Ontario Wine Culture

i4C guests eagerly getting the first tastes of some of the world’s best cool climate Chardonnay. Michael Di Caro photo

This year’s i4C arrived just in time to gently nudge the summer of 2019 out of bed after it had been hammering the snooze button like it had a bad winter hangover. While it’s nearly a year until i4C returns, there’s plenty of Chardonnay to keep you cool, help you relive the memories and make some new ones. To make it easier this year you can order many of the i4C wines for delivery to your local store or home via the LCBO app. So with that in mind here are a few of our standout bottles to take you through until i4C 2020.

Malvoire winemaker Shiraz Mottair sharing a taste of the Moira vineyard and conversation. Michael Di Caro photo

Four i4C Wines from Abroad

2013 Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve (Nova Scotia, $74.95, LCBO# 275396)

These long-aged traditional method bubbles from Nova Scotia beat Champagne at its own game. Thanks to a cooler climate allowing flavours to ripen slowly over the vintage while still retaining those critical acids that make sparkling wine so refreshing. Beautiful floral peaches, pears and blanched almonds are delivered with elegant balanced tension between bubbles so tiny and creamy you’ll swear they spiked it with diary. Tying all that up is the crisp fresh finish of an East Coast summer sea breeze.

 

2016 Catena Zapata Alta Chardonnay (Argentina, $39.95, LCBO# 959973

This elegant take on Chardonnay is largely based on the winery’s top Adrianna vineyard at nearly 5,000 ft. above sea level. Floral white peaches and citrus mingle with spicy nutty apricot kernels that linger on the finish. But the show-stealer is its half-and-half cream texture that’s just on the right side of indulgent thanks to soft lively acidity that brings everything into harmony.

 

Echeverria Nina Brut Blanc de Blancs (Chile, $14.95, LCBO # 10023)

Made in the Charmat method like a Prosecco, this charmer of a sparkler is fresh, floral and bursting with lemon and lime zest leading to a crisp and sprightly gin and tonic finish. Like the oceanside views of the vineyards it’s grown from, this is a perfect partner for oysters. Thanks to its very affordable price tag there’s no need to save it for a special occasion.

 

2018 Domaine Laroche Saint Martin (Chablis, $26.05, LCBO# 289124)

An approachable introduction to modern Chablis that greets you with the peach and apricot you might expect in new world Chardonnay before delivering the region’s signature flinty, crushed oyster shell mineral finish. Tying it all together is a creamy texture and a latte-like weight thanks to five months aging on the lees and a balancing electric vein of cool climate acidity.

 

Four Ontario i4C Wines

2017 Rosehall Run JCR Rosehall Vineyard Chardonnay (Prince Edward County, $34.95, Winery)

Just like a walk through an orchard after a sun shower this Chardonnay is gorgeously aromatic with camomile, honeysuckle, golden apple, Forelle pear, and wild flower honey—it’s perfume-worthy and almost too pretty to taste. But you’ll be glad you did because what’s grounding those ethereal aromatics is an elegantly light and cotton-soft texture and the balanced tension of the signature crushed-limestone and bright freshness of the County.

 

Le Clos Jordanne winemaker Thomas Bachelder doing quality control on Le Grand Clos which was resurrected for i4C 2019. Michael Di Caro photo

2017 Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay (Niagara, $45, Winery available Nov. 23, 2019)

The legendary world-beater Niagara winery that bested the world’s top Chardonnays and inspired the first i4C, has returned from the dead and is ready to do it again. Lighting its path is original winemaker Thomas Bachelder, who cheekily quips that the only thing that has changed is both he and the vineyard have gotten older. But the earned wisdom of those extra vintages has produced a wine that’s fresh and taught with the excited tensions of a last first kiss. Like that budding relationship it’s still early days, but there’s oh so much promise. Pure Bartlett pear, fresh cream, and a limestone finish combine with structure provided by a velvety feel, satisfying bisque-like weight and a perfectly balanced bright, but soft, acidity. Welcome back Le Clos, zombie Chardonnay never tasted so good.

 

At this year’s i4C year Malivoire shared a pair of expressions of Chardonnay from the famed Moira vineyard to explore the affect of winemaking. Michael Di Caro photo

2017 Malivoire Moira Cat on the Bench Skin Chardonnay (Niagara, $49.95, Winery)

Part of a trio of Chardonnays from winemaker Shiraz Mottiar and his team exploring how different winemaking approaches affect the expression of a Moira Vineyard wine, this a very different but on-trend take on their flagship vineyard Chardonnay. The skin edition was treated a little more like a red wine fermenting on the grape skins in a concreate egg before being drained and finished in more typical white wine fashion under tight wraps in stainless steel. The result is a highly aromatic Chardonnay smelling and tasting like a peak-summer farmers’ market with peach blossom, tangerine, pineapple and honeydew melon. The signature Beamsville Bench freshness keeps things bright and balances all that fruit. But what makes this wine truly special is the way it can deliver the rich satisfying texture of a creamy cappuccino without feeling the least bit heavy. Perhaps there’s something to this hybrid best-of-both-worlds winemaking.

 

2017 Stratus Chardonnay Unfiltered and Bottled with Lees (Niagara, $48.20, LCBO# 383554)

From the whole foods are best school of winemaking this Chardonnay is bottled unfiltered and with its lees which acts as a natural preservative. So you can drink it now or hang on to it for a very special occasion. It has layers of flavour with apricot, yellow peach and cantaloupe that are complemented by fresh cream and contrasted with smoky flint and a tangy slightly-salty finish of yoghurt and peaches. But what’s really exciting here is the tension from the wine’s underlying bright fresh verve and that indulgently revitalising espresso crema texture. Harmony through perfectly taught balance and tension by the always learning and ever evolving J-L Groux who is always a step ahead.

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