Canada, Ontario Province, Various Wineries

Aug 1, 2011
2011 / August 2011
imagePillitteri Estates Winery

When it comes to climate, we bend to it; it does not bend to us — a fact wise vintners acknowledge. Warm climate? Don’t plant cool-climate grapes. They will ripen, they will make wine, but with too much sun and heat, many of their characteristic flavors will likely be muted.

Canada’s Ontario Province is a cool climate, and cool-climate grapes grown in cool-climate vineyards tend to be lighter, more aromatic, fruitier and with higher acidity than wines made in hotter climates. That is why the vintners of Ontario have chosen Chardonnay as their major grape. While Chardonnay is a rela­tively forgiving cool-climate grape and winemaking countries in various climates produce it, the results in warmer regions are mixed. In Ontario, however, Chardonnay is a story more of success than failure.

I recently sampled several Ontario Chardonnays. For people used to full-bodied, buttery, oaky Chardon­nays, these would be a surprise — a surprise I found welcome.

After Pillitteri Estates Winery’s Exclama­tion Cellar Series 2006 was barrel fermented, it spent nine more months in oak. Yet with its refreshing acidity, the wine showed more toast than wood in its aroma. It also had lovely fruit notes and a lingering finish.

Speck Family Reserve 2007, one of Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery’s two Char­donnays, has a spicy, slightly almond nose, fruity taste and long finish. Its other Char­donnay is Non-Oaked 2009 made, as its name says, without oak. Extremely pale in color, aromatic, fresh, clean and fruit-filled, it offers a novel Chardonnay experience.

Southbrook Vineyards showed three remarkably individual Chardonnays. Its 2008 Whimsy is made from the first harvest of the winery’s vineyard. The oak is well integrated into the wine; it also shows good fruit, espe­cially citric fruits, and a light creaminess in texture. Triomphe 2009’s balanced acidity makes it a lively wine with mouth-filling fla­vors and a long finish. Each vintage of Poetica honors a Canadian poet, whose verses are on the label; the 2003 shows both maturity and oak in its nose and more roundness and depth than fruit.

Prices range from $13 for the unoaked Chardonnay to $62 for Poetica, with most costing $22 to $35.

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