Cheers to Chardonnay; Celebrating A Day In Your Honour

With 400,000 acres of this vinifera varietal planted around the globe there’s a world of Chardonnay to choose from.  For a time consumers shied away from this once popular wine because many felt it was being over-oaked and people’s palates were craving something a little more crisp and cool.

Ontario Chardonnay_2But over the last few years Chardonnay has made a big comeback especially those from cooler climates. As Ontario’s (and the world’s) most popular grape from unoaked to Chablis style there’s a wide range of styles to suit everyone’s taste.

It’s so popular again, that today, winemakers, cellar masters, sommeliers, and wine lovers around the world will celebrate International Chardonnay Day.  There are lots of ways to join in the celebration online Twitter is @coolchardonnay with hashtags #chardday and #14c2013. Facebook is /CoolChardonnayCelebration, and Pinterest is pinterest.com/i4c.  Many wineries will have special offerings today but if you can’t make it out to one, just chill a bottle, crack it open and toast this new trend that everyone seems to be enjoying and join in the online party.

Ontario ChardonnayHere in Ontario, today marks the kickoff to the Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration taking place July 19-21 in Niagara.  Sixty-two winemakers from 11 countries will offer up a taste of the world’s best chardonnay to wine enthusiasts at events ranging from intimate vineyard lunches to the main event “The Cool Chardonnay Wine Tour”.

If you’re looking for information on Chardonnay Day activities and the i4c (International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration) you’ll find it here www.coolchardonnay.org

How will you celebrate today?

 

 

Mystery Solved

So if you’ve ever heard the expression “go with your first instincts” pay attention and do exactly that, because when you over think it, you’ll get it wrong.  I was recently invited to take part in a really fun endeavour called The Label Project. Basically over a period of time I received 3 boxes that arrived by “No Name Sender”.

Each box contained a bottle of wine that was unidentified and through some provided clues and tastings I had to determine what the wines were and where they were from.  Then last Friday I had to hand in my tasting notes and today the results were revealed.

The first wine I received was a white and I really thought it was a cool climate chardonnay but wanting to be absolutely sure I totally over analyzed it to the point I got it wrong, and believe me I really hate getting things wrong.   I even had a friend (a talented Sommelier try it who also didn’t think it was a Chardonnay after several sips – goes to show the experts are sometimes as challenged as a novice when it comes to blind tastings) The other 2 bottles were reds and I figured I would just enjoy the wine and not try so hard and guess what?  I got them both right.

Jacob’s Creek Wines

Today I received a letter from the wine maker, Bernard Hickin of Jacob’s Creek thanking me for my participation (no thanks needed – I had a ton of fun). He revealed the 3 wines I had tasted from 3 renowned Australian regions, Barossa, Coonawarra and Adelaide Hills.  Along with the letter I also received the same three bottles of wine, this time with the actual label you’ll find on the bottle when you buy it at the LCBO. Now I guess I’m just going to have to open up that Chardonnay again, close my eyes and just enjoy. If you’d like to try them as well, here’s a list of the three bottles:

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2011 (from Adelaide Hills, Australia) $14.95

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz 2009 (From the Barossa Valley, Australia)  $16.95

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Fromm Coonawarra, Australia) $16.95

 

The Mystery Continues – Box #2 Arrives

As with any good mystery it’s the anticipation of the next clue that gets you excited. If you’ve been following our stories you’ll be familiar with this one, but if not take a minute to go back and read the story I posted on September 10 about a challenge I’ve been invited to take called The Label Project.

Wine Delivery – Bottle #1

So last week I received another delivery at the office once again from “Sender Unknown”. Already eagerly awaiting this package I opened it to once again find a wooden wine box with the front marked The Label Project.

This time there was actually a bottle of wine inside along with a letter of instructions, 2 written wine clues pertaining to the wine varietal and regional location as to where the wine comes from.

Also inside were 3 small spray bottles each containing a different scent associated with that particular varietal.

Like any good detective I first inspected the bottle for any obvious clues and even though the front label revealed nothing there was a small label on the back that stated White Wine, Product of Australia.  Well that was easy…but what next?

Written Wine clue #1 stated the region lies between two other major and much older wine regions and it’s famous for its fruit produce including cherries, pears and apples.  So I’m going for South Australia as it lies between New South Wales and Western Australia even though New South Wales is also well-known for its fruit production.

The Three Aromas

Next I started with the 3 aromas – #1 was definitely citrus, #2 was peaches or nectarines and #3 smelled a lot like hazelnuts but since these are most likely synthetic aromas it was hard to tell, they could have been trying to emulate cat pee a scent closely associated with Sauvignon Blanc and since the wine was white this could be a possibility.

 

Comparing the Colour

Sometimes its easier to figure out what something is by knowing what it’s not. Upon pouring the wine into a glass and seeing it’s colour I also poured a glass of something I definitely knew was an oaked chardonnay and compared the two.  This definitely wasn’t an oaked Chardonnay, it had a pale straw colour with a silvery rim but what is it?

Next was the nose…it wasn’t very fruit forward so I’m thinking it’s a cool climate because a hot climate wine is usually very fruit forward.

The taste was crisp and fresh with a high acidity so I’m guessing it’s a Sauvignon Blanc from somewhere near Adelaide in South Australia but what do I know I’m totally guessing.  I figured it would go really well with the Cheese Fondue we were having for dinner so that’s how I enjoyed it.

Do you think you could guess a wine from these clues?  It’s easy to create a fun challenge like this for yourself and totally makes for a great dinner party game, just take a couple of bottles and don’t let them out of the bag…pour the wine and challenge yourself and your friends and remember don’t judge a wine by it’s label.

 

 

 

 

Now This Is Class

Our never-ending wine education sent us back to the classroom last week to learn about Chardonnay.  The event: the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Conference. The seminar: Extreme Winemaking 101.  Winemakers  from Niagara, BC, the Sonoma Coast, Australia, Burgundy, Argentina gathered to talk about the challenges of producing Chardonnay in often difficult conditions.

“We play Chardonnay the way a musician plays a Stradivarius to express the terroir,” said Jean Lupatelli of Decelle-Villa in Burgundy. But that symphony is often complicated.

“You’ve got to be cruel to be kind,” said Australian-born Craig McDonald who leads the wine-making team at Hillebrand Winery. He said over the past nine years there has been only one season with landmark conditions.

Cool Chardonnay

Still, there’s a reason Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world. And we got the chance to taste six of them.  Many of these wines  are not even available on the market yet.   While I have never been a card carrying member of the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) club,  I must admit it is not my go-to varietal. But I believe in keeping an open mind, and what an opportunity for a pair of novices like us to be exposed to the vast differences based on terroir and technique.  Both our favorites was the 2010 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Chardonnay , from the Sonoma  Coast. Its flawless finish is the product  of a big fault, the San Andreas fault line that created incredible  soil diversity.

The Chardonnay sampling didn’t stop there.  After class there was a luncheon where they set three bottles on each table, all different. Once you finished sampling yours, you could bottle-switch with other tables. Chardonnays from Jura, Burgundy, Prince Edward County, Oregon and many other regions were represented. I am happy to say my luncheon favourite was local. Vineland Estates Reserve 2009 was terrific. Citrusy and bright, crisp and well-balanced, it is a  perfect match for my summer playlist. It’s only available online and on site – so that means there’s another road trip in the near future!

Miso Glazed Pork Belly, Pineapple, Cilantro & Cucumber

The conference officially kicked off in the evening with the spectacular “Explore Your Senses Dinner” hosted at Jackson Triggs.  We met some of the 56 winemakers at various sampling stations and the evening’s menu consisted of Chardonnay-inspired dishes like Miso Glazed Pork Belly with Pineapple, Cilantro and Cucumber, Oysters with Peach Chardonnay Mignonette and other delicious dishes.   The end to a perfect evening came when  Canadian rockers,  The Arkells took the stage at the outdoor amphitheatre.  Going back to class has never been sweeter.