Wines in Niagara offers “help” to choose Chardonnay Day wines

Presenting this many 90+ scored Ontario Chardonnays to choose from may not actually constitute “help,” leaving you with more stellar choices than you can cope with, but Rick VanSickle’s heart is in the right place! He narrowed down his list by focussing on only wines that he’s reviewed so far this year. Otherwise, we could be reading the list UNTIL Chardonnay Day! LOL

We’ve taken the liberty of repeating just the 95-point scores here, and no surprise, they are all from producers who are participating in #i4C23. But do read Rick’s full list with reviews here, as there are many more 2023 participants and #i4Calumni too.

Bachelder Grimsby Hillside Frontier Block Chardonnay 2020 ($50, 95 points) — Oh, boy, how good is this! There is such a defining perfumed note on the nose that always shows on the Frontier Block and then a savoury/flinty thing going on with fresh pear, yellow apple, lemon curd, toasty almonds, and spice. Winemaker Thomas Bachelder calls it “lacy” on the palate with a richly concentrated and textured profile that shows dense apple and pear fruits, a touch of zesty lemon, gunflint, salinity, pure and elegant spices, toasted almonds, and a ridiculously long and finessed finish. Chardonnay at its best here and will only get better in the cellar.

Hidden Bench Téte de Cuvée Chardonnay 2020 ($52, September release, 95 points) — The Téte de Cuvée is a barrel selection from the three estate vineyards that showcase the Beamsville Bench terroir. As it turns out, the 2020 vintage is all sourced from the Rosomel Vineyard, planted in 1976. The oak regime is 100% French with 17% new, 33% second fill, 17% third fill and the balance neutral wood for 16 months. The wine is bottled unfiltered and unfined. This is always among the top Chardonnays made in Ontario in any given vintage, and I love what the winemakers have done with this grand cru vineyard fruit in 2020. It has such a profound and enticing nose of yellow apples, lemon curd, flinty minerality, poached pear and toasty/nutty oak spice notes. It’s rich and vibrant on the palate with generous baked pear and apple tart, a creamy texture, flinty/stony minerality, and lemon preserves with a long, luxurious finish that benefits from racy acidity. A beautiful Chardonnay that will reward with 6+ years in the cellar.

Leaning Post Senchuk Vineyard Chardonnay 2019 ($50, 95 points) — A fascinating comparison to the wine above, as mentioned, only 800 metres away, and a far different expression. It spends 15 months in French oak, 35% new wood and the fruit is wild fermented and undergoes wild malo. There is uncanny florality on the nose of this wine, like a meadow of white blossoms and honeysuckle. It’s pretty, delicate and saline with underlying quince, pear, peach, lemon curd and soft oak spice notes. It’s rich, deeper, and more concentrated on the palate with enticing chalky/saline notes, ripe pear, lemon cream, peach tart, integrated spices, and a creamy texture that all leads to a luxurious and long finish with finesse and flair. A thing of beauty that will reward with time in the cellar for 5+ years.

Ravine Vineyard Vintage 2011 ($135, small quantities at the winery, 95 points) — The fruit for this traditionally-made 100% Blanc de Blanc Chardonnay sourced from the Twenty Mile Bench was hand-picked at 18.7 Brix and sat mostly undiscovered on its lees for 10 years before being found by winemaker Lydia Tomek and disgorged last November. A modest dosage was used, and the wine was finished at 1.7 g/l of RS, an extra dry style. The first 50 bottles are hand labelled with red ribbon and a wax imprint of Tomek’s thumb, the rest will have new labels once they arrive at the winery. It shows a light golden colour in the glass and a surprisingly robust bubble in the glass for a wine that has sat on its lees for a decade. The expressive nose is a complex and exciting array of toasty brioche, creamy pear, lemon tart, autolytic notes, roasted almonds and freshening saline notes. The vigorous bead on the palate lights up the pear/apple fruits, subtle flinty/stony notes, warm nutty/brioche, and bright citrus. The texture is rounded and creamy but benefits from a firm vein of acidity through a lifted and persistent finish. Just a beautifully aged, bone-dry sparkling wine and a rare treat for consumers. Can easily cellar for 5+ years for further development of tertiary notes.

Westcott Block 76 Chardonnay 2020 ($48, available later this year, 95 points) — Noticeably richer, but still that impressive flinty/saline note on the nose to go with ripe pear, bright lemon, subtle creamy notes, and fine oak spice. It has a creamy texture on the palate and robust stone fruits, lemon tart, underlying flinty notes, perfectly integrated spice, layers of pleasure and a firm vein of acidity guiding this beauty through the long, contemplative finish. A very fine Chardonnay that will reward with 5+ years in the cellar.

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Compiled by @coolchardonnay