Seriously now…Canada’s Chardonnays are Totally Cool!

The chardonnays of Canada are seriously cool. At least that’s what Bill Redelmeier of Southbrook Vineyards believes and he’s out to prove it to the world.  In 2010 he and his team created an event dubbed Seriously Cool Chardonnay that they test drove in London, England and now he’s taken on New York City.    The premise is that chardonnay is one of the varietals that is produced and vinified best all across the country.   How better to showcase the grape in all its vinous forms than to present an array of wines to the top wine writers on the planet?

As with the 2010 Food Day/Southbrook Canadian Wine Award, Redelmeier is clearly an inclusive thinker and so last year he rallied a group of  22 Ontario winery owners, challenged them to select their finest chardonnays and set off to London, England.  With a in impressive cadre of  40 selected wines, he and his team set off for Canada House on Trafalgar Square. Most wine writers from around the globe do not take Canadian chardonnay — or any other wine for that matter, seriously (hence the name).

The results were astounding although predictable.   Our best wines rock! With the blessing of writers like Jancis Robinson and Oz Clark, the seed was planted for this month’s SCC event in New York City.   Only this time  there were 54 chardonnays from 31 wineries including British Columbia. Among the top wine critics present were Bruce Sanderson of Wine Spectator, Joshua Greene of Wine & Spirits Magazine, Howard Goldberg of the New York Times and Jennifer Sedrow of Martha Stewart Living

The tasting went very well.New York wine critics are as tough as those in London but they reacted to the Canadian Chardonnays they tasted with surprise and delight,” commented Canadian wine writer and author, Tony Aspler, who attended the New York City tasting and headed the panel of judges selecting the top wines featured at the event. “What impressed them was the minerality and the fine acidity they discovered in the wines –a refreshing change from fruit-driven California Chards.”

And immediately the kudos began to appear!

  • Ed McCarthy, co-author of Wine for Dummies, remarked that he had not really explored the wines of Canada and was generally impressed with the Chardonnays he tasted. “This tasting makes me believe I have to explore Canadian wines more thoroughly. I am really glad I came today as this is an eye-opening experience,” he said.
  • Joshua Greene, editor of Wine & Spirits Magazine, commented on a few exciting wine discoveries that stood out for him at the tasting. “They were much more about the nature of the soil and about winemaking. That really appealed to me.”
  • Wine educator and author Harriet Lembeck, who had previously visited B.C.’s Okanagan wine region, found the tasting to be very valuable getting up-to-date information on what’s going on in Canada. “I was impressed then and even more impressed now having the chance to compare regions and terroir to be very enlightening.”
  • Tom Claire, associate managing editor of Ladies Home Journal, observed Canadians are putting a lot of thought, patience and talent into what they are producing. “I think there is incredible potential and looking forward to Canadian world-class success with these wines,” he added.

Redelmeier summed it up. “The atmosphere in the room was amazing: the camaraderie and excitement among the 50 winery personnel made all of the hard work put in by the many people worthwhile. We have put Canadian wine on the map both in the US and Canada!’’

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Chardonnay is the most widely produced VQA white wine in British Columbia, which has 144 VQA wineries in five wine growing regions – Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands. With 124 VQA wineries in Ontario, Chardonnay is the most widely produced VQA wine in Ontario in its four wine growing regions – Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore, Pelee Island and Prince Edward County.

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