnays is presented from the earliest reviews posted on Wines in Niagara in January to the latest reviews. Cheers to Chardonnay!
38 Ontario Chardonnays perfect
for International Chardonnay Day
2027 Cellars Grimsby-Hillside Chardonnay 2020 ($40, 94 points) — This Lincoln-Lakeshore sub-appellation, where winemaker/owner Kevin Panagapka sources this Chardonnay (above), is gaining quite the reputation for its terroir-driven wines, with 2027, Thomas Bachelder and Leaning Post (among others) all crafting stellar Chards from this vineyard. “I think it’s got some amazing potential,” says Panagapka. The fruit for the 2027 version is hand harvested, whole cluster pressed, wild fermented (but no malo) and aged for 18 months in 20% new Burgundian oak. It’s tightly wound right now, but let it breathe and notes of fresh pear, saline/flinty minerality, apple skin, bergamot, and a lovely, balanced approach to the oak spice accents emerge. It opens up on the palate and shows some weight with richer pear, yellow apple, toasted almonds, vanilla bean and spice, flinty/stony notes and pure elegance and finesse on the lifted and long finish. Such a beautiful expression of Niagara Chardonnay, but please give it some time. Can cellar 5+ years.
Vineland Estates Pathfinder Mission Vineyard Chardonnay Musque 2022 ($25 range, 92 points) — Pathfinder is a new series of wines from Vineland Estates that focuses on unique projects from micro lots. The Mission Vineyard, above, is Vineland Estate winemaker Brian Schmidt’s own vineyard located not far away, just north of the Tawse home vineyard on the Twenty Mile Bench. The Chard/Musque is fermented on its own lees after 12 hours of skin contact. It’s highly aromatic with generous notes of ripe peach, chalky minerality, Bosc pear, citrus and a lovely floral note. It’s ripe and rounded with a creamy texture, layers of orchard fruits, chalky minerality and tingly, fresh acidity keeping everything in harmony on the finish. A Chardonnay Musque that takes a different, better in my opinion, path to bottle.
Leaning Post Traditional Method Sparkling Blanc de Blanc 2018 ($55, 93 points) — This second traditionally made bubby from Senchuk is sourced from 40-year-old Chardonnay vines on the Beamsville Bench. The base wine was barrel fermented and aged for six months, spent 36 months on the lees and was aged in the bottle for a further four months. A modest, 2 g/l dosage was added. The nose shows flint, lemon biscuit, pear, a lovely floral note, and a robust bead in the glass. It’s bright and fresh on the palate with a more elegant bubble with lemon cream, pear, flinty/smoky notes, toasty brioche, apple, flinty minerality and a vibrant echoing finish. Would be fun to watch where the tertiary notes will go with a bit of time in the cellar.
Leaning Post Wismer-Foxcroft Chardonnay 2012 (only for wine club members, but what is leftover will go to the new back vintage rack in the retail room, 92 points) — This was one of the first wines I ever reviewed from what was then the fledgling Leaning Post winery. What a treat to retry it all these years later. Though it didn’t say so on the bottle, the fruit was sourced from Wismer-Foxcroft Vineyard, two rows away from where Thomas Bachelder sources his fruit, and four rows down from where Kevin Panakapka (2027 Cellars) got his back then. Primary fermentation (almost 6 weeks) took place in barrel, followed by full malo fermentation. Once fermentations were completed, the wine remained in French oak barrique (35% new, 65% 4-year-old barrels) for 12 months. This is a contemplative Chard with a mélange of ripe pear, citrus and spice against a background of limestone minerality. It has some weight on the palate, with ripe fruit in tandem with butterscotch cream, minerality and a long, smooth finish. Senchuk has embraced the warmth of the season but found balance with the acidity. On retrying this wine, I was surprised at how well it has aged, considering the warmth of the vintage. It’s much more voluptuous and creamier with baked pear/apple notes, richer spices, toasty vanilla, and caramel notes. It’s highly concentrated and integrated but the acidity is holding on nicely.
Leaning Post Grimsby Hillside Vineyard Chardonnay 2019 ($40, 93 points) — This is the first Grimsby Hillside Chardonnay made by Leaning Post, which is only located only 800 metres from Leaning Post. It’s sourced from the Frontier Block, where some of Niagara’s top winemakers are now getting their Grimsby Hillside fruit. The grapes were whole cluster pressed and the juice was naturally settled, then racked into barrel where fermentation occurred by indigenous yeast and malolactic bacteria. Once fermentations were completed, the wine remained in French oak barriques (mostly all used) and 500-Litre puncheon without stirring of the lees for 15 months. This wine was lightly filtered and bottled. A beautiful saline-rich and fresh nose with pear, lemon curd, flint, bergamot and toasted oak spices. There is a creamy texture on the palate, chalky/stony notes, golden apple, rich pear, and beautifully integrated oak spice notes with electric acidity on the finessed finish.
Leaning Post Senchuk Vineyard Chardonnay 2019 ($50, 95 points) — A fascinating comparison to the wine above, as mentioned, only 800 metres away, and a far different expression. It spends 15 months in French oak, 35% new wood and the fruit is wild fermented and undergoes wild malo. There is uncanny florality on the nose of this wine, like a meadow of white blossoms and honeysuckle. It’s pretty, delicate and saline with underlying quince, pear, peach, lemon curd and soft oak spice notes. It’s rich, deeper, and more concentrated on the palate with enticing chalky/saline notes, ripe pear, lemon cream, peach tart, integrated spices, and a creamy texture that all leads to a luxurious and long finish with finesse and flair. A thing of beauty that will reward with time in the cellar for 5+ years.
Flat Rock Cellars Project No. 12 Delta Chardonnay 2021 ($35, 92 points) — The Project No. 12 series was a one-off exploration of how yeast impacts Chardonnay. The Delta yeast is new to Flat Rock and used more often in aromatic whites. It contributes to an interesting flinty/minerally nose with a melange of pear, grapefruit, tropical notes, perfumed spice notes and lemon curd. It’s creamy and flinty on the palate with pear/quince fruits, grapefruit, and underlying tropical notes with toasted vanilla, a rounded palate without being flabby, and a long, lifted finish.
Flat Rock Cellars Project No. 12 VL2 Chardonnay 2021 ($35, 93 points) — VL2 is a staple yeast strain at Flat Rock and it, too, has a lovely flinty minerality (more a trait of the vineyard than the yeast) with creamy pear, golden apple, fresh lemon, toasted vanilla, and light spice notes. It’s lovely on the palate, much more elegant and textured than the Delta version, with ripe stone fruits, creamy/flinty notes, lemon curd, integrated fine oak spices and a clean, vibrant finish.
Ridgepoint Chardonnay 2020 ($25, 90 points) — Despite the warm vintage, this old-vine Chardonnay shows poise and restraint with a nose of fresh pear, bright apple, lemon accents, lovely saline minerality and light toasted oak notes. It’s quite minerally on the palate with flinty notes, pear/quince fruit, lemon freshness, integrated spice and a zesty, lifted finish. Good value Chard.
Stoney Ridge Small Lot Chardonnay 2019 ($25, 90 points) — Sourced from 100% hand-harvested Chardonnay grapes from Four-Mile Creek, this wine was barrel fermented in 100% new French oak barrels with regular stirring of the lees. The wine was further aged on its lees for 12 months in barrel. This lovely Chard has a spicy, rich nose of baked pear and apple, lemon tart, vanilla bean, and tropical fruit notes. It has a creamy texture on the palate with ripe orchard fruits, flinty notes, toasty vanilla, lemon curd and elegant oak spices with a vibrant finish. Old school Chardonnay with bold flavours and mouth-watering acidity.
KIN Vineyards Carp Ridge Chardonnay 2020 ($32, early summer release, 92 points) — Unlike the relatively perfect harvest in southern Ontario, the 2020 vintage in the Ottawa Valley “was challenging … with heavy late season rains, multiple autumn frost evenings, and rot, so both the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are essentially unoaked and a departure from our usual style.” The fruit was picked in two steps, the first in late September and the second in early October. It was aged in mainly older oak barrels with only 3% new oak, 85% neutral oak and 12% stainless steel. Winemaker Brian Hamilton has done a fabulous job here, despite facing adversity. The nose is generous with a stony/saline beginning before showing pear, yellow apple, lemon citrus, oyster shells and savoury accents. That saline minerality carries to the palate with pear/quince fruits, crisp lemon, a subtle creamy texture, layered and bright on a fresh, lifted finish. An attractive Chardonnay in a style reminiscent of Chablis. Can cellar 4+ years.
KIN Vineyards Carp Ridge Chardonnay 2021 ($32, available later in the year, 93 points) — The 2021 vintage in the Ottawa Valley was warm and the fruit very ripe so the style is richer, said Hamilton. This vintage gets back to the house style of oak aging for 10 months in 20% new oak and the rest neutral. It has a rich and expressive nose of stony minerality, pear skin, ripe apple, toasty notes, lemon biscuit and integrated spice notes. It’s more rounded on the palate compared to the 2020 version, with a creamy texture, ripe orchard fruits, flinty/stony notes, a hint of lemon zest, elegant spices and bright acidity leading to a lifted finish. Can age 5+ years.
Bachelder Bai Xu Vineyard Vignes de 1981 Chardonnay 2020 ($50, 93 points) — The Bai Xu Vineyard is in the Four-Mile Creek sub-app. It is one of the oldest vinifera plantings in the region, 41 years of age as of the 2022 harvest. The soil is a mixture of sandy and loamy sediments over lacustrine clay with some silt and limestone. This shows some restraint on the elegant nose of salinity, oyster shells, apple, pear, and quince fruit with subtle spice notes. It is more generous on the palate with a touch of reduction, ripe orchard fruits, integrated spice notes, a touch of creaminess and a long, lifted finish. Can cellar 4+ years.
Bachelder Grimsby Hillside Frontier Block Chardonnay 2020 ($50, 95 points) — Oh, boy, how good is this! There is such a defining perfumed note on the nose that always shows on the Frontier Block and then a savoury/flinty thing going on with fresh pear, yellow apple, lemon curd, toasty almonds, and spice. Winemaker
Thomas Bachelder calls it “lacy” on the palate with a richly concentrated and textured profile that shows dense apple and pear fruits, a touch of zesty lemon, gunflint, salinity, pure and elegant spices, toasted almonds, and a ridiculously long and finessed finish. Chardonnay at its best here and will only get better in the cellar.
Bachelder Les Villages N.O.T.L. Chardonnay 2021 ($35, 91 points) — Bachelder’s Les Villages Chardonnay is a blend of the Bator, Willms and Bai Xu vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It has a beautifully perfumed nose of pear, bergamot, apple tart and spice. It has a creamy texture on the palate that shines a bright light on ripe orchard fruits, integrated spice notes and lovely finesse on the long finish.
Bachelder Les Villages Bench Chardonnay 2021 ($35, 92 points) — The Bench blend is sourced from the Wismer-Wingfield, Hill of Wingfield, Saunders and Wismer Foxcroft vineyards. There is a gorgeous note salinity and crushed oyster shells on the nose with ripe pear, yellow apple, zesty lemon, and fine oak spice. That profound vein of salinity runs through the core of this Chardonnay and complements the juicy pear/apple/quince fruits and zesty citrus accents. The finish is long and echoing from the mouth-watering acidity. Both these Chards, and the Pinots below, offer fantastic value at these prices.
Bachelder Wismer-Foxcroft Nord 2019 and 2020 — Winemaker Thomas Bachelder wanted to revisit the Wismer-Foxcroft Nord Chardonnays from 2019 and 2020 to see how they are evolving during a tasting of his Gamays this spring. The Wismer family has been farming grapes across 300 acres on the Vineland and Jordan Benches for over 25 years. Bachelder is a huge fan of Wismer fruit and isolated two distinct blocks he uses for two distinct wines, which usually vie for the top two spots in the lineup every vintage. Foxcroft Nord, with its steep slope, stony-clay, and limestone soil, is chosen for the distinct minerally attributes it imparts. While the 2020 was coming along nicely and shows the warmth of the vintage with ripe fruits and a creamy, luxurious texture, it was the 2019 that stopped me in my tracks. 2019 was cooler, perhaps more friendly for Chardonnay. A profound perfumed nose has emerged and became more pronounced over a couple of days of opening. The saline and crushed oyster shells were vivid in the glass with pure pear/apple notes, flint, elegant spice, and perfume with citrus zest. Such depth and concentration on the palate with rich pear/quince fruits, dry extract, subtle savoury notes, wet stones, flint, and a long, finessed, and zesty citrus finish. Both Chards have room to age, but the 2019 shows no signs of its peak performance quite yet.
Le Clos Jordanne Village Chardonnay 2020 ($30, 92 points) — Always a smart buy for quality at this price point, the Village Chardonnay has a rich nose of ripe pear and apple with bergamot, elegant spice notes and freshness. It’s generous on the palate with pure, dense stone fruits, lemon tart, integrated spices, and length through the finessed finish.
Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2020 ($50, 93 points) — A bit of fruit from the Talon Ridge Vineyard is blended into the top Chardonnay from the “grand cru” Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard for this impressive wine. A dominant note of chalky minerality is the first impression, then notes of fresh pear and quince, Meyer lemon and elegant spice notes. It’s generous and rich on the palate with ripe pear, lemon oil, golden apple, chalky minerality and spice in a complex and layered style with an echoing and fresh finish. A special Chardonnay.
Ravine Vineyard Vintage 2011 ($135, small quantities at the winery, 95 points) — The fruit for this traditionally-made 100% Blanc de Blanc Chardonnay sourced from the Twenty Mile Bench was hand-picked at 18.7 Brix and sat mostly undiscovered on its lees for 10 years before being found by winemaker Lydia Tomek and disgorged last November. A modest dosage was used, and the wine was finished at 1.7 g/l of RS, an extra dry style. The first 50 bottles are hand labelled with red ribbon and a wax imprint of Tomek’s thumb, the rest will have new labels once they arrive at the winery. It shows a light golden colour in the glass and a surprisingly robust bubble in the glass for a wine that has sat on its lees for a decade. The expressive nose is a complex and exciting array of toasty brioche, creamy pear, lemon tart, autolytic notes, roasted almonds and freshening saline notes. The vigorous bead on the palate lights up the pear/apple fruits, subtle flinty/stony notes, warm nutty/brioche, and bright citrus. The texture is rounded and creamy but benefits from a firm vein of acidity through a lifted and persistent finish. Just a beautifully aged, bone-dry sparkling wine and a rare treat for consumers. Can easily cellar for 5+ years for further development of tertiary notes.
Stonebridge Chardonnay Reserve East 2019 ($78, 93 points) — This East version of the single-block Chards from Stonebridge at Lailey is equally intriguing as the west version (previously reviewed). It’s a bit more delicate on the nose, more elegant and evolving, then bin apple, cream, bergamot, toasted hazelnuts, pear, beautiful oak spices and a floral note. It turns to a more textured style on the palate with a creamy feel to go with rich stone fruits, a chalky/flinty note, rich spices, and electric finesse on the long and vibrant finish. Just a beautiful Chardonnay.
Westcott Block 76 Chardonnay 2019 ($48, retasted, all gone) — The wine is aged in oak, very little new oak, for 16 months. It’s bottled unfiltered. The one-acre Block 76, the south-eastern facing part of the Westcott Home Farm Vineyard, is the youngest of the Chardonnay vines farmed at the estate. It’s quite intriguing on the nose with a flinty/reductive note, lemon, apple, pear, and subtle spice. It’s finely textured on the palate with fresh pear, vibrant lemon, underlying flint, integrated oak, and electric acidity driving the back end.
Westcott Block 76 Chardonnay 2020 ($48, available later this year, 95 points) — Noticeably richer, but still that impressive flinty/saline note on the nose to go with ripe pear, bright lemon, subtle creamy notes, and fine oak spice. It has a creamy texture on the palate and robust stone fruits, lemon tart, underlying flinty notes, perfectly integrated spice, layers of pleasure and a firm vein of acidity guiding this beauty through the long, contemplative finish. A very fine Chardonnay that will reward with 5+ years in the cellar.
Westcott Reserve Chardonnay 2021 ($45, winery, 92 points) — The Reserve Chard is sourced from the very best parcels at the Home Farm Vineyard. The mineral-laden nose displays ripe pear, lemon chiffon, apple skin and elegant spice notes. It’s creamy and textured on the palate with yellow apple, lanolin, poached pear, flint-driven minerality, fine oak spice notes and lifted by the racy acidity prevalent on the Vinemount Ridge. Such a gorgeous Chardonnay that will age nicely over the next few years.
Westcott Butlers’ Grant Chardonnay 2021 ($48, 93 points) — A highly aromatic nose with a hint of reduction that leads to yellow apple, summer pears, nectarine, lemon, and integrated spice notes. It has lovely texture and verve on the palate with subtle creamy notes, rich pear, apple, lemon tart, flint minerality all leading to a finessed, long finish. Can cellar 5+ years.
Foreign Affair Blanc de Blanc 2021 ($35, released in June, 92 points) — This is the second vintage of the Blanc de Blanc, 100% Chardonnay that spends 12 months on the lees. Winemaker Rene Van Ede plans to build this sparkling year by year and build up the lees aging. It’s finished with zero dosage. It has a fresh and lively nose of lemon biscuit, crisp apple with peach and pear skin. It’s bright on the palate with a vigorous bead and energetic acidity that lifts the fresh lemon, apple and subtle biscuit notes through a lifted finish.
Southbrook Poetica Traditional Method ($70, summer release, 93 points) — This is the first “Poetica” sparkling wine to be made at Southbrook, joining the Poetica Chardonnay and Poetica Red as the flagship wines at the winery. It’s a non-vintage, 100% Chardonnay triaged in 2018 and disgorged in 2023 after 50 months of sitting on the lees. It’s finished with zero dosage. It shows a lovely golden colour in the glass with an elegant bead. The creamy, autolytic notes are evident on the nose with lemon tart, yellow apple, and pear notes. It’s crisp, vibrant, and elegantly bubbly on the palate with apple/quince and lemon curd and a nice complex array of creamy/nutty/brioche notes all leading to a vibrant finish driven by mouth watering acidity. The fine bead is persistent through the finish. Fantastic, well-aged bubbly.
Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2019 ($27, 91 points) — The fruit for this Chard is sourced from various organic growing partners in Niagara and is aged in 300L neutral French oak barrels for 10 months. It’s highly aromatic on the nose with ripe pear, golden apple, pear, bergamot, and freshening salinity with a touch of flint. It has a creamy texture on the palate with ripe orchard fruits, lemon curd, understated oak spices and a juicy, lifted finish. Delightful now or with a bit of cellaring.
Southbrook Saunders Family Vineyard Chardonnay 2020 ($38, 93 points) — The Saunders Family farm on the Beamsville Bench is a favourite of Southbrook. It adds a different terroir to the lineup of estate wines and share organic farming practises. This is selection of five barrels (two new) that was aged in oak for 10 months on the lees. It is much more subtle and elegant on the nose than the Triomphe with wisps of apple, lemon, pear skin, stony minerality and spice accents. Quite tight right now, but swirl and it reveals layers of apples, peaches, pears and fresh lemon zest and wet stones with a lingering, long, vibrant finish. Can cellar 5+ years and will benefit from a short decant if drinking now.
Southbrook Poetica Chardonnay 2004 ($100, library release) — Winemaker Casey Hogan poured this library wine that’s nearly 20 years old and is being offered to consumers in a limited release. The 2004 vintage was cool and humid, but a warm fall enabled the Chardonnay grapes to fully ripen. It has a mature nose of mulled orchard fruits, caramel/toffee notes, stony minerality and baking spices. The mature fruits are fully integrated and tiring a bit on the palate, but it holds interest in the complexity and nuances from the tertiary flavours and spices. There’s an interesting herbaceous note and some vibrancy lingering on the finish. A fascinating look at an older Chardonnay and how it evolves.
16 Mile Cellar Civility Chardonnay 2020 ($35, 93 points) — This single-vineyard, estate Chardonnay from Susan’s Vineyard is whole cluster pressed, wild fermented and spends 12 months French oak. It shows an attractive golden colour in the glass and has a fresh, saline nose of ripe pear, bergamot, golden apple, and nicely integrated oak spice notes. There’s more concentration and density on the palate with a rich profile of ripe stone fruits, flinty/stony notes, a creamy (yet pristine) texture, harmonic spice notes and a fresh, lifted finish. I retasted this wine after an initial review a year ago for this report and love how it has integrated and rounded out with elevated flinty/toasty notes. In a nice place right now.
16 Mile Cellar Rebel Chardonnay 2020 ($25, 92 points) — This Susan’s Vineyard Chardonnay is from a blend of neutral oak barrels. The nose is fresh and lively with notes of bright apple, pear, subtle creamy notes, and lemon zest. It has a creamy texture on the palate with integrated pear/apple fruits, a touch of flinty minerality and reduction, a pinch of spice and mouth-watering acidity on the lifted finish.
Hidden Bench Téte de Cuvée Chardonnay 2020 ($52, September release, 95 points) — The Téte de Cuvée is a barrel selection from the three estate vineyards that showcase the Beamsville Bench terroir. As it turns out, the 2020 vintage is all sourced from the Rosomel Vineyard, planted in 1976. The oak regime is 100% French with 17% new, 33% second fill, 17% third fill and the balance neutral wood for 16 months. The wine is bottled unfiltered and unfined. This is always among the top Chardonnays made in Ontario in any given vintage, and I love what the winemakers have done with this grand cru vineyard fruit in 2020. It has such a profound and enticing nose of yellow apples, lemon curd, flinty minerality, poached pear and toasty/nutty oak spice notes. It’s rich and vibrant on the palate with generous baked pear and apple tart, a creamy texture, flinty/stony minerality, and lemon preserves with a long, luxurious finish that benefits from racy acidity. A beautiful Chardonnay that will reward with 6+ years in the cellar.
Hidden Bench Felseck Vineyard Chardonnay 2020 ($48, September release, 94 points) — The oak regime for the Felseck Chard is 100% French with 19% new oak, 18% second fill, 18% third fill and the balance neutral for 16 months. The wine is bottled unfiltered and unfined. This is a bit shy on the nose now, but swirl vigorously and it opens up to rich stone fruits, citrus accents, wet stone minerality and elegant oak spice notes. It’s more overt on the palate with rich and generous pear/apple fruit, lemon tart, subtle flinty/stony notes, a creamy texture with length and verve through a long, lifted finish. Can cellar 5+ year.
Hidden Bench Estate Chardonnay 2021 ($32, May/June release, 92 points) — The Estate Chardonnay is blend of Locust Lane, Felseck and Rosomel vineyards aged in large format French oak (25% new oak) and a small portion aged in concrete. The nose shows fresh pear and quince, yellow apple, grapefruit/lemon zest and integrated oak spices. It’s generous and rich on the palate with a creamy texture, flinty/mineral notes, apple, pear and lemon freshness all delivered on a finessed and lifted finish.
Hidden Bench Chardonnay Béton 2021 ($28, likely released in June, 92 points) — This is the newest wine to appear in the Béton series of wines aged in the new concrete tanks at Hidden Bench. The wine was envisioned after a trip visiting eight organic Chardonnay producers in Chablis a few years ago. “After visiting there,” owner Harald Thiel explains, “our goal was to make a Chablis style wine.” Thiel said one of the key elements for the distinct Chablis style is that “they spend a lot of time on the lees.” Generally, that means 16-20 months on lees and then concrete aging, “which added a textural component. This was part of the plan with the concrete tanks. This is where we wanted to be.” This first Béton Chard spent 16 months on the lees with concrete fermentation and aging and no oak whatsoever. It is absolutely Chablis-esque, with a creamy pear nose, elevated flinty minerality, lemon tart and nutty notes. There are lovely flint and saline notes on the palate with a creamy texture, pear, yellow apple, and a lemon kick on a finessed finish. A soulful rendition on unoaked Chardonnay. Wine was tasted from an unlabelled bottle.
Stratus Chardonnay 2021 ($35, Vintages in June, 91 points) — This is the baby sister Chardonnay to the signature “bottled on the lees” version. It’s barrel fermented and aged in neutral oak for 10 months. The wine is highly aromatic with ripe white peach, yellow apple, lemon curd and a touch of tropical fruits. It’s ripe, round, and juicy on the palate and shows stone fruits, lemon tart, and a touch of citrus zest on a freshening finish.
Last House Electrum 2021 ($39, 92 points) — This estate Chardonnay is a white wine made like a red wine. The fruit was de-stemmed and partially crushed with 20% while clusters included in the fermentation vat for 25 days. At pressing, free run juice and press juice were combined in stainless steel tanks for elevage with 15% of the wine aged in a second fill oak barrel. It was bottled on the lees and was unfined and unfiltered. I will tell you right off the top, my wife Maureen tasted this wine with me, and she couldn’t stop raving about it. There is a subtle cloudiness in the glass and a golden colour. Upon opening, there is a touch of reduction on the nose that blows off quickly with notes of citrus-y marmalade, bin apples, apricot tart, and savoury/herbal accents. It’s bright and vibrant on the palate with rich, minerally notes followed by citrus peel, mulled apples, subtle tannins, savoury notes, and ever so faint spices with a bright, lively finish. Quite unique and delicious!