Château Saint Jean Reserve Chardonnay 2007, Sonoma, California, United States
Norman Hardie Chardonnay 2009, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada
Following the highly entertaining and bizarrely officiated Canada v. USA Olympic Women’s soccer semifinal, I have pitted highly reputed Chardonnays from both countries against each other in rematch. I promise to be no more biased than the FIFA appointed ref Christina Pederson, and not allow my true patriot love effect my judgement at all. Call this the 2012 Judgement of (Wilson Avenue in N.D.G.) of Montreal.
Just like both soccer teams were great, if not epic, these wines are both positively memorable.
The opening kickoff will go to the favoured representatives of the United States of America. All in all, The Sonoma produced Château Saint Jean Reserve Chardonnay might be the perfect wine doppleganger for perennial US Soccer standout Abby Wambach. Strong in all facets of the game and constantly striving and showing leadership in the pursuit to be the best. The nose, however, had the direct shot of Megan Rapinoe. No deviation, pear and lime like it should be – and the oak came across as roasted almonds not Louisville Slugger. Into the Gulp, again, this is a very straight forward wine. Just like the United States soccer ladies, they play an attacking game going to the net, and usually in a straight line. With the power to push forward and impose itself, the fruits were tropical and citrus, and the structure was held in check by more oak than I used to, from my usual French chards, so vanilla and cream were there. Those latter flavour notes reminded me of some New Orleans beignets that I remember from my pre-gluten free days. Elegance really comes into play with this wine, as it is a very good sample of what a good winemaker can do when executing the California Chardonnay game plan with some really strong grapes to draw on. Championship Material.
The Challenger: Norman Hardie is a Prince Edward County winemaker but he called on grapes from Niagara to produce his 2008 Unfiltered Chardonnay. From climes with a shorter growing (and soccer) season than their US opponent you get a wine that does not have the same the same character whatsoever.
Nose: A much wider spectrum here, apple, flowers, baguette all show lots nervous energy and jump out like they just passed around a vile smelling salts. Into the gulp you get more freshness, more cracking apple, more acid, floral notes. To continue with the soccer analogy, this is a wine that goes wide, crosses back and might even grab your jersey when the ref isn’t looking. Same varietal, different grapes, different winemakers.
In comparing winemakers, you have to look at the grapes they are given. The Sonoma grapes do get warmer weather, longer growing season where the culture of winemaking is about making the epic bottle. Norm Hardie, on the other hand comes from a culture of stretching the possibilities of what wine can be made from grapes that don’t have all the obvious advantages available in the Sonoma climate. Hardie has to take advantage of what he has, and the result is a wine that is thick in character where the Château St. Jean is long on disciplined direction. Advantage taken.
It would be a shame for either of these wines to lose this match, but my preferred style is the Hardie based on true grit, more of a distinctive signature while maintaining a very high quality level.
A bottleDJ Gold Record For Canada! USA Settles for A Hit!
Musical Match: I have stretched analogies far enough for the wines, but here is a special song for FIFA referee Christina Pederson. Listen for the Lyric, a black fly in your Chardonnay. That pretty much sums up her performance in that otherwise perfect Olympic Semi Final during the London 2012 games.