Friday night saw the official start of the i4c (international cool climate chardonnay conference). This was titled ‘8 chefs, 8 grills’ and was held at Hillebrand winery in Niagara.
The walk around tasting began well, in the early evening sunshine. But soon some epic thunderclouds rolled in, and before long we had to evacuate indoors. There was a Dunkirk spirit, tough, with winemakers setting up impromptu tasting stations, and some walking round actively pimping their wines to anyone interested.
I felt for the chefs, as the rain began to fall in earnest. Proper rain. Like standing in a power shower in your clothes. They improvised, and before too long food started to appear. And it was really good.
The tasting continued. We even went outside again, before a further bout of biblical deluge had us sprinting for safety. Then came the electrical storm, of a sort I have never experienced before.
We managed to get back to the hotel, only to find it was out of power. We still managed to get some drinks, and the evening continued in the semi-darkness. The blackout was to continue overnight and into Saturday.
THE WINES I TASTED
Lailey Chardonnay 2011 Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Very nice fruit: textured ripe apple, melon and pear notes. Rounded and smooth with lovely texture. Fruit driven style. 91/100
Stratus Chardonnay 2010 Niagara on the Lake, Canada
Richly textured melon and peach fruit. Very rich style: broad and soft with nice depth and some toastiness. It’s a big wine, and not my favourite style, but it’s done well. 90/100
Norman Hardie Niagara Chardonnay 2011 Niagara, Canada
Fresh with just a hint of matchstick. Lovely precision, showing focused apple and pear fruit. A really well balanced, complex wine. 93/100
Tawse Chardonnay 2011 Niagara, Canada
Fresh yet ripe apple and pear fruit. Lively and foucsed with some white peach richness. Good weight. 90/100
Peller Estates Sur Lie Chardonnay 2011 Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Very lively, exotic fruit. Grapes, citrus and unusual minty notes. Quite direct. 87/100
Cave Spring CSV Chardonnay 2008 Beamsville Bench, Canada
Rich and nutty with some toast, fig, pear and quince. Mealy, bold and with nice depth, in a rich style. 90/100
Hillebrand Oliveira Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 Lincoln Lakeshore, Canada
Nice depth here, showing pear, peach and spice. Nice depth: rich and figgy with nice weight and some spice. 88/100
Thomas Bachelder Wismer Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Lovely texture here: fresh but rich with pear, peach and some minerality. Rich but showing some richness here. 92/100
Le Clos Jordanne Chardonnay 2010 Niagara, Canada
Rich textured with appealing ripe pear fruit kept interesting by some spiciness. Bold, fine and showing good concentration. 92/100
13th Street Winery Sandstone Reserve Chardonnay 2011 Four Mile Creek, Canada
From 29 year old vines, with a little bit of musque in the vineyard. Jean Pierre Colas, winemaker here, arrived in 2000 from the head winemaker position in Laroche, Chablis. Fresh and subtly nutty with white peach and a hint of spice. Textured, rich and ripe, but showing good balance. 92/100
Flowers Chardonnay 2011 Sonoma Coast, California
Lovely fine, fresh Chardonnay with some rich fruitiness (pear and peach), but also lovely freshness, including some spice and grapefruit notes. Lovely balance. 93/100
Adelsheim Chardonnay 2011 Willamette Valley, Oregon
30% barrel fermented. Very fresh with apple, herb and citrus notes. Lovely freshness and a hint of pith and fennel. Good freshness and acidity. 92/100
Maison Roche de Bellane Rully Les Cloux 1er Cru 2011 Burgundy, France
20% new oak. Fresh with nice definition. Taut but with some richness, and citrus and pear fruit. Lovely balance and focus to this wine. 92/100
Malatinszky Siklósi Chardonnay 2009 Villany, Hungary
Lovely weight of pear, spice and peach. Nice weight with some citrus freshness. Ripe, dense and lively. 92/100
Staete Landt Josephine Chardonnay 2010 Marlborough, New Zealand
Fresh, lively and pure with pear and citrus notes, as well as some white peach, Very pure with good precision and potential for development. 92/100
La Grande Chatelaine Côtes de Beaune 2011 Burgundy, France
Attractive wine with rich fruity characters balanced by good acidity and some mineral qualities. Fine, expressive, fresh and mineral. 92/100
Carrick Bannockburn Chardonnay 2011 Central Otago, New Zealand
Rich textured, fine and fresh with apple and pear fruit. Pure, ripe yet fresh. Textured with subtle nuttiness. 91/100
Here’s a film of the event, including the storm: