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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