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Beppi Crosariol’s wine reviews: Reward yourself with these buttery chardonnays Add to ...

If you’re into the geeky twilight zone of wine, you may be aware of the Summer of Riesling. It’s a global campaign launched in 2008 by ex-Torontonian Paul Grieco of New York’s Hearth Restaurant and Terroir Wine Bars in New York. Grieco loves riesling, the zesty and sometimes sweet noble white grape.

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So much for summer. These past four months for me will go down as the Winter of Chardonnay. I have been craving the full-bodied white (sorry, zippy riesling). Rich, round, buttery-toasty chardonnay is the great white for the Great White North, at least in winter.

Here’s my reason for the intense devotion of late: my driveway. It’s long and unfortunately too narrow for a hired-gun snowplow. Ever had to clear an Athabasca-Glacier-sized field of ice and snow each week without the advantage of, say, the Toro Power Max HD 1128 OXO ElectriStart Snow Blower (which I just spotted in a flyer and intend to buy this spring when it’s discounted from the winter-high price of $2,500)?

A couple of nights a week I’ve been entering the house from manual-plowing duty with a thirst for something gusty and warm. You might think whisky. But I’m sweaty and panting, in need of brisk refreshment. In principle, I would not turn down hearty beer, especially not a bracing pale ale or rich stout. Problem is, dinner will be on the table and gut-filling beer is not my stomach’s idea of the ideal aperitif.

Two of the better chardonnays I sampled over the past couple of weeks happen to come from our land of snow. Bachelder Wismer Vineyard from Niagara is not cheap at almost $45. But I’d say it’s not overpriced given the competition from the United States, Burgundy and beyond. It also happens to be made by Thomas Bachelder, a Canadian who crafts chardonnays in Oregon and Burgundy. Another Niagara star: G. Marquis The Silver Line Chardonnay. It’s a high-end brand from the successful direct-sales specialist Magnotta, headquartered in the Toronto suburb of Vaughan. And at $17.95, the G. Marquis won’t cut drastically into my savings toward that Toro Power Max. Thank you, Magnotta.

Bachelder Wismer Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 (Ontario)

SCORE: 93 PRICE: $44.95

This wine has been getting better since I tasted it last summer – or maybe I just love it more in winter. I scored it 92 in July and now I think it merits 93. The oak is beautifully integrated into its tropical fruit, butter and baked-apple core. And a glorious roasted-nut quality is beginning to emerge, as often occurs with the finest white Burgundies, against which I would compare this fine Canadian white. There’s brown butter on the finish for added depth and wintry appeal. Available in Ontario.

Kistler McCrea Vineyard Athearn Estate Chardonnay 2011 (California)

SCORE: 93 PRICE: $97.95

You may balk at the price if you are like most people who earn less than the gross domestic product of a Balkan republic. But this is the sort of stuff white-wine zealots prize, a bottling with a track record for improving with, say, up to eight years in the cellar. Kistler’s McCrea Vineyard is medium-full bodied, with a delectable core of tropical fruit, cold butter, vanilla and flowers. If you give it time to speak, you might detect a faintly toasty impression on the upper palate and nasal cavity and a stony-smoky finish. Available in Ontario.

G. Marquis The Silver Line Chardonnay 2011 (Ontario)

SCORE: 91 PRICE: $17.95

Gabe Magnotta, the late and distinguished Ontario-wine entrepreneur, shares initials with this premium spinoff label, launched by Magnotta winery a few years ago. The Silver Line chardonnay represents excellent value the money. Like the Bachelder above, it puts me in mind of Burgundy, and that’s always a good thing. Full-bodied, it displays notes of buttered popcorn, caramel and vanilla on a well-balanced frame kicked up by toasty oak and fresh acidity. Distributed in Alberta by Bacchus.

Domaine du Chardonnay Vaillons Chablis Premier Cru 2010 (France)

SCORE: 91 PRICE: $29.95

Chablis is the northern satellite region of Burgundy, the world’s chardonnay capital. It’s also associated with the most vibrant, refreshing chardonnays anywhere. This high-end premier cru happens to be silky with chewy, candied fruit. Available in Ontario.

Marchand Tawse Meursault 2011 (France)

SCORE: 91 PRICE: $66.95

Meursault-on-a-diet, this mid-weight chardonnay dishes up chewy, tropical fruit lightened by lime zest and crisp acidity, with a nuance of buttered popcorn in the background. From the team of Niagara’s Moray Tawse and Pascal Marchand, ex-Montreal wine-making star in Burgundy. Available in Ontario.

Joseph Drouhin Mâcon-Villages 2012 (France)

SCORE: 89 PRICE: $17.95

Smooth for white Burgundy and a relative value, it’s mediumbodied, with soft pear and tropical fruit laced with butterscotch and framed by clean acidity. Imported in Alberta by Pacific Wine & Spirits.

Simi Russian River Valley Reserve Chardonnay 2011 (California)

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $31.95

The Simi reserve is unapologetically Californian, with a full body and round, rich, ripe fruit wrapped in toffee and no shortage of vanilla. That will no doubt make it appealing to many consumers, though it’s a whisper on the heavy side for my ideal chardonnay experience. Available in Ontario.

Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2012 (California)

SCORE: 89 PRICE: $16.96

Here’s a well-crafted chardonnay – full-bodied, round and smooth – in the classically ample California style. Red apple, tropical fruit and vanilla get support from butter and fresh acidity. $18.99 in B.C., $15.60 in Manitoba and $19.65 in Quebec.

Follow me on Twitter: @Beppi_Crosariol

The Flavour Principle, by Lucy Waverman and Beppi Crosariol, was named best Canadian Food & Drinks Book in the 2014 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. Published by HarperCollins.

Follow on Twitter: @Beppi_Crosariol

 

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