The Niagara wine industry was alive with love of Chardonnay for the second annual International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration this past weekend. Affectionately known as i4C, this event drew in winemakers from across the globe to pour their cool climate Chardonnays alongside the proud winemakers of Ontario. A pride full weekend can be considered a great success to both the organizing team and the Ontario wine industry as a whole.
The weekend was full of events hosted at individual wineries and featuring the wines of many at each table. A portion of these events were lunches that featured esteemed local chefs and their culinary creations designed to highlight the nuances of the impressive bottles that graced the tables. Other events were hosted by Brock University and featured panels of expert winemakers discussing their techniques based on their varying locations. And while each event had significant buzz surrounding it, the most anticipated of the weekend was the Cool Chardonnay World Tour Tasting and “Beyond the Barrel” Dinner.
This tasting is the largest of the event series and featured of all of the wineries and Chardonnays that had been poured throughout the weekend. 58 wineries, 110 Chardonnays, and wine lovers aplenty overtook the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre for an outdoor celebration of the fruit of the vine. The first portion of the event was a walk about tasting where guests were invited to visit with the winery representatives (most often the winemaker) and learn about their labour of love. Amongst the most discussed of the weekend was the Ayala Champagne, a 2002 with 9 years sur lie; a treat for all who indulged. Niagara wineries were well represented at an impressive 23 in attendance, not to mention the Prince Edward County wineries that also showcased their Ontario grown and vinified portfolios. Most exciting was the equal acclaim for local and international wines, with Chardonnays pouring and wine critics tasting it was evident that the Niagara industry makes impressive Chardonnay that is fit to be served alongside the international heavy hitters.
The second half of the event was the “Beyond the Barrel” Dinner and the title is indicative of the fact that winemakers were the creative minds behind the evening’s gastronomy. The overseeing gourmet experts were the team from Wellington Court Café who worked with Ontario winemakers to create dishes that would pair perfectly with cool climate Chardonnay. There were pork tacos, trout, lobster rigatoni, and more. Each bite designed to compliment one of the many bottles that graced the tables. A decadent experience matched by overwhelming enthusiasm from all involved.
The wines shone, and while winemakers beamed with pride, each Niagaran should wear a smile this week as a continued celebration of the success of this event. This was not a success for the wine industry exclusively; this was a success in showcasing the beautiful corner of the world that we call home, and the bounty that we avail of living here.