Monday, August 10, 2020

Noble Ridge champions Chardonnay

Photo: Noble Ridge's Jim and Leslie D'Andrea (courtesy Noble Ridge)

One of the least successful of my wine books was Chardonnay and Friends: Varietal Wines of British Columbia.

It was the title, I believe, that doomed it to be a slow seller. The book profiled most of the wine varietals then being produced in British Columbia.

But the book was published in 1998, in the midst of the Anything but Chardonnay hysteria. Heavily oaked Chardonnay wines from Australia and California had turned consumers off.

Once I was at a book signing where an individual came along, looked at the book and walked away after sniffing that he did not drink Chardonnay. I did not have a chance to suggest he might drink one or more of the 45 other varietals profiled in the book.

The book might have sold much better if titled Pinot Gris and Friends. Pinot Gris was then on the way to becoming the most widely grown white in British Columbia.

But I am happy to report that Chardonnay has hung on, becoming the second most widely grown white grape in British Columbia. It seems that most consumers have gotten over their Chardonnay aversion. That likely is because there now is a vast array of Chardonnay styles on offer, including unoaked. And where oak is used, the application of oak is far more subtle than it once was.

Even though my book fell flat, I never stopped consuming Chardonnay. In fact, I like Chardonnays that have spent some time in barrel.

Among Okanagan wineries, one of the most accomplished champions of Chardonnay is Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery. This is the fine Okanagan Falls winery owned by Jim and Leslie D’Andrea.

This spring, Leslie sent me three of their Chardonnays, all from 2017 and all with some well-handled oak. Reviews should have been published before now. However, so many other samples came along as well this spring that these three were overlooked at  the back of the cellar. The Noble Ridge website leaves me thinking that some of these wines may still be available.

Here are my notes:

Noble Ridge Reserve Chardonnay 2017 ($28.99 for 355 cases). This wine was fermented in stainless steel and aged 14 months in French oak barrels (20% new). The wine was not allowed to undergo malolactic fermentation, resulting in a bright, fresh citrus aromas and flavours. However, the oak and the fruit on the palate give the wine a creamy note. The finish is long and complex. 92.

Noble Ridge Powers Vintage Chardonnay 2017 ($38.99 for 94 cases). This wine is one in a series of wines honouring noble causes and individuals. This wine is a tribute to Richard Powers, a University of Toronto business professor who has promoted the Noble Ridge wines to friends and acquaintances there. This is an elegant barrel-fermented wine that blends apple and marmalade aromas and flavours with butter on the rich palate. 92.

Noble Ridge King’s Ransom Chardonnay 2017 ($49.99 for 113 cases). King’s Ransom designates the best of the best. This is a barrel-fermented wine that was 14 months in new French oak. Only half was allowed to undergo malolactic fermentation. The wine has richly concentrated aromas and flavours – citrus, stone fruit and butterscotch mingle with toasty oak. This bold wine has a long, long finish. 94.


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