Newsletter #270 - i4C, What's with the Plus???

16 Jun 2016

Newsletter #270   June 16, 2016


  • WineReview: i4C, What's with the Plus???

  • Grape Guy’s Picks of the Bunch: New & Noteworthy Wines

  • Weekly Wine Video Series:  A Recap of The Latest Videos

  • Ontario Wine UpdatesRe-Tastes and Other Interesting Finds

  • Grape Guy Events:  Make The Most of Your Trip to Wine Country

WineReview:  i4C, What's with the Plus???


If you haven’t seen it by now you soon will … the i4C has added a little plus (+) sign beside its moniker.  The plus sign is supposed to represent the all-encompassing nature of the i4C, meaning you will now see red wines amongst those Chardonnays (and no they are not making red wine from Chardonnay grapes these days) … The i4C committee (or whomever makes these decisions) has decided the evolution of the i4C is to be serving red wines at a touted all Chardonnay event. But not just any red wines: “This year, Chardonnay will share the spotlight with some other cool characters… Cool Climate Pinot Noir, Gamay and Cabernet Franc will be featured at various events throughout the weekend.” (taken from the website).  

How very Canadian to be all encompassing … How truly PC to allow others to join in on an exclusive party … and in this particular case, how utterly stupid.

I Went to a Fight and a Hockey Game Broke Out …

That’s the feeling I got when I heard this ridiculous news. Now, as many of you know, read or heard (via Podcast) I have little-to-no love lost for Chardonnay:  it does not make my top five grape varieties, nor probably my top 10 – I understand what I enjoy in wines made from this grape, but I rarely if ever rush out to buy one … but for the past 5 years Ontario has promoted itself as a locale for a world-class i4C event: International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration – note the Chardonnay clearly in the name - not the International Cool Climate Wine Celebration (i2CWC) nor an International Cool Climate Red & White Wine Celebration (i2CR&2WC) … suffice it to say that the i4C is totally muddying the brand they have tried to cultivate; and in so doing have blurred the lines between themselves and any of a hundred other wine events around the world that allow any and all wines into the mix on the tasting floor, plus what’s to stop them from adding Riesling and Pinot Gris next year (or more cool climate loving grapes)?

I didn’t think I would be as worked up as I am about this – fact is, when the i4C started I kinda hoped it would just be a one-off; I would have loved to see a Cabernet Franc or Gamay celebration in its place. But the i4C has built a brand that centres around Chardonnay - they should be proud of it and embrace it:  winery principals from all over the world come to pour at, and be in attendance, and in turn have been wowed by the wines Ontario (and Canada) is making … but in year six the organizers have decided to bastardize the event. 

So why have the event at all? Or even keep the name?

Since its inception, i4C has been notoriously expensive, and according to sources, organizers have “forced” participating Ontario wineries to sell or give away tickets and have operated at a loss. Wineries were told short term pain for long-term gain as they build a world-class annual Chardonnay festival. But if the i4C is not self-sustaining maybe they should look at other fixes: 1) they should lower prices, 2) offer less content and/or 3) host the event every second year (like the Riesling Experience) or maybe every 3-5 years (like a state-of-the-union of Chardonnay).  Sure a jam-packed weekend of Chardonnay-only events sounds fun, but imagine lower ticket prices for a few formal events and then allowing participating wineries to stage their own events or, better yet, allow visitors to explore Niagara wineries on their own (eg: a passport-style program) – that way they would get exposure to the other varieties being grown and made in Ontario, not have them foisted upon them when they signed up to explore a completely different grape.

There are Pinot Noir events in Oregon and New Zealand – they too went through growing pains in their early days, but they did not bastardize their vision in the process. Building up a following and reputation takes time; as the old saying goes: “overnight success takes years of hard work and dedication” – too bad the i4C committee can’t see their vision through and just learn to cut back a little; yes growing pains hurt but handled correctly we all get through them.  

To be a self-sustaining event you might start off with a bang, but then you quickly realize your limitations, maybe scale down some events; an inflated ticket price does not bring more people, it limits your attendance (just look to the UP Express example in Toronto). The key to long-term success is to start off slow and steady and most of all affordably – the i4C has not done that and this notion of throwing in red varieties is a step in the opposite direction:  It’s not progressive, it’s downright foolhardy.

Speaking of foolhardy, don’t be fooled by people who will tell you this is a great idea whose time has come, or the evolution of the i4C … most winery people I spoke with did not see it that way, and while the propaganda machine behind this year’s i4C is going to spin it as a positive those pouring wines at the event don’t see it that way, so why should you?  As I alluded to earlier, I approached a number of i4C participants to get their thoughts on the new format, all interviewees were not happy about the changes, but were leery about going on record, as one said “I have to work with these people”; another said: “I’m interested to see how they integrate it, but on the other hand they are watering it down.”

Adding “Cool Climate Red Varieties” does not make for a more well-rounded event, it makes for a bastardized version of a once proud event, one that is obviously bankrupt of ideas, and one willing to lose its identity in the process. Shame on the i4C for allowing this to happen … The way I see it anyway.


Grape Guy’s Picks of the Bunch:  New & Noteworthy Wines

Lakeview Cellars 2012 Syrah - $24.95 (W, L)
Considering this is a 2012 wine it’s lighter than one would expect, but that’s a good thing.  Gentle pepperiness with raspberry and meaty notes take hold … but what really sells this wine to me is that meaty-peppery combination mixing with that lush fruit hanging out in the background.  Price: $24.95 – Rating: ****

Muscedere 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon - $30.00 (W)
I remember tasting this out of barrel and telling winemaker Roberto Muscedere “you’ve got something special here”. Now that it’s out of barrel I’m happy to report I was not wrong. After 12 months in French wood it’s a lovely / lively mix of red, black and blue fruit with definitive notes of plum, cherry, chocolate and red currants; there’s even some violet on the mid-palate with sweet red plum and chocolate on the finish.  Price: $30.00 – Rating: ****

Redstone 2011 Merlot - $39.95 (W)
The sadness surrounding Merlot in Ontario is that there will be less of it growing here – that’s why a wine like this is so bittersweet. Aromas of sweet cherry, raspberry, vanilla and red licorice … flavours of red berry fruit, vanilla, blueberry and white pepper … great complexity (if you want to search for it) or for those looking for a Merlot to just sit, sip and enjoy this one does the trick too. Drink happily now or hold up to 5 years.  Price: $39.95 – Rating: ****

Stoney Ridge 2013 Meritage, Excellence - $34.95 (W)
Here we have a soft spoken red blend that has delicate spice and oak backing up tart red and black fruit along with a little white pepper. Finish is non-aggressive with its smoky elegance, tart red raspberries and gentle tannins.  Price: $34.95 – Rating: ****

Two Sisters 2012 Eleventh Post - $39.00 (W)
When it comes to reds at Two Sisters they are made to age – but winemaker Adam Pearce wanted to give you the chance to enjoy his efforts earlier with a more approachable offering. A 50% Merlot blend with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon each holding 25% – it spent 26 months in a 75 / 25 % mix of French and American oak with only 15% new … making this wine quite approachable with plenty of red and dark fruit a la cherry and plum with a dollop of mocha for added enjoyment.  Price: $39.00 – Rating: ****+

Vineland 2014 Riesling, Semi-Dry - $14.95 (W)
Semi-Dry always affords itself a little sweetness and with lots of upfront fruit, which is where the sweetness lies, you’d think this wine would end a little more syrupy then it does; acidity swings in to keep the sweet-fruit in check … pure apple and lime flavors also kick in on the finish, battling it out between the sweet and the tart.  Price: $14.95 – Rating: ****

Availability legend:  W (Winery) – L (LCBO/Vintages) –  OL (On-Line)

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The Weekly Wine Video Series: A Recap of the Latest Videos

The Weekly Wine Videos
Every week I'll introduce you to another fabulous wine that you've just gotta try – Check out the YouTube Channel Now

Weekly Ontario Wine Videos

Video #179 - Tawse 2012 Cabernet-Merlot (Niagara)
Video #178 - Coyote's Run 2013 Red Paw Syrah (Niagara)
Video #177 - Konzelmann 2012 Heritage (Niagara)
Video #176 - 13th Street 2012 Essence Syrah (Niagara)

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Ontario Wine Updates Re-Tastes and Other Interesting Finds

Taste it Again / Lost & Found (blog):  the two blogs have merged
(Find out what happened to some favourites and to those that never were tasted) 
Taste it Again:  A Dozen During the ALCS

Uncorked Tonight (blog)
When it’s not an Ontario wine, here’s what I’m pulling out of the cellar
New Posts Added

***NEW*** PODCAST:  Two Guys Talking Wine
Join me and my co-host Andre Proulx as we discuss all things wine, and sometimes we're not afraid to go off topic
Episode 13 - "Live" from Pelee Island
Episode 12 - New Zealand

Vintages Release (blog)
June 11, 2016 - Available Now
May 28, 2016 - Available Now

 GRAPE GUY EVENTS Spotlight:  Make the Most of Your Trip to Wine Country

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