Wild Air Sauvignon Blanc: one of South Africa's finest

wild air

I was really impressed by this South African Sauvignon. Available in the UK from agent Indigo Wines: retail is c £20 and stockists include The Sampler, Highbury Vintners. Vincognito, Handford and Honest Grapes.

Wild Air Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa
12.5% alcohol. Collaboration between Ben Henshaw of Indigo Wine and Hannes Storm. Grapes are from the Vrede vineyard in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Most of the vineyard is planted with Pinot Noir, but there is a small section of 20-year-old Sauvignon Blanc vines, growing on low-vigour, stony, clay-rich shale soils. Winemaking is hands-off, using a basket press, fermenting with natural yeasts, mostly in old 228-litre French oak and a small part in tank. The wine rests on the lees for 6 months and a quarter of it completes full malo. 1500 bottles filled. Really textural and fresh with nice weight to the lemony fruit with fine spices and a touch of grapefruit, as well as a hint of fennel. It’s a paradox of a wine with richness and freshness at the same time. Lovely acidity. 93/100

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Videos of Germany wine regions

I’ve just uploaded some short films from visits to German wine regions. It’s a very exciting time for German wine right now, and there are lots of interesting things being made, and not only Rieslings.

Karl H. Joyner, Baden:

Schnaitmann, Württemberg

Fürst, Franconia

Leitz, Rheingau

Gunderloch, Rheinhessen

Donnhoff, Nahe

Loosen, Mosel

Villa Wolf, Pfalz

Jean Stodden, Ahr

Lokoya, high-end Napa mountain Cabernets, with winemaker Chris Carpenter

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The WE Keyes vineyard in Howell Mountain 

Chris Carpenter, winemaker, introduced this tasting of the four Lokoya wines, after taking us for a quick tour of the beautiful WE Keyes Howell Mountain property that’s the source for one of them.

Lokoya is a ‘cult’ Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon label that is part of Jackson Family Wines. It began in 1995, and had its origins in Cardinale, Jackson Family’s high end Napa Cabernet that’s a blend now largely composed of mountain fruit. Cardinale had begun life as a high-end Sonoma blend that later became a Napa wine as the Jackson Family vineyard holdings expanded in the valley.

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Blending was intrinsic to the character of Cardinale, but Carpenter says that each year there were a couple of lots from mountain vineyards that stunned the winemaking team: they couldn’t get over how good they were, and didn’t want to just blend them away.

So they approached Jess Jackson, and he liked the idea of doing something high-end and terroir based. Lokoya was born, with Greg Upton as the winemaker. As well as the existing sites, new sources were found. The current range consists of a set of four different ‘single mountain’ 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines (initially, it also included a Rutherford Cabernet, that was dropped in 1998). Sadly, Upton was to die before the inaugural release: the 1995, in October 1998. He was succeeded by Marco DiGiulio in 1997, and in 2000 the current winemaker, Chris Carpenter, took over.

Initially the wine was made at the Pepi winery in Napa, which was the first foray into Napa by the Jacksons in 1994, but since late 2016 it has had its own winery in Spring Mountain.

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The sources:

  • Mount Veeder – William Hill Vineyard, purchased in 1994. 1800 feet altitude.
  • Howell Mountain – the WS Keyes vineyard, dating back to the 1880s. Purchased in 1995, 1800 feet altitude.
  • Diamond Mountain – four vineyards, first purchased in 1995. Rhyolite Ridge, Wallis Vineyard, Andrew Geoffrey and Reverie Vineyard. Elevation 1200-1800 feet.
  • Spring Mountain – the old Yverdon property (2100 feet), which is where the new Lokoya winery was opened in November 2016, Wurtele vineyard (1000 feet) and Spring Mountain Vineyard (1800 feet).

Carpenter uses an electronic sorter, and aims at doing wild yeast ferments, although some years, such as 2011, call for inoculation with cultured yeasts. He says he’s only had three stuck fermentations in recent years, and one year he had a lactobacillus bloom. Fortunately this was after lysozyme had become available, and so it was dealt with (an antibacterial enzyme).

The wines are all basket pressed, and he gets rid of the hard pressings. Carpenter uses microoxygenation during the vinification. The Lokoya wines spend two years in 100% new oak and are bottled unfined and unfiltered. They sell for $375 a bottle.

Lokoya Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Napa Valley, California
Comes from the Spring Mountain Vineyard. Vibrant and juicy with sweet berry and blackcurrant fruit, with a touch of cedar and fine spices. It’s really fresh, but also quite ripe, with some woody notes under the concentrated, primary fruit. There’s a slight hint of pine freshness on the finish. There’s a touch of warmth on the finish. Still primary and unformed but with lots of promise. 93/100

Lokoya Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Napa Valley, California
Sweetly aromatic with sweet blackcurrant and red berry fruit notes, as well as a hint of cedar. The palate shows lush, sweet fruit with some cedar spiciness, and a touch of minty freshness on the finish. It needs time to integrate the sweet oak. Quite grippy on the finish with a sweet fruit profile. Some potential here. 93/100

Lokoya Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Napa Valley, California
Concentrated and primary, with intense, structured black cherry, blackcurrant and raspberry fruit. There’s some freshness to the fruit, although it is still very sweet. This is primary and at the moment the structured, slightly drying tannins, the oak, and the ripe (but balanced) fruit are finding it hard to achieve any harmony, but there’s promise for the future. 94/100

Lokoya Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Napa Valley, California
Concentrated and intense, this is a tight-wound Cabernet with incredible structure and presence. It combines sweet red and black fruits with some intriguing dry tannins and cedary oak. There’s a really grippy, primary character to this wine. Dense and primary with lots of promise for the future. So tannic but with lots of fresh, sweet fruit, too. This could be brilliant in a decade. 94/100

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Tasting Eyrie, Oregon's Pinot pioneer, with Jason Lett

Jason Lett

Jason Lett

This week while I was in McMinnville I had a chance to taste through the Eyrie range with Jason Lett. Back in the mid-1960s Jason’s dad, David, planted the first Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the Willamette Valley, Oregon (there’s a bit of history, including pictures of the original plantings, here). Jason has been running things since 2005, and these are lovely wines, showing balance and restraint.

The Eyrie Vineyards Chasselas Doré 2016 Dundee Hills, Oregon
9.5% alcohol. Linear, fresh and stony with delightful fresh citrus and pear fruit. Until 2013 picked at normal alcohol levels and it was like oil. But picked green, it produces a lovely wine. Linear, stony, fresh and delicious. Just two long rows, making 80 cases a year. 89/100

The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris 2015 Dundee Hills, Oregon
4000 cases made: the real workhorse of the winery. Lovely richness here with some ripe apple and grape characters, as well as some lively spiciness, a hint of honey and some citrus spice notes. David Lett introduced Pinot Gris to the USA, from UC Davis. There were four plants and so we don’t know what modern clone it corresponds with. Lovely wine. 91/100

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The Eyrie Vineyards Original Vines Pinot Gris 2015 Dundee Hills, Oregon
From 1965 and 1974 plantings, made without sulfites. Very fresh and lively but also with some nice texture. Spicy and detailed with a really vital citrussy core, as well as some appley notes. Complex and spicy with lovely weight. Tangerine and lemons, with a lovely textural core to it. Such a distinctive, complex natural wine. 94/100

The Eyrie Vineyards Chardonnay 2015 Dundee Hills, Oregon
Restrained, textural and very fresh with a bit of lively citrus and pear fruit. Subtly nutty with a hint of apple and herb. Complex and finely spiced with nice weight and intensity. Some warmth on the finish. 93/100

The Eyrie Vineyards Original Vines Chardonnay 2014 Dundee Hills, Oregon
Rounded and textural with smooth, ripe apple and citrus fruit. Concentrated and textured with nice finesse. Great concentration, showing some texture, but also some lively citrus fruit on the finish. There’s an inherent richness to this wine. 93/100

The Eyrie Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016 Dundee Hills, Oregon
Primary and expressive with sweet cherry fruit and some citrus. Nice subtly creamy texture with a smooth mouth feel. Supple and fine. 88/100

The Eyrie Vineyards Trousseau 2015 Dundee Hills, Oregon
No added sulphites. Fine and sweetly fruited on the nose with black tea and fine herbs. The palate is fine and a bit herby with some spiciness. A bit mousy on the finish. Tastes very natural. Not massively mousy, but there’s a bit there. 88/100 

The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Meunier 2014 Dundee Hills, Oregon
1965 and 1979 plantings, with more of the latter. Fresh, fine, lively raspberry and red cherry fruit nose. Fine, nervy and expressive. Fresh red fruits palate with lovely green hints and a nice herby edge. Juicy and delicious. 92/100

The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir 2015 Willamette Valley, Oregon
3500 cases. Supple, fine and sweet with lovely fresh, expressive red cherry and plum fruit. Nice texture here, but also some freshness. Fine, juicy and lively. Drinkable with some seriousness. 93/100

eyrie pinot noir

The Eyrie Vineyards Sisters Pinot Noir 2014 Dundee Hills, Oregon
All of the single vineyards Pinot Noirs are fully destemmed and have 18% new oak. A blend of the two different parts of the vineyard: volcanic and sedimentary. Lifted aromatic sweet cherry fruit with subtle, spicy herbal hints. Lovely juiciness and structure with fine spicy notes. Has a spicy warmth on the finish. 93/100

The Eyrie Vineyards Outcrop Pinot Noir 2014 Dundee Hills, Oregon
250 feet high, with a mix of six different soils. Fine herbs on the nose with some sweet cherry and berry fruits. There’s some herby detail here, too. Expressive and quite spicy with a touch of wildness. Lovely fresh, slightly sappy edge. 93/100

The Eyrie Vineyards Roland Green Pinot Noir 2014 Dundee Hills, Oregon
This is 540-720 feet, with volcanic soils. Supple and expressive with a cedary, spicy edge to the juicy cherry and berry fruits. Has a lively fruit character with nicely grippy structure and real finesse. Lovely wine with fine tannic structure. 94/100

The Eyrie Vineyards Daphne Pinot Noir 2014 Dundee Hills, Oregon
At the top of the Dundee Hills at 775-890 feet. This has a lovely juicy purity to it, with fresh supple raspberry and cherry fruit. There’s some nice fruit sweetness here. Very linear and juicy with good purity. Linear and transparent with great acidity. 94/100

The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir Original Vines 2014 Dundee Hills, Oregon
1965-1974 plantings on mixed soils. There’s a savoury, cedary edge to this, with fine red cherries and plums. Fine grained and balanced with a juicy character. Stony and really cedary with lovely finesse. Subtle herby notes, too. A lovely, elegant wine that’s nicely expressive. 94/100

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The Eyrie Vineyards South Block Original Vines Pinot Noir 2013 Dundee Hills, Oregon
Finely aromatic nose with some tea, spice and herb notes. Beautifully expressive with a mellow black fruit character as well as some red cherry notes. Elegant and balanced with some warm herby notes as well as a seamless texture, with fine structure. Such an elegant wine. 95/100

south block pinot eyrie 1990

The Eyrie Vineyards South Block Original Vines Pinot Noir 1990 Dundee Hills, Oregon
So expressive and complex with a bit of spicy lift and beautifully complex, herb-tinged cherry and plum fruit. Beautifully stony and complex with a saline, spicy twist. Fine-grained with a warm spicy finish. This has lovely elegance and purity. Subtle meat and herb notes. Could age further. 95/100

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Some wine folk, Oregon and beyond, snapped this week

I’m leaving Oregon tonight after a very successful International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC). Over the course of the last four days, at the celebration and also today in Portland, I met quite a few wine folk. Here are some of them, captured on camera.

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Ehren Jordan, of Failla. Making beautifully balanced Californian wines, Ehren began his winemaking career with Jean-Luc Colombo in the Rhône, 25 years ago.   For a long time he was making wines with Turley, leaving in 2013 to concentrate on his own project that he’d been running on the side since 1998.

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Duncan Forsyth, of Mount Edward wines in Central Otago. Waving in a slightly threatening way. The Mount Edward wines are generous and elegant at the same time. As well as Pinot. there’s Riesling, Gamay and even Albariñ0, among others.

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Cyril Audoin of Domaine Charles Audoin in Marsannay, Burgundy.

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China Bize of Domaine Simone Bize in Savigny-les-Beaune, Burgundy.

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Chad Stock, making some original and compelling wines in Oregon from the likes of Trousseau Noir, Gruner Veltliner and Pinots Noir and Gris.

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Jason Lett, of Domaine Eyrie. One of the Oregon greats.

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Jean-Nicolas Meo of famed Burgundy domaine Meo Camuzet, and lately of Nicolas-Jay in Oregon. Very stylish wines.

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Jim Clenenden of Au Bon Climat, pioneers of balanced, age worthy Pinot and Chardonnay from California’s central coast. As profiled here recently.

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Josh Bergström. Maker of very interesting biodynamically farmed Oregon wine. He has a wife from Beaune!

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Gramercy Tavern (NY) sommelier Justin Timsit.

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Kate Norris, who together with Thomas Monroe runs the Division Wine Company in Portland, fashioning interesting wines from Oregon and Washington State.

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Andrew Beckham of Beckham Estate, an Oregon winery specialising in making wines fermented and aged in terracotta amphorae. Andrew is a ceramics teacher who now produces wine amphorae professionally.

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Rajat Parr, the dude. Sandhi, Domaine de la Côte and Evening Land. All exceptional.

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Janie Brooks-Hueck of Brooks, who make superb Riesling and Pinot Noir, with several bottlings of each every vintage. The views from their winery tasting room are some of the best in Oregon, too.

 

 

Blending Pinot Noir clones

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During the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon, one of the events is a vineyard visit. The delegates are split into groups and each visits a different vineyard. Our group went to Willakenzie in Yamhill-Carlton.

During the visit we went to the cellar for a fun exercise. We were given three cask samples of the 2016 vintage Pinot Noir, each made from different clones. Our job was to taste them, then make our own blends.

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First, 115. This was more bony and structured with nice freshness and brightness. Not so much upfront fruit character, but nice weight and focus.

Then 667. This, on its own, was the most complete of the wines. It was generous and balanced with sweet black fruits, some richness and good texture. Very stylish even at this early stage.

And 777. This is rich and fruit driven. Perhaps a little simple, but with some depth and sweetness. There’s a hint of cola character here, also.

So how do I choose what my blend is? I asked some advice.

‘Where do you want a wine to be?’ asks Willakenzie winemaker Eric Kramer. ‘You can go down the rabbit hole. Have a pretty clear vision and build to it.’

So what’s my goal? I want to make a wine that’s got some structure, but also finesse and elegance. I want something that’s going to develop in bottle, so it can’t give everything away straight away: it can’t just be about pretty sweet fruit.

So I start with a base of 115, and then add 667. I settle on 60:40 115 to 667. It’s quite grippy but there’s some flesh on the bones.

And to compare, 75% 667 and 25% 115. This is fleshier and more generous, but also has a bit of structure.

I decide to leave 777 out altogether, because I don’t think it brings anything to the party, and will just dilute the personality of the wine.

Which is the right blend? It’s hard to say. Only time will tell, and I suspect that there are many good blends, rather than one perfect one. But winemaking consultants, I’m sure, quite like the idea that the perfect blend is out there, and requires a stroke of genius to find.

Ultimately, if you start with great wines, then it’s hard to really mess up. But, still, there is an art to blending.

Tasting the debut (2000) wines from Quinta de Chocapalha, Lisboa, Portugal

chocapalha

It was a real treat to try the first two wines made from this domaine. Back in 2002 I attended a dinner in the Douro at which several winemakers gathered to present their work. At the time, Sanrda Tavares was the winemaker at Quinta do Vale D Maria, working alongside Cristiano van Zeller. She brought along a wine from her family’s property, which she also made: Chocapalha. This was the debut vintage of the Reserva, and I really liked it. Now, 15 years later on a visit to the domaine, I got to try this wine again, and also the regular Tinto from the debut year. Both were in really good shape, and drinking beautifully.

Quinta de Chocapalha Tinto 2000 Estremadura, Portugal
This was a blend of Castelão, Trincadeira, Camarate and Alicante. 12.5% alcohol. Sappy with some iodine and a bit of spice on the nose. Very elegant, showing some evolution, but this wine has also preserved its cherry and plum fruit well. Such lovely drinking now: elegant, fine, digestible, midweight and fine. 93/100

Quinta de Chocapalha Reserva 2000 Estremadura, Portugal
Varietal Touriga Nacional. Fine, leafy, earthy and gravelly on the nose with lovely inviting aromas of black cherries and plums, as well as some fine green notes. There are hints of mint, herbs and spice. The palate has lovely density and shows grippy, herb-tinged spice and black cherries, with some plums and fine herbs. Complex and nicely dense, this has aged beautifully. 94/100

i4C - more interesting Chardonnays from Canada and beyond

i4c chardonnay

Here are some more notes on Chardonnays tasted at the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Symposium (i4C). Many are from Ontario, but there are also wines from other parts of Canada, and a few from other countries, too.

Joie En Famille Reserve Chardonnay 2015 Okanagan Valley, Canada
Ripe, sweetly fruited and nicely textured with pear and ripe apple, and nice sweet fruit. Lively with some nice spiciness. 90/100

Malivoire Moire Chardonnay 2014 Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada 
Sweet, supple and textured with lush pear fruit and some apple notes. Nice weight and richness here with a smooth, fine-grained texture and a soft mid-palate. 89/100

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Hidden Bench Felseck Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada
This block was planted in 1992, and 2014 saw low yields. It’s planted in an east/west direction which seems to retain more acidity. Fruity, fresh and textural with subtle spice, grapefruit and pear notes. Nice weight. 92/100

Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Ripe, smooth, textured and quite soft with nice weight of fruit. Has peach and pear notes with a sweetness to the finish. Expressive and broad. 90/100

Westcott Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2016 Vinemount Ridge, Niagara, Canada
Fresh and detailed, this is quite delicious with some bright tangerine and pear notes alongside some richer white peach characters. Fresh with a fine spiciness on the finish. Very attractive, showing nice focus. 91/100

Southbrook Poetica Chardonnay 2013 Four Mile Creek, Niagara, Canada
Very sweet and lively with peach and pear fruit and some sweet baked apple notes, as well as a lively spiciness. Very attractive with richness but also balance. Hints of honey and pineapple. Very bold in style. 90/100

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Coteau Rougemont Chardonnay La Côte 2015 Quebec, Canada
This is exceptional considering that it comes from Quebec, which is properly marginal for winegrowing. It’s from soils that consist mostly of pebbles of various sizes, which heat up fast and then protect from spring frosts, while encouraging ripening in this brief growing season. Very fresh with nice per, white peach fruit and real finesse. Balanced and with fine acidity, showing lovely weight. Ripe yet balanced. 91/100

Adamo Oaked Chardonnay Willms Vineyard 2014 Niagara on the Lake, Canada
Fresh and herby with some appley, lemony fruit. A crisp style with good acidity and fresh, green-tinged notes. Lovely freshness. Intriguing style. 90/100

13th Street Chardonnay June’s Vineyard 2015 Creek Shores, Niagara, Canada
100% stainless steel ferment. Lovely fruit focus to this wine, with some tangerine and pear. Bright with a fresh stony finish. Very clean and pure. 90/100

Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay 2015 Margaret River, Australia
Really fresh an intense with bright grapefruit, lemon and herb notes. Keen, nervy acidity and a hint of greenness. Intense and incredibly fresh, but a little unripe? Has great acidity. 90/100

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Marcel Cabelier Cremant de Jura Brut 2014 France
Organic. Fresh and pithy with vivid citrus notes, and a hint of sweetness on the finish. Juicy and lively. Clean with good focus. 89/100

Tawse Robyn’s Block Chardonnay 2013 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
Lovely focus to this wine which shows intense citrus fruit with some grapefruit pith and subtle herby notes, backed up by good acidity. Pear and apple richness on the mid-palate. Very stylish. 92/100

Ravine Reserve Chardonnay 2014 St David’s Bench, Niagara, Canada
Concentrated and intense with bold, rich peach and pear fruit. Spicy and intense with lovely weight to it. A rich, taut, compact pithy, intense wine with good concentration. Needs a bit of time. 91/100

Trail Estates Chardonnay 2015 Niagara, Canada
This is 40% from Foxcroft vineyard. Oxidative juice handling and wild ferment. Nice weight of pear and peach fruit with some citrus brightess. Lovely flavour and depth with a subtle waxy edge. 91/100

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De Loach Stubbs Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 Petaluma Gap, Marin County, Sonoma, California
There’s a freshness to this wine. It’s supple and fine grained with pear and citrus fruit, showing good balance. Refined and fruit-driven with good acidity. 93/100

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Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catherine Blanc de Blancs Carte Blanche 2012 Short Hills Bench, Niagara, Canada
Henry of Pelham make really good fizz, and this is lively, fresh and clean with crisp citrus fruit and a bit of pear richness. Crisp and focused. 90/100

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Queylus Reserve Chardonnay 2015 Niagara, Canada
This is a barrel selection, and spends 18 months in oak. Lovely stuff with nice fine texture and compact pear and white peach fruit. Balanced with weight and purity. 93/100
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i4C cool climate Chardonnay conference, some highlights

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If you are going to have a conference on a single white grape variety, from a drinking point of view, Chardonnay is probably the best choice. Over the weekend at the i4C we tasted and drank a lot of Chardonnay. These are some of the highlights.

Tara Atacama White Wine 1 2014 Atacama Valley, Chile
Wild yeast, unfiltered, 13% alcohol. Complex and spicy with a slightly mealy edge to the rich pear, grapefruit and lemon notes. Manages to be fresh and rich at the same time with tingling, mineral acidity and lovely weight in the mouth. Complex, vital and appealing. Serious effort. 94/100

Bachelder Wismer Foxcroft Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
Great concentration and freshness here with textured, lively citrus fruit and a nervy, mineralic, acid core. Juicy and supple with lots of complexity and subtle apple and pear richness. 94/100

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Westcott Vineyards Lenko Old Vine Chardonnay 2014 Beamsville Bench, Niagara
12.8% alcohol. There’s lovely freshness and detail here with juicy grapefruit, lemon and pear notes. Finely spiced and with a linear, mineral core, this has complexity and poise. Fresh and complex with lovely balance and intensity. 94/100

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Thirty Bench Small Lot Chardonnay 2015 Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada
13.6% alcohol. This has lovely freshness with some pear, grapefruit and citrus pith. Has some melony mid-palate richness. Lovely balance here. 91/100

Domaine de Montperthuis Chablis Vieilles Vignes Les Malantes 2014 Burgundy, France
Taut and dense with a lovely pithy, mineral core to the citrus and pear fruit. Juicy and focused with nice intensity. There’s a density to this compact, linear wine that’s really appealing. 93/100

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Scribe Skin Fermented Chardonnay 2015 Carneros, California
Concentrated and ripe but with nice structure. Orange peel, marmalade and citrus here with a lovely herbal twist. Distinctive and bold with nice focus and acid, and a bit of tannic grip here, too. 93/100

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Pearl Morissette Chardonnay Cuvee Dix Neuvieme 2014 Niagara, Canada
Delicate nose with some lovely apple, pear and nut characters, as well as some herbs and citrus peel. The palate is very appealing with an open, slightly oxidative character. Lovely texture with nice citrus drive under the ripe appley fruit. Very appealing and textural. 94/100

Norman Hardie Chardonnay 2014 Prince Edward County, Canada
Bright and focused with sweet citrus fruit at its core. Very linear and intense with a pithy edge to the tight fruit. Currently really dense and compact, but everything is there for this to be fabulous. Lovely herb-tinged, pithy citrus notes. Great acidity and structure: needs time. 94/100

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i4C school of cool part 2, winemaking and Chardonnay

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Earlier I reported on session 1 of School of Cool, part of the 2017 international cool climate Chardonnay celebration here in Niagara, Canada. Session 2 delved into winemaking decisions with Chardonnay. Winemakers on the panel discussed their winemaking choices and how these were reached, and what the effect on the wine is.

These included Adam Mariani of Scribe winery in California, who uses concrete eggs and skin contact. Then Francois Morrisette of Pearl Morrisette, who described how he uses long press cycles of 4.5 h with no sedimenting. His goal is to oxidise the must but not wine, so the must is left in the press tray to brown. It’s then blended and goes straight to fermenting vessels. In 2014, a delicate vintage, it went to foudres and spent 15 months on primary lees. And we had Norm Hardie, who emphasized the importance of juice solids. He uses no sulfur at juice stage and ferments with indigenous yeasts. He waits four or five days after pressing for the chilled juice to settle, and then slowly siphons down until he gets to the haze. Then he takes the solids until he gets to the danger zone. Norm has horizontal dairy tanks for fermenting, which is important when the solids are being used. The soilds to juice ratio is much higher and the tanks are equipped with stirrers so when the fermentation starts he can mix up the solids. With these horizontal tanks you can smell what’s going on really easily, and if it’s too reductive you can pick it up early and rack off. You can recover well if you spot it early. But he emphasized that you have to move quickly once you see it turning. And there was also Gregory Viennois from Laroche in Chablis. He emphasized that the soil is the important thing for him, and Laroche work the soils and send 35 people a day into the vineyards. In the cellar the fruit is 100% hand harvested, he sorts the grapes, and uses a small press with each block kept separate. There are small vats for natural decantation, keeping the mineral components from the skin. The wines are fermented in an old cellar with natural temperatue control.

These wines were all tasted blind, and we were asked to try to match the wine with the winemaker, using Sli.do. It was tough, but the audience performance was better than chance. These are my notes on the wines, written blind and not altered later.

Joie Farm Unoaked Chardonnay 2016 Okanagan, Canada
Appley and nutty with nice lemon notes, good acidity and subtle oxidative notes. Lovely texture and length here. Distinctive stuff with lovely personality. 93/100

Trail Estate Chardonnay Unfiltered 2015 Prince Edward County, Canada
Toasty, a bit nutty, nice appley notes. Lively and quite spicy with a subtle toasty edge and ripe apple and pear notes, as well as a bit of citrus. Supple and fine 92/1oo

Norman Hardie County Chardonnay 2014 Prince Edward County, Canada
Powerful and intense with lovely concentration and depth. There’s some apple and spice, with lovely citrus freshness. Very lively and exotic, but also really fresh. Ripe tangerine and melon hints add interest. A complete, mouth-filling wine with lots of personality. 94/100 

Domaine Laroche Chablis 1er Cru Les Vaudevey 2014 Burgundy, France
Open and fruit-driven with lovely pear and white peach notes, as well as some citrus brightness. Subtle herbal hints, too. Nice weight and focus to this wine. 92/100

Invivo Gisborne Chardonnay 2016 New Zealand
Ripe and open with lovely dense, sweet pear and grapefruit characters with some hints of marmalade and pineapple. Ripe yet balanced with nice sweet fruit character. 90/100

Scribe Skin Fermented Chardonnay 2015 Carneros, California
Concentrated and ripe but with nice structure. Orange peel, marmalade and citrus here with a lovely herbal twist. Distinctive and bold with nice focus and acid, and a bit of tannic grip here, too. 93/100

Pearl Morissette Chardonnay Cuvee Dix Neuvieme 2014 Niagara, Canada
Delicate nose with some lovely apple, pear and nut characters, as well as some herbs and citrus peel. The palate is very appealing with an open, slightly oxidative character. Lovely texture with nice citrus drive under the ripe appley fruit. Very appealing and textural. 94/100 

Torres Milmanda Chardonnay 2014 Catalunya, Spain
Very appealing texture to this wine, with smooth, ripe pear and peach fruit. There’s some melony richness, with a lovely fruit core to this wine. Smooth and fine with nice purity. Fine-grained. 91/100

Ravine Reserve Chardonnay 2014 St Davids Bench, Niagara, Canada
There’s a lovely matchstick minerality to this wine. It’s very fine-grained and detailed with good acidity and lovely citrus fruit, with just a hint of pineapple richness. Lovely balance and complexity here. Quite profound. 95/100

Chamisal Chamise Chardonnay 2014 Edna Valley, California
Sweet and fruity with nice pear, white peach and citrus fruit. Generous but not overblown with good acidity. Nicely focused with a hint of spiciness on the finish. 90/100

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