PLAY­ING IT COOL IN NI­A­GARA

Week­end-long event is a gi­ant toast to Chardon­nay grown in more mod­er­ate cli­mates around the world

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - TIF­FANY MAYER

If you find your­self mut­ter­ing “Any­thing but Chardon­nay” when con­tem­plat­ing what to drink, 59 wine­mak­ers would like to have a word with you in Ni­a­gara next week­end.

They’ll be there, Chardon­nays from their re­spec­tive cor­ners of the globe in tow, to show you that per­haps you’ve had it wrong all this time. That when pro­duced in the right cli­mate — a cool cli­mate — one of the most pop­u­lar wines in the world is wor­thy of room in your Riedel.

They’ll be mak­ing their case one glass at a time at the Cool Cli­mate Chardon­nay Cel­e­bra­tion (a.k.a. i4C) July 21 to 23. It’s the sev­enth edi­tion of an event in­tended to be a gi­ant toast to Chardon­nay grown where the mer­cury’s rise is tem­pered by al­ti­tude, lat­i­tude, or a body of wa­ter.

i4C also serves as a mind-changer for those still cling­ing to the no­tion that Chardon­nay is noth­ing but over­wrought tip­ple best passed up. “On­tario grapes tend to get a bad rap in terms of the do­mes­tic wine in­dus­try and this shows our grapes and wines can stand up to in­ter­na­tional wines and hold their own,” said Stacey Mul­hol­land, i4C chair. “Es­pe­cially Chardon­nay.”

The week­end-long af­fair fea­tures plenty of op­por­tu­nity to hob­nob with wine­mak­ers from Canada, the U.S., north­ern Europe, New Zealand and Aus­tralia at events that mix ed­u­ca­tion with leisure.

The cu­rated se­lec­tion of On­tario, Cana­dian and In­ter­na­tional winer­ies in­cludes a few firsts this year, in­clud­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion by vint­ners from emerg­ing wine re­gions in Que­bec (Coteau Rouge­mont and Do­maine Saint-Jacques) and Uruguay (Fa­milia Traversa).

“The wines we’ll be tast­ing at i4C will be quite dis­tinc­tive,” Mul­hol­land said. “Chardon­nay can be grown ev­ery­where and it’s a true ex­pres­sion of ter­roir.”

The itin­er­ary kicks off Fri­day with The School of Cool, an in­dus­try-fo­cused viti­cul­tural, wine­mak­ing and net­work­ing ses­sion head­lined by wine ex­pert Karen MacNeil, who au­thored “The Wine Bi­ble.”

The flag­ship Flights of Chardon­nay, at the Ni­a­gara District Air­port in Ni­a­gara-on-the-Lake Fri­day evening, gives guests ac­cess to more than 60 Chardon­nays and a culi­nary mar­ket­place of­fer­ing the creations of some of Ni­a­gara’s top chefs. One caveat here: as of July 14 the orig­i­nal tick­ets were sold out; or­ga­niz­ers were work­ing to ac­com­mo­date those on the wait­ing list by open­ing more seats, weather per­mit­ting.

Satur­day fea­tures tast­ing and din­ing events at par­tic­i­pat­ing winer­ies through­out the re­gion. The day cul­mi­nates with the week­end’s sig­na­ture gala, Cool Chardon­nay World Tour and Din­ner on the pris­tine grounds of Ri­d­ley College. It’s a show­case of re­gional, sea­sonal fare along­side all the Chards poured over the week­end and more than 40 cool cli­mate red vin­tages, such as Pinot Noir, Caber­net Franc and Ga­may Noir.

Sun­day brings with it the laid back Move­able Feast brunch at Ravine Vine­yard in Ni­a­gara-on-the-Lake. Down the QEW in Beamsville, the in­au­gu­ral Brunch on the Bench at Red­stone of­fers a more for­mal three-course break­fast-lunch hy­brid paired with se­lected in­ter­na­tional Chardon­nays.

Tick­ets for the in­di­vid­ual events range from $25 to $150, en­sur­ing a fit with ev­ery oenophile’s bud­get.

Those at­tend­ing i4C events should keep notes about their favourite wines. And those who can’t make it at all can still get in on some of the ac­tion. The wines fea­tured at i4C will be avail­able for sale through the LCBO on­line (lcbo.com) from July 20 to Aug. 4. This will be the only op­por­tu­nity to buy many of the i4C vin­tages in Canada.

The Cool Cli­mate Chardon­nay Cel­e­bra­tion was founded by six Ni­a­gara wine­mak­ers af­ter a lo­cal Chardon­nay topped Bur­gun­dian and Cal­i­for­nian edi­tions at the il­lus­tri­ous Cel­lier Wine Awards in Mon­treal in 2009. They were de­ter­mined to show the world that Chardon­nay, and Ni­a­gara as a wine re­gion, were wor­thy of more se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion.

Eight years later, with 2,500 guests — many of them re­peat vis­i­tors — ex­pected to par­take in this year’s fes­tiv­i­ties, Mul­hol­land is cer­tain they’ve suc­ceeded.

“It reaf­firms what we al­ready know,” she said. “We make killer Chardon­nay ... It’s hav­ing the rest of the world ac­knowl­edge we make killer Chardon­nay here in On­tario, and they want to fly here to be part of the pro­gram.”

Visit coolchardon­nay.org for more in­for­ma­tion and to pur­chase tick­ets.

STEVEN ELPHICK & AS­SO­CIATES PHO­TOS, COUR­TESY OF THE IN­TER­NA­TIONAL COOL CLI­MATE CHARDON­NAY AS­SO­CI­A­TION

Last year’s Cool Chardon­nay World Tour Tast­ing and Din­ner at Ri­d­ley College in St. Catharines.

The School of Cool at White Oaks Re­sort and Spa, Ni­a­gara-on-the-Lake, last July. A walk-around in­dus­try tast­ing fol­lowed the sem­i­nar por­tion of the day.

Wine ex­pert and au­thor Karen MacNeil

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