One of the biggest lunches for this year's International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4C) is also one of the most exciting. I'm referring to the Chardonnay Bonne Bouche at 13th Street Winery.
Inspired by the Outstanding in the Field dinner held at the winery last year, sales, marketing and hospitality director Peter Bodnar Rod and 13th Street staff are planning to set-up a single long table among the vines, serving lunch family style. The feedback he received and the reaction he's seen from this set-up brings people together like no other. There's a camaraderie that quickly develops as guests serve each other, talk and share stories. “People just love it. It's what we crave in this world that seems to be putting us behind of computers and separating us with electronics," Bodnar Rod said in an interview. “As much as I appreciate round tables of ten in a banquet setting that's not what we're after. That's more separating than bringing together.”
Bodnar Rod, who is also the director of event and education programing for i4C, wants to keep the educational aspect interactive and collegial. There will be a brief panel discussion, but he anticipates most of the learning happening on a more intimate level. Rather than separating guests from the panelists at a head table, winemakers and winery owners will be moving around throughout lunch and helping to serve. The idea is to build a rapport so attendees are comfortable asking any questions. At the end of the day both winemakers and guests are passionate wine lovers so they will be able to connect and learn from each other over that passion.
For the menu itself Bodnar Rod has been working closely with chef Stephen Treadwell and his team at Treadwell Farm to Table Cuisine. The idea was to think creatively and differently on what might make a great Chardonnay-paired menu.“Part of what we're trying to do with this conference is to show people Chardonnay isn't just what you think it is. It can taste and feel different. It can be a lot more stylistically diverse than you think. It can really cover whole other spectrum of food than you might think,” explains Bodnar Rod. Case in point is the lunch's main course which goes against the conventional red meat and bold red wine partnership. Pickled and braised Ontario beef brisket with smokey bacon potato dauphinoise is being paired with some fresh, lively, but also slightly buttery Chardonnays. “We've tasted it and it's fantastic”, Bodnar Rod promises.
Cheese will also play a big role in the lunch. In fact the course's mastermind Afrim Pristine of the Cheese Boutique issued a friendly challenge telling Treadwell his cheese course will be the best of the lunch. The cheese plate features Chardonnay-friendly cheeses from each of the countries whose wines will be poured at the lunch. One Bodnar Rod is especially looking forward to is a fresh goat's milk cheese formed by Pristine and finished with the leesy, rich, bottom-of-tank Chardonnay from the 2011 13th Street June's Vineyard.
Bodnar Rod is excited to be hosting fellow Niagara producers Jackson Triggs, Malivoire and Southbrook as well as international wineries Champagne Ayala, Chehalem, Domaine Marchand-Tawse, Printhie Wines and Ramey Wine Cellars. He thinks guests will be impressed by all the wines, but those last two producers from Australia and California respectively, just might delight and surprise with freshness and liveliness. As i4C hopes to demonstrate there are producers making great cool climate Chardonnay in regions all over the world, including those producing wine in places normally associated with sunshine and big bold wines.
Bodnar Rod is also looking forward to showing the range of different Chardonnays in the 13th Street's line-up. The winery's primary Chardonnay being poured is the 2010 Standstone Vineyard Reserve, which is a barrel fermented and aged, rich, ripe and almost tropical cool climate Chardonnay from a warmer vintage. That will be contrasted with the 2011 June's Vineyard, which is mineral-driven unoaked Chardonnay from a longer, cooler and wetter vintage. He's also planning to pour a bonus taste of a mature Chardonnay from the library like the 2005 or 2006 Standstone to show that a balanced, well-made cool climate Chardonnay can develop and benefit from a few years in the cellar.
Should the weather not behave for an alfresco lunch among the vines 13th Street has a back-up plan to use its greenhouses. But if all goes according to plan and it's a beautiful sunny July day, dressing in light cool clothing, and wearing a hat and sunscreen will help make the experience that much more enjoyable, reminds Bodnar Rod. The winery will also have plenty of water on hand to keep guests hydrated.
Written by Mike Di Caro
Michael Di Caro covers all things vinous at Spotlight. His lover affair with Ontario wine began over a decade ago and he’s been in front of tasting bars trying to sweet talk staff into pouring a taste of a library wine or the latest unreleased bottle ever since. Since good wine can’t be made without great grapes, you can also catch him amongst the vines trying to persuade the winemaker into revealing his/her next big thing for you on Spotlight. His epicurean tendencies don’t just stop in the glass either. During the rest of his free time you can find him searching for the perfect bowl of Dan Dan noodles, exploring the city’s best tasting menus or baking cookies and mucking about in the kitchen.