Cool Ontario Chardonnays: A Crisp Taste of Our Climate

Written by Gary Killops

Ontario is a cool climate wine region, but what does that really mean? 

Because of the lower temperatures, grapes grown in cool climates tend to preserve their acidity. The wines tend to be crisper and often lower in alcohol. The fruit ­flavours lean towards tree fruits such as apple and peach rather than tropical fruit notes like ­pineapple.

Some wines, such as chardonnay, tend to express the climate that the grapes are grown in.

The I4C

The 9th annual I4C, or International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration, runs from Friday, July 19 to Sunday July 21 in Niagara, Ontario. Winemakers from cool climate regions around the world will converge to talk, sip, and share the chardonnays that they have produced. Tickets for the weekend-long event are already on sale and some of the popular events sell out fast. 

The I4C offers a choice of wine, food and educational experiences that will showcase Ontario’s most popular and most planted grape, along with cool climate chardonnays from other regions around the world such as Chablis and Champagne France, Southern Australia, Northern California, New Zealand and Nova Scotia. 

Popular events such as “Flights of Chardonnay” offer those attending the opportunity to taste chardonnays poured by the winemakers from regions around the world. The event is held at the Niagara District Airport and features five Niagara restaurants offering small bites (for a fee) that pair well with cool climate chardonnays. 

On Saturday July 20 the Canadian Food and Wine Institute will host a cool climate world tour tasting and dinner at Niagara College. This event is often the pinnacle event of the weekend. 

Grape Growers of Ontario will also host an event on Saturday afternoon called “Kick The Dirt.” Those attending this event tour vineyards in Niagara and meet with the some of the passionate grape growers. The growers will discuss the soils, climate, and the vine management techniques used to produce their award winning chardonnays. 

A total of 50 wineries (28 Ontario and 22 from other regions) will be showcasing chardonnay over the weekend, in seven organized tasting events. Visit the I4C website at CoolChardonnay.org for more information on the events, times and prices.

Why Choose Chardonnay?

Chardonnay is a versatile grape. It can be aged in oak to add flavour complexity. It can be used to make sparkling wine and can also be fermented dry or left with a touch of sweetness.

Chardonnay is grown in all three of Ontario’s VQA wine appellations. Approximately 125 wineries in Ontario produce chardonnay. It is used in 18% of Ontario’s annual total production and is most often fermented to a dry style.

Here are several of Ontario’s cool climate chardonnays for you to consider.


Fielding 2017 Unoaked Chardonnay (Vintages #164491, $15.95) — This is a clean, fruit forward chardonnay. Red apple, melon, and nectarine fruits linger on the palate for quite some time. It is crisp, clean and refreshing. An easy sipping wine that highlights Ontario’s cooler climate. Consider serving this one as an aperitif, or with some light appetizers.


Southbrook 2016 Triomphe Organic Chardonnay (Vintages #172338, $24.95) —Quite a complex chardonnay. Fresh peach, lemon, and green apples, ginger spice, butterscotch, and vanilla. With a medium plus body it has some weight to it. Ontario’s cool climate is expressed in the vibrant acidity that leads to a lingering finish. Will pair nicely with creamy Parmesan garlic mushroom chicken.


Cave Spring Estate 2016 Chardonnay (Vintages #256552, $19.95) — Fresh green apple notes, lemon peel citrus. Lighter in style than one might expect, resulting in a graceful, elegant chardonnay. The elevated acidity allows this wine to be paired with fried chicken and other fried dishes.


Flat Rock “The Rusty Shed” Chardonnay 2016 (Vintages #1552, $21.75) — This is a big, full-bodied chardonnay leading with oak dominated notes. Rich and complex. Apple and citrus notes balance the oaky vanilla very well. The wine’s creamy texture will entice anyone who loves this big, oaky style of wine. 


Closson Chase Vineyard 2016 Chardonnay (Vintages #148866, $29.95) — The 2017 vintage was released on April 1. Bottles of the 2016 vintage, which are from a warmer vintage for Prince Edward County, are still available at select locations. Ripe apple, pear and citrus fruit, creamy butter, vanilla and butterscotch notes complement. Well-balanced and deliciously complex!    

More Local VQA Chardonnays

Aleksander Estate Winery
2013 Chardonnay, $16.00

Alton Farms Estate Winery
2017 Unoaked Chardonnay, $23.00
2016 Oaked Chardonnay, $16.00

Colchester Ridge Estate Winery
2016 Chardonnay, $13.95
2016 Flagship Chardonnay, $19.95

Colio Estate Wines
2016 Bricklayer’s Predicament Chardonnay, $13.95
2015 Girls’ Night Out Chardonnay, $10.95

Cooper’s Hawk Vineyards
2013 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, $17.95
2016 Chardonnay Musqué, $16.95
2015 Unoaked Chardonnay, $14.95

Mastronardi Estate Winery
2013 Chardonnay, $14.00

Oxley Estate Winery
2017 Chardonnay, $18.95

Pelee Island Winery
2017 Chardonnay, $12.45
2016 Chardonnay Reserve, $13.95
2012 Chardonnay Vinedressers, $17.95

Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery
2016 Unoaked Chardonnay, $14.95 
2016 Barrel Chardonnay Hawk’s Flight Reserve, $22.15

Viewpoint Estate Winery
2013 Chardonnay, $16.95

Vivace Estate Winery
2016 Chardonnay, $17.00

About the author

Gary Killops

Gary Killops is a CAPS Certified Sommelier who loves to talk, taste and write about wine. He shares his wine tasting notes on EssexWineReview.com