Having just returned from the fabulous i4c (the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Conference) in Niagara, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about just how food-friendly and versatile the grape is when not hammered by crazy oak or over-ripeness.
Of the 100ish (!) that I tried over the weekend, the best brought balance, a theme given great importance right from the opening of Friday’s “The School of Cool” panel sessions moderated by John Szabo MS and featuring (among others) Tim Atkin MW, Christy Canterbury MW, as well as winemakers, producers and writers from Niagara, Tasmania, Okanagan Valley, California, Burgundy and more.
The balance spoken of was mostly regarding ripeness, acidity, and oak, and was on display over the weekend at the number of food-and-wine events throughout Niagara.
13th Street Winery hosted i4c attendees the Friday night at the Barrels & Bonfires event, which featured dozens of Chardonnays paired with dishes such as roasted suckling pig – smoked over burning Chardonnay barrel staves - as well as Chardonnay-smoked salmon, both made by PigOut Roasters. If you don’t feel like roasting a whole pig, try their Cubano pork tenderloin with mojo marinade.
Sides included a number of salads: toasted orzo pasta salad, potato salad with charred corn and buttermilk dressing, marinated vegetable salad, and a quinoa salad. (see links for suggestions for similar dishes)
The wines showed beautifully – especially 13th Street’s 2012 June’s Vineyard Chardonnay. With plenty of ripe apple, mineral, bright citrus and tropical fruit notes on the medium-bodied palate, the acidity on this un-oaked Chardonnay was kept well in check.
The next night’s event, the Cool Climate Chardonnay World Tour, was held outdoors at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, and featured a family-style setting where guests could pass around menu items while winemakers and export managers came around with their wines.
While I didn’t get a detailed list of ingredients in all the dishes, the wines I tasted paired beautifully with roast chicken, smoked trout, a spicy Moroccan carrot salad, a gorgeous tomato panzanella, duck cassoulet and more.
Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson paid his way through school hucking cases at wine shops. He's now the weekly wine columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press, and judges at wine competitions across the country. He Tweets & Instagrams @bensigurdson.