What exactly is a cool climate Chardonnay? Which dishes are delicious with this style of Chardonnay? What’s the most important element for you to discover when tasting wine? Why did Chardonnay become so popular, then fall out of favour? What is the Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Brian Schmidt, Vice President and Winemaker at Vineland Estates Winery.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
- What are the hallmarks you would find in cool climate wine-producing regions?
- Why is “cool climate” being redefined?
- Which traditional cool climate wine regions would you be familiar with?
- Why shouldn’t you compare Niagara and Burgundy wines?
- How did Chardonnay rise in popularity since the “Anything But Chardonnay” times?
- Would you experience a difference in Chardonnay styles in recent years?
- Why would you prefer to pair a light versus a buttery white wine with food?
- How can you identify minerality?
- Which element of wine is the most important for you to identify?
- What type of experiences can you have at the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration?
- Are there certain dishes that you should try with cool climate Chardonnay?
- What was Brian’s most interesting cool climate Chardonnay experience?
- Brian gives us a great definition of cool climate Chardonnay being grown in wine regions that have 1000 to 1450 heat units during the growing season to give the freshest expression of the fruit. It’s also a combination of latitude and attitude. He draws some valid comparisons with Riesling, another cool-climate grape, that also undergoes a cool fermentation in stainless steel tanks rather than oak barrels.
- Chardonnay, much like Merlot, fell out of favour a decade ago with the Anything But Chardonnay backlash because it had become both too popular and too homogenous. But Chard is back baby, with a slim new profile and crisp style.
- Minerality in wine is more of a tingling texture than a taste, though it is often described as wet stone.
Start The Conversation: Click Below to Share These Wine Tips
About Brian Schmidt
For over two decades, winemaker, Brian Schmidt has faithfully served Vineland’s vineyards and cellars with a steady, farsighted view to promoting complete integration, natural synergies and reduced intervention. This holistic approach has resulted in specific tiers of wines that continue to voice a clear expression of time and place. Brian maintains, “It is critical to understand the soil and site where your grapes are grown while developing a defined, yet flexible frame to react to the curve balls that Mother Nature likes to throw.” Brian continues, “I do have an untamed passion for growing all cool climate varieties, but I must admit that I have a particular love for Riesling and Cabernet Franc.” On mentioning his recent award, he smiles broadly, locks eyes and says in a warm voice, “You do know that I have an entire team of creative and dedicated individuals behind me. The award is clearly the result of the efforts of a team of talented people at Vineland, all working towards a common goal. I was the fortunate one to be able to receive the award on their behalf.”
Brian Schmidt was born in Kelowna, British Columbia and was raised on a vineyard that had been in the family for three generations. The Schmidt family was one of the founding families of the Okanagan wine industry and this was the bedrock of Brian’s interest in winemaking. Brian has experimented, researched and has travelled extensively throughout Europe’s cool climate regions studying winemaking and the specific connections to the land. It is this intensive experience that has resulted in the creation of a winemaking style that has become Vineland Estates Winery’s signature.
Brian is most concerned with how the public receives and embraces Vineland’s wines but the wines have also garnered formal, national and international recognition. One notable achievement was the awarding of the 2003 VinItaly Grand Gold trophy as the highest-scoring winery in a field of over three thousand wines. This was the first time this trophy had ever been awarded outside of Europe. Brian humbly accepts the many honours but is quick to get back to the important business of building Vineland Estates’ reputation for wines that delight and engage by expressing the true essence of place.
- Connect with Brian
- My video interview with Brian which includes bonus content and behind-the-scenes questions and answers
- My CTV News Segment | 5 Best Wine and Holiday Movie Pairings
- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 7: Wine Confidential: An Insider Look at the Wine World with Bianca Bosker
- Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake Holiday Initiative | Taste the Season at Home
- Niagara-on-the-Lake Wineries Shipping Direct to Home
- Ontario Wineries Shipping Direct to Home
- Nova Scotia Wineries Shipping Direct to Home
- British Columbia Wineries Shipping Direct to Home
- Join me LIVE on Facebook every second Wednesday at 7pm Eastern
- My new class The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner And How To Fix Them Forever
Join me on Facebook Live Video
Join me on Facebook Live Video every second Wednesday at 7 pm eastern for a casual wine chat. Want to know when we go live?
Add this to your calendar:
Tag Me on Social
Tag me on social media if you enjoyed the episode:
- @nataliemaclean and @natdecants on Facebook
- @nataliemaclean on Twitter
- @nataliemacleanwine on Instagram
- @nataliemaclean on LinkedIn
- Email Me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thirsty for more?
- Sign up for my free online wine video class where I’ll walk you through The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner (and how to fix them forever!)
- Join me on Facebook Live Video every second Wednesday at 7 pm eastern for a casual wine chat.
- You’ll find my books here, including Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines and Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass.
- The new audio edition of Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is now available on Amazon.ca, Amazon.com and other country-specific Amazon sites; iTunes.ca, iTunes.com and other country-specific iTunes sites; Audible.ca and Audible.com.
Natalie MacLean 0:47
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places, and amusingly awkward social situations? Well, that’s the blend here on the unreserved wine talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean and each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please! And let’s get started.
Welcome to Episode 108. What exactly is cool climate Chardonnay? Which dishes are delicious with this style of wine? Why did Chardonnay become so popular and then fall out of favour? And what is the cool climate Chardonnay celebration? And that’s exactly what you’ll discover in this episode of the unreserved wine talk podcast. I’m chatting with Brian Schmidt, winemaker at Niagara’s Vineland Estates winery to chat about cool climate Chardonnay. This conversation took place on my Facebook Live video show several years ago. So please keep that in mind as the context for Brian’s comments. The cool climate Chardonnay celebration, or I4C, gathers producers and wine lovers in Niagara each year to celebrate the grape, showcasing more than 100 wines and 50 winemakers with tastings, dinners, and events where guests can blend their own wine, participate in boot camp and do other crazy things to reaffirm their love of this style of Chardonnay. The I4C was virtual in 2020. But here’s hoping it’ll return to an in person event in 2021. In the shownotes, you’ll find links to the wines we tasted, the video version of this chat, where you can find me on Facebook and Instagram Live video every second Wednesday at 7pm and how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class. That’s all in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/108
Now on a personal note before we dive into the show, especially since this podcast comes out just a few days before Christmas. This story is about Santa, so if young ears are listening, please put in your earbuds or listen later. Decades before fake news I discovered fake Santa at the tender age of five. And I’m not talking about real Santa at the North Pole. He was solid. I’m talking about mall Santa. Or should I now say what we all know: Mall Santas. Anyway, does Santa have brown eyes or blue eyes I asked my mother after walking away slowly from the red suited imposter, while we were shopping one December afternoon. She stumbled; well, his eyes how they twinkled, his dimples how merry, his cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry. She was being evasive. Was my own mother in on this duplicity? But what colour are his eyes I insisted? I’m not sure honey, she said, I haven’t looked closely at his eyes. Well, I have, I said and that Santa has brown eyes but the one I talked to last week had blue eyes. Well, hon she answered “Maybe Santa needs help sometimes and he sends his elves to the mall so that he can get all the children’s wishes before Christmas.” Fine I thought to myself, but why fake being Santa; just be yourself! It was a good lesson in transparency that still preserved the magic of Christmas for me. Now speaking of Elf, the movie, not the commercial charlatan, I paired wines with holiday classic movies on CTV News on Monday. So I’m going to share them now with you; just for a bit more holiday fun.
But before we even get into the pairings, why are classic Christmas movies such a big part of the holiday season? Holiday movies are often more cringe worthy than binge worthy. And yet we continue to watch them for their predictably happily ever after, as, I think some sort of maladaptive COVID coping strategy, even without COVID really, they’re always popular. In fact, the Hallmark Channel alone has produced 136 holiday movies. And now it even has its own wines; a Cabernet Sauvignon called Jingle and a Sauvignon Blanc, of course, named Joy. I guess there’s a comforting retro appeal to these films that goes back to when we were children and couldn’t read. But we could recite the books by heart that we love the most. Because our parents read them to us. Its that repetition. And maybe it’s that mushy, gloopy, togetherness that we’re all yearning for right now. And well, there’s a wine for that, in fact several.
So let’s start with Elf. This film never gets old and I love that both adults and kids find it funny. For Buddy’s bubbly personality, I definitely go with sparkling wine, like the Trius Rosé Brut from Niagara; drop a raspberry in your glass for an even more festive look. This one would be perfect with potato chips. Buddy, played by Will Ferrell, loves syrup on just about anything including spaghetti. So which wine pairs well with syrup and spaghetti? Nothing: Don’t even do that. However, a rich buttery Calmel Chardonnay from France would pair well with this movie as well as with hot buttered popcorn. Both of these wines will also pair well with the movie Miracle on 34th Street. One of the most classic holiday movies is adapted from Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. I pair this movie with Ghost Pines Pinot Noir from California which is smooth, rich and haunting; just like the ghosts who visit Ebenezer. I’d also recommend Toro Malbec from Argentina. That’s priced at just $9.95 to make even Scrooge happy. You can pair this wine with a charcuterie board of different meats. Both of these wines will also pair well with the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. My next movie pick is Home Alone. The McAllister family leaves for Paris for the Christmas holiday, but accidentally leave behind eight year old Kevin played by Macaulay Culkin. By the way you should see him in Succession now; the television series; he’s amazing. For the tenuous Paris connection, I’m recommending this robust red wine from Strewn in Niagara that’s been aged in French oak barrels. I’d also recommend Mega Spileo, a fresh white wine from Greece where the McAllister’s probably should have gone for vacation if they wanted warmer weather. And maybe they would have remembered to bring Kevin with them. Both of these wines would also pair well with A Christmas Story featuring another child actor in the lead; Peter Billingsley. My fourth pick is the 1988 movie Die Hard. So this isn’t exactly a feel good movie, but we all need a break from the syrupy sentimental cheesefest films. This movie does take place on Christmas Eve. And it requires a strong full bodied red, like the Villa Annaberta Amarone from Italy. That would also pair well with Dorito chips. Another Amarone that John McClane, played by Bruce Willis, would enjoy at his wife’s Christmas party if only the bad guys didn’t take them all hostage, is from Masi. Both wines would pair well with Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Finally, I’m wrapping up with the movie A Miracle on Christmas Lake. That sounds like a Hallmark movie if ever there was one, but actually, it’s not. So we’re going back to all the good fields to finish. In honour of the frozen lake at the heart of this movie, a natural pairing would be an ice wine from Reif in Niagara. It’s a wine that makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over, especially if I finish it. The main character, Bobby, plays hockey on the lake so of course we’re also going to pair this movie with Wayne Gretzky’s Ice Cask whiskey, aged in barrels formerly used for ice wine, as well as his salted caramel liqueur, which will melt even the Grinchiest heart. These drinks also pair well with “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Cary Grant, especially if you need something stronger to pair with all that residual sugar on the screen. Okay, on with the show.
Joining me today is Brian Schmidt, winemaker at Niagara Vineland Estates winery to talk about what makes this style of Chardonnay different from others. Welcome, Brian.
Brian Schmidt 10:29
Hi Natalie, it’s good to be here. Thank you very much.
Natalie MacLean 10:32
Well, thank you. So let’s start off. First of all, where is cool climate Chardonnay grown around the world? I know Niagara certainly is a hot bed, while not hot.
Brian Schmidt 10:43
A little irony there. In fact, cool climate is actually being redefined as we speak, wine regions throughout the world are beginning to see climate change beginning to affect them. And so some of the traditional areas that we would have considered hot climate are now also experiencing some cool climate conditions such as California over the last couple of years. We’ve certainly seen cooler vintages coming out of there. But Niagara has really excelled over the last number of years at producing cool climate wines, Chardonnay, Riesling as well, some really interesting Viogniers. But we’re here to celebrate Chardonnay. And so the region itself has really defined itself over the last number of years as producing highly aromatic, bright, crisp, fresh focused Chardonnays and the soil really lends itself to those particular styles of Chardonnays. Cool climate, in some cases could be defined as a wine regions’ heat units that are measured over the year and so winemakers have a tool that we can measure how much heat has been expressed them by the sun and by the climate over the growing season and usually somewhere between 1001 to 1400/1450 would categorise a cool climate wine region.
Natalie MacLean 11:51
Okay, you’re getting technical, but that’s okay. I always think of my Oh, this is 1000 units of heat today. But okay, so let’s name off some of the cool climate Chardonnay regions. There’s Niagara, there’s areas of California, Oregon would be one, right?
Brian Schmidt 12:10
Absolutely, at Oregon, Burgundy, New Zealand, Tasmania. We have a couple of growers from Tasmania here, I believe. We could also consider Austria to be cool climate, northern Italy would also be considered cool climate. And these are some of the traditional wine regions. We have both new world and old world showing their wines here. We have some wineries from Finger Lakes as well. And so it really is just a collection of great wines and great winemakers from all around the world.
Natalie MacLean 12:29
Awesome. And so okay, Niagara and Burgundy. They’re often compared because the standard brochure “ware” says we’re on the same latitude as Burgundy, but I would assume that Niagara cool climate Chardonnay is still different from Burgundian cool climate Chardonnay. And what’s the key way do you think that they differ?
Brian Schmidt 12:48
I guess that would probably give a technical answer on that one as well. I think it’s really just a question of an expression of the fruit of the wine and the acidity in the wines. Burgundy is a fantastic great growing region we all know and love very, very well. But really what defines a region is both its soils, its winemakers, the winemaking style that the winemakers are embracing, the consumers; the consumer also really drive styles of wines. And so if you look at the old world of Burgundy, you have very traditional, well established recurring region. And a new world region such as Niagara is going to define itself in very different ways. And so it’s important that we don’t actually compare or draw a line between the two and try to differentiate it. Both regions are very, very adept at producing great wines. And that’s what we’re celebrating is the fact that cool climate wines are really becoming popular. And wherever you grow grapes, Chardonnay is one of the most popular varieties planted in the world. And so wherever grapes are grown, there’s likely going to be Chardonnay. And so it’s a pretty broad grape variety with 1000s of faces.
Natalie MacLean 13:53
Spoken like a true Chardonnay diplomat. We’re all good. But that’s great. I love the diversity. So I’m gonna keep digging at that. So you mentioned something that I think is really key. The consumer also drives the style. And as you know, I don’t know if it’s 10 years back or whatever. But we used to have a nasty little movement called anything but Chardonnay. ABC was the acronym. Why did that happen? Why do people have such a spite on for Chardonnay?
Brian Schmidt 14:19
Well, I think it grew in popularity, about a 20 year window whereby again, because Chardonnay is so diverse and grows so well in most climates you saw people producing a tremendous amount of Chardonnay and it became obviously the world’s most popular grape variety. And winemakers also began to use different winemaking techniques to express the styles of wines. When you can use different concepts of lees ageing, lees maturing and barrel ageing, barrel fermenting, all of these winemakers tools would have created a very different message to the consumer that not only is the grape important, but the winemaking style is important and there was all sorts of flavours and textures that were built into the wine by the winemakers in order to create some measure of diversity. And I think winemakers really pushed the envelope on that and wines became very, very oaky, very rich, very buttery, very high alcohol. And now that we see people’s palates changing, their diets are changing, we’re eating lighter foods. And so the natural evolution would be that the wine styles paired with people’s diets would begin to change it so fresher, crisper, brighter, fresher styles of wine certainly are becoming consumer hip. And so the cool climate really does express those particular attributes quite well.
Natalie MacLean 15:34
Hmm okay, that’s great. We’ll have to come up with a new acronym. Like I4C whatever was to replace ABC, but I get what you’re saying, they were over manipulated, they were heavy wines, and I also expect that they weren’t that food friendly, at least compared to cool climate Chardonnay, because I almost make the bridge between cool climate Chardonnay, and a nice hippie Riesling, which you also do very, very well as being very food friendly. Why is it that those lighter styles of whites as opposed to the buttery heavy oaky whites, dance better with food?
Brian Schmidt 16:05
Well, I think it really is just a question of overwhelming your palate. When you’re enjoying a meal, when you’re doing it with friends and family at your table you want everything to complement each other, you want the conversation to complement each other, you want people to enjoy themselves, and when you’re overburdened by either a high alcohol wine, or you’re overburdened by too much flavour, and that really is a bit of a North American concept having more and more power, more and more flavour, I think it really just tends to dominate the harmony of the evening or the harmony of the wine. And so I think that it’s important for people to be able to enjoy, certainly, you’re having a dinner, you want to be able to enjoy more than a half a glass or a glass of wine. Those high alcohol wines certainly limit that. And so I think that just in general, people are finding that lighter, fresher, crisper, lower alcohol wines are where they want to be.
Natalie MacLean 16:49
Absolutely, you know, I make the comparison, because I often taste a lot of wines monthly to review them. One is the Vintages pre release tasting, tasting 100 wines, and the ones that start to stand out are the big ones. But then you get home and it’s like, almost like meeting someone at a bar who’s shouting at you. And that’s fine, because it’s in the context of the bar, but at home at a dinner party that guy’s way too loud, or gal, I should say. And I think that’s the wine style, too. It’s more subtle. It’s more conducive to conversation. It’s in balance and in harmony.
Unknown Speaker 17:21
That’s a great analogy
Natalie MacLean 17:22
Yeah, I’m not going to bars anymore. But one thing I wanted to ask you about that I keep trying to get my head around is this concept of minerality. Because we talk about minerality when it comes to these cool climate Chardonays, but also Riesling, and other zippy, zesty whites. Is it a taste or texture? And just what the heck is it? How can you know what it is
Brian Schmidt 17:40
A minerality is becoming a real buzzword for people. And I think that its certainly being misused. For me, minerality is a texture, it’s a bit of an electric buzz at the back of my jowls. And for me, I feel it. To smell minerality you can sometimes express steely characteristics, wet stone characteristics in the wine, but it could also be expressed as minerality. But for me, it truly is all about a texture. And it’s something that I think we need to use cautiously as winemakers simply because it’s a great word that people love to hear, it’s a connection to the earth, it’s a connection to all things natural. And so I believe that we have to really be careful as we move forward. And don’t overuse that term because it has so much value.
Natalie MacLean 18:21
It has value. And yet it can be a bit intimidating for someone who thinks, oh, my goodness, minerality, am I supposed to be tasting wet stones? And sometimes I think do we just get it confused with acidity? Because all these wines have terrific acidity and acidity, by the way, I’m a huge fan of it, because I think it’s you know, the little scrub brushes that literally clean your palate and make food tastes even better on the next bite. But do you think we confuse minerality and acidity just to dwell on this?
Brian Schmidt 18:46
I think that in general, the wine industry has done a great job of confusing people period. And I think that we have to demystify all of the elements of wines. And really the most important element is either you enjoy it or you don’t first of all. If you choose to become a little more invested in the process, then you can begin to understand some of the terminology that we use to define and to place wines inside of a box. And, and so all of these terms primarily are winemakers tools that we can use to try to recreate or emulate something that we may have been successful with in the past and so we need to be able to categorise that. But from a consumer perception and a consumer perspective, we have to just try to demystify that. And if that minerality or the acid itself is something that you enjoy, then seek out wines that give you that enjoyment and not to say that there are still not wines that people are enjoying that are rich and full and buttery. Those wines still exist and people are enjoying them. So we have to be careful not to try to pigeonhole people into enjoying something just because they hear that it’s good or they they’ve heard rumours that this is what they should be drinking. They should drink what they enjoy it.
Natalie MacLean 19:54
Yeah, first rule, drink what you like and don’t get pigeonholed, drink broadly and widely. Brian, what event are you looking forward to the most at the festival this weekend?
Brian Schmidt 20:03
Well, actually a small correction. For us the event actually started last evening where we had a chairman’s dinner at Vinelands Estate where all of the winery representatives, the winemakers and their spouses, in some cases, came to Vinelands Estates and we all gathered together for an opportunity to get to know each other, to get to taste each other’s wines. Because the next couple days, we’re all going to be working pretty hard and not having an opportunity to spend too much time together. And so we just got together and we tasted everybody’s wines and had a really great time. But for myself, the entire event is really amazing. There’s so many opportunities for people to learn about Chardonnay, not just about cool climate Chardonnay, as you mentioned earlier, there are many different blending events. There’s an extreme winemaking seminar that’s going on this morning at Brock University.
Natalie MacLean 20:45
What does extreme winemaking mean? Why extreme?
Brian Schmidt 20:47
Well, and that’s going to be debated today, actually. So at the end of the extreme winemaking seminar, the session, they’ll probably come up with a great answer for you. But that’s currently being hotly debated. As well as there’s other events that are happening throughout the region. I believe there’s about eight different wineries that are having luncheons throughout the weekend as well. We have a great concert tonight at Jackson Triggs, where all of the participants and all the winemakers will be gathering and tasting the wines. But for me, the one that I enjoy looking forward to the most and I think I’m really going to enjoy is the Chardonnay New World Tour. It’s beyond the barrel dinner that seven winemakers, myself and six other winemakers have pulled themselves out of the vineyard, pulled themselves out of the cellars, and will be actually cooking for all of the participants. I believe we’re at 500 now that are going to be coming to this event tomorrow evening at the Vineland Innovation Centre, where we’re going to be backstopped by Eric Peacock from Wellington Cork cafe in St. Catharines, who’s a fantastic chef and just a really great guy. He’s helped us prepare some menu items that people will be enjoying and pairing with cool climate Chardonnay. So this event will have all of the participants, all the winemakers, and all 110 wines that are being celebrated here over the next couple of days at that event, so I’m really looking forward to that event.
Natalie MacLean 21:58
Wow, that sounds like a hedonist’s dream. Let’s talk about food and wine pairings when it comes to cool climate Chardonnay. Maybe make our mouths water with some of the dishes that you and the others will be serving.
Brian Schmidt 22:10
You know what, we’ve got a pretty great menu lined up. Myself I’ll be doing Ontario pickerel with a celeriac remoulade which is going to be a perfect pairing for cool climate Chardonnay
Natalie MacLean 22:23
Why is that a perfect pairing?
Brian Schmidt 22:24
While the natural oils that are found in the Ontario, Lake Erie pickerel, the natural oils kind of coat the tongue and then you have this bright refreshing Chardonnay that is able to layer on top of that and and create just a succulent texture in your mouth and to me wine really is all about texture and and food is all about texture as well as aroma and taste for sure. But when you think of something like sushi as an example, it’s fantastic texture and you can really pair amazing, amazing wines and amazing cool climate Chardonnays with sushi as well. I digress. However, the event itself will also have Ross Wise from Flat Rock Cellars; he is doing a lobster mac and cheese again, you’re going to get that rich texture
Natalie MacLean 23:01
Is the lobster mixed in with the mac and cheese?
Brian Schmidt 23:03
I’m not entirely certain, I haven’t yet been privy to the to the recipe and I’ll be tasting that tomorrow night. But it just sounded absolutely amazing. When we’re all sitting together a number of months ago putting together our menu ideas, Ross popped this one into the into the mix, and we all began salivating. So it’s going to be a lot of fun. We also have a seafood paella that’s being done. Dinner tomorrow night is just going to be a tremendous amount of fun. It’s going to be I guess two or three hours of as you said eating, feeding and drinking.
Natalie MacLean 23:29
And do people wander around? Or do they sort of sit down or just sit where they like kind of thing?
Brian Schmidt 23:34
Exactly. People just wandering around chatting with each other. There’s tables available that they could sit down , but food stations itself will be more of a grazing concept where people will be able to write down the chat and chat with the winemakers and chat with all of the people that put the event together. Harold Teal and Dorian Anderson, Dorian Anderson has done an absolutely amazing job putting together so they’ll be there as well.
Natalie MacLean 23:56
It reminds me of the International Pinot Noir festival down in Oregon. I love that communal sense, that sort of swapping bottles, and just being able to meet the winemakers, to talk to the people who are making the wines. It’s unlike traditional wine and food shows. I think this is a great concept for really getting to know a particular style of wine. Yeah, you
Brian Schmidt 24:18
Yeah, you know what you’re absolutely right. In fact, this event has been modelled to a significant degree over the IPNC, the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon. After attending that particular conference some of the initial organisers of I4C, Harold Teal and Thomas Bachelder all got together in Thomas’s backyard one evening and said, we really need to find a way to celebrate Ontario Chardonnay. And what can we do? So they began putting these concepts together about four years ago. And now this is year number two for us. And it is certainly growing organically and the opportunity to have people interact with winemakers and chefs is really very, very interesting. It’s also rewarding for me as a winemaker because I get to see firsthand people’s comments and we’re able then to receive those comments and insights into the wine styling that we would produce in the future. And so it’s important for us to have that interaction as well.
Natalie MacLean 25:05
Hmm. Sounds like a happy cycle. Which wine of yours are we tasting today? Can you show us?
Brian Schmidt 25:12
Well, you have it. I didn’t bring that one actually, to be honest with you, I’m sitting in Henry of Pelhams wine store right now. They’ve been gracious enough to let me use their technology. And so I’d be happy to pull out a Henry of Pelham wine. These guys make great wine as well as incidentally, a great cappuccino as well. They got a great machine in the back. So I know that you have in in front of you our 2011.
Natalie MacLean 25:37
Brian Schmidt 25:39
That wine is widely available in the LCBO system. We’ve had a tremendous amount of success with that particular wine, due in part, I think, to the success of I4C last year as well. So for us, Chardonnay has not traditionally been our focus. Vineland Estates really is a Riesling house. But we’ve seen this cool climate Chardonnay, we’ve seen this fresh style of Chardonnay that, as you said earlier emulates to a certain degree, the style of Riesling that we produce. And so it became a natural for us to use stainless steel fermentation, cool fermentation, very little manipulation with oak, keeping the natural bright acidity present in the wine. And again, embracing some of the mineral elements that we have on our property, the limestone and the clay that our grapes are grown in, lend those attributes beautifully to that minerality, so this is a really great wine. It’s $12.95 in the LCBO. So it’s not an expensive wine, I certainly want to enjoy on a regular basis. And I would strongly encourage you to do that.
Natalie MacLean 26:37
Way to slip in the ad,
Brian Schmidt 26:38
there you go. There you go. So no, it’s a fantastic wine. And I would tell you that my father who’s been involved in the Canadian wine industry for some 65 years, this is his table wine, and he absolutely loves it.
Natalie MacLean 26:51
It is lovely. And okay, so tell me about your most memorable Chardonnay experience. Cool. Climate, Chardonnay experience
Brian Schmidt 26:58
Oh,gosh, Natalie, that’s a really interesting question. There’s so many experiences that I could speak about. You know, one that comes to mind, I spent a tremendous amount of time in the vineyard with our crews, this time of year, probably 80% of my time is spent in the vineyard. Just understanding what’s happening with the vintage and the decisions that we make; in that we’re constantly sort of tuning the dials of the radio in terms of grape growing. And that’s really important for us. And so the time that I spend there, I get to spend with our vineyard crew. And occasionally, and maybe every second or third Friday, what we’ll do is we’ll sit down at lunch together, and I’ll bring up some of the wines that we’ve recently produced, have our vineyard staff taste these wines, so they can understand what it is that they’re doing the efforts that they’re putting in the vineyard, and how that’s translated into the bottle. It’s important for me to have them understand that. And so this past year, just after we had bottled the 2011 Chardonnay, there was a real epiphany for some of the people that had been with us for a couple of years, where they truly began to understand the efforts that they engage in in vineyard and how that’s translated into bottles and their eyes widened, and big smiles came on their faces. And they really, really began to understand what cool climate Chardonnay is and what it is that we’re hoping to achieve. So that was a great day for me.
Natalie MacLean 28:09
That’s awesome. And just that seems to be the whole point of this festival; to really getting to know from the dirt up where these wines come from, because they are marvellous. Thank you so much for joining me, Brian. And I think you’re allowed to go off camera now and go get yourself some cool climate Chardonnay.
Brian Schmidt 28:25
I’m going to knock on Ron’s office here at Henry of Pelhamto see what he has hanging out in his back room,
Natalie MacLean 28:32
and enjoy the festival this weekend.
Brian Schmidt 28:34
Oh, and we’re so looking forward to it. We’re gonna miss you. We wish you could come down and spend some time with us. And hopefully you can see it in your schedule next year to come visit us.
Natalie MacLean 28:40
Absolutely. I’m there in spirit.
Brian Schmidt 28:46
You’ve been you’ve been a fantastic supporter of Ontario wine, and we really appreciate it. Thank you so much.
Natalie MacLean 28:52
Thanks, Brian. Have fun.
Brian Schmidt 28:54
Natalie MacLean 29:00
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Brian Schmidt. Here are my takeaways.
1: Brian gives us a great definition of cool climate Chardonnay being grown in wine regions that have 1000 to 1450 heat units during the growing season to give the fullest expression of the fruit while still keeping it crisp. It’s a combination of latitude and attitude. And he draws some valid comparisons with Riesling. Another cool climate great that also undergoes a cool fermentation in stainless steel tanks rather than oak barrels.
2: Chardonnay, much like Merlot, fell out of favour a decade ago with the anything but Chardonnay ABC backlash because it had become both too popular and too homogenous and was often accused of using oak and high alcohol too much. But Chardonnay is back baby! with a slim new profile and a crisp attitude
3: I agree with Brian that minerality in wine is more of a tingling texture than a taste, though it is often described as wet stone.
In the show notes, you’ll find links to the wines we tasted, the video version of this chat, where you can find me on both Facebook and Instagram Live video every second Wednesday at 7pm and how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class. That’s all in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/108. I hope you will join me over the holidays in my free food and wine pairing class. It’s a lot of fun. You could wear your pyjamas or your yoga pants if you want. I actually wear what I call my buffet pants; elasticized waist for extra holiday eating. You can choose the time of day that works for you. Bring a friend or a partner. You’ll find the link to save your spot in the show notes. At nataliemaclean.com/108.
You won’t want to miss next week when I chat with Roxanne Browning, the chocolate sommelier who will be suggesting wines to pair with different types of chocolates. She joins me from her home in New York City and in the meantime, if you missed Episode Seven, go back and take a listen. I chat with Bianca Bosker, The New York Times bestselling author of Cork Dork, which chronicles her hilarious escapades going undercover in the world of wine, including working at several prestigious New York restaurants. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
Unknown Speaker 31:42
One of the things that was really revealing is the fact that many of these high end restaurants are really judging you even more than you’re judging them. They’re googling you before you come in, they’re keeping extensive logs on what you order, your pet peeves, personal preferences, your relationship with the restaurant, your dining history. If you spend a lot of money you could be a wine PX which is short for personne extraordinaire
Unknown Speaker 32:10
for a temper tantrum you might be an HWC just short for Handle With Care or SOE as sense of entitlement. On the surface that can seem perhaps mercenary, but first of all, they are businesses and liquid keeps restaurants liquid
Natalie MacLean 32:24
Absolutely. And I’ve heard it said that the sommelier doesn’t sell the bottle to the customer. The sommelier sells the customer to the customer, not in a manipulative way. But I see you and I think this is you with the wine. And of course the old adage is customers will eat you poor and drink you rich.
If you like this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who be interested in the wine tips that Brian shared, or in my holiday wine movie pairings. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps a cool climate Chardonnay that would be a great pairing with a Miracle on Christmas Lake
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at nataliemaclean.com/subscribe, maybe here next week. Cheers.