Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES July 11th, 2020

Ten cool years of chardonnay kicks off this weekend, eight groovy examples, a Barolo primer and top critics’ picks from the past weekend’s VINTAGES release

by Michael Godel with notes from David Lawrason, John Szabo M.S. and Sara d’Amato

Beginning this Friday there will be events playing on Zoom screens across Ontario, throughout Canada and in fact, around the globe. There will be wine tastings, educational seminars and breezy cocktail hours all virtually orchestrated to include winemakers, producers, sommeliers and wine critics, all talking about one grape variety at the core and the crux of cool-climate viticulture. The weekend long fest, affectionately known as “i4c”, brings the wine community close together, perennially cementing the bonds that really tie the varietal room together. Though the 2020 edition of the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration gatherings will be virtual in 2020, they will by no means lose their lustre, their significance or their chardonnay shine.


This preview marks my eighth year writing about i4c and believe me when I tell you I’ve waxed prodigiously on about this wondrous subject. Some of the monikers, titles and terms of endearment I have given the annual Niagara event have included “The meaning of Chardonnay: You’ve gotta be cool to be kind,”‘I4C’ a future filled with Chardonnay,”Can chardonnay get any cooler?, and “You’ve gotta be cool to be kind. Have we not all been contemplating the axiom of chardonnay continuing to make its own new set of rules, putting its best foot forward? Yes chardonnay is always on our minds, especially here in Ontario and so we feel the progression continuously dovetailing towards the cool and the ethereal.

In a way i4c feels like the prodigal child of the local wine industry and we wait for the homecoming every July. Change and adjustment has infiltrated all of our lives and so the concierge team and Wine Country Ontario are taking i4C online from July 17-19. You can get right into the cool spirit by joining in at 11:00am on Friday July 17, 2020 virtually for the #i4CAtHome School of Cool Homeschool Edition, presented by VQA Wines of Ontario, the Wine Marketing Association of Ontario and the Grape Growers of Ontario. The online presentation will feature Andrew Jefford, Columnist at Decanter and World of Fine Wine Magazine and Academic Advisor to the Wine Scholar Guild. Andrew will be joined by several of the i4C’s past keynote speakers in celebration of 10 Cool years of Chardonnay. This dynamic session will involve interviews with past keynotes, all acclaimed authors and wine writers from across the globe, including Matt Kramer (2011 and 2015 keynote), Ian D’Agata (2016 keynote) and Karen MacNeil (2017 keynote).

The afternoon session will be one of academics meeting market experience in a lively debate! Featuring a dynamic panel of multi-hat wearing Canadian industry professionals. Join John Szabo MS (Ontario), Treve Ring (BC), Brad Royale (Alberta) and Véronique Rivest (Québec) in a virtual debate about the various scientific and interpretive parameters of what it means to be cool. Featuring, and leveraging, the sensational Chardonnays of Chablis, New Zealand and Ontario, each panelist will be asked to defend, or condemn, one of the classic parameters of cool climates. Including, but not limited to, latitude, altitude, length of growing season, average temperatures, soil colour and temperature, and sunlight hours. Which is most important, and how should cool climate really be defined?

Click here to see the list of participating Ontario wineries

Click here to see the list of participating International wineries

Then on July 18 with “A Toast to VQA Cool Chardonnay” join WineAlign critics Michael Godel and John Szabo MS for a virtual, interactive Zoom tasting of top Ontario wines. Purchase your favourite cool VQA Chardonnay, gather your bubble, bring your burning wine questions, and tune in for a mostly fun, but accidentally educational cocktail hour featuring the world’s most planted fine wine white grape and a top performer in Ontario vineyards. We’re going to party like it’s 2020! (Virtually…) And finally, on July 18: An #i4CAtHome Cooking Challenge featuring Chardonnay-inspired recipes shared from some of Ontario’s most beloved wine country Chefs. Click here for recipes and contest details.

Switching varietal gears we slide over from chardonnay to nebbiolo for Michael’s report:Barolo DOCG previews and retrospectives: 2016, Riserva 2014, 2006 and 2004. This Barolo primer follows on the heels of last month’s WineAlign article, Barbaresco DOCG previews and retrospectives: 2017, Riserva 2015, 2007 and 2005. This time the talk is about Nebbiolo Prima being a sprint and a marathon wrapped into one. Who could not be made stronger, wiser and yet so humbled by having tasted through the experience. These notes reflect a highly personal experience, a connection to Piedmontese life, performing to others rhythms. The totality of these tasting notes cover Barolo DOCG 2016 (197), Riserva 2014 (6), 2006 (20) and Riserva 2004 (7), played to the tune of 230 reviews.

What’s in VINTAGES stores right now

As always, the WineAlign critics gather (while practicing social tasting guidelines) every two weeks to taste through as many VINTAGES release wines as we can get our hands on. Our unwavering commitment is to maintain the mandate of reviewing monopoly wines and by providing WineAlign readers with a four-poster assessment of the quality (or lack there-of) in the wines being pedalled to the Ontario consumer. This is how WineAlign came to be in the first place. The tasting and reviewing is our essential service and you can be sure we will get you the goods every two weeks.

The July 11th release feature is “Discover Old World classics and their New World contemporaries, plus cool-climate Chardonnays from here at home and abroad.” The sub theme is “Transplanted Classic and Contemporary Wines,” applesauce wording that reads like the lyrics of an Oasis song. Nevertheless the sub-text reads “Born and bred in Europe, some of the wine world’s best-known and best-loved grapes journeyed to faraway shores and set down roots, creating a new world of benchmark expressions.” So it’s got that going for it, which is nice.

David, John, Sara and I have compiled our picks for July 11th and i4c so here they are. Happy shopping to all, stay safe, adhere to provincial health guidelines, exercise common sense and above all else, stay cool.

Critics’ Picks – Whites

Tahbilk 2019 Marsanne, Nagambie Lakes, Central Victoria, Australia ($17.95)

Michael GodelOne of Australia’s great white wine hidden gems, a varietal Rhône-ish experience of great secrecy and sneaky structure. A marsanne of poise and great grape tannin, not to mention citrus taut and tight as a wire wrapped around a winch. Great purpose and spirit. Put one away for five years. Trust me.

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Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Michael’s Mix
Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Be sure to check out our latest Passport Series offering, destination California! John Szabo and Sara d’Amato launched their new podcast “D’Amato & Szabo: Wine Thieves” so check out the multi-part series focusing on Burgundy’s top values. The first podcast is D’Amato & Szabo: Wine Thieves – Episode 1: Bourgogne for a Changing World Part 1: Attractive Values of the “Bourgogne Plus”.

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Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.