Whilst I am loathe to admit it, I have never attended i4C (International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration) in years previously.
Now, I feel that it is important to state that this absence has had nothing to do with me abstaining from said event, or some latent disdain for the varietal in question (Saying that, I did go through a brief ABC or “Anything But Chardonnay” phase back in the mid-90’s, but thankfully I matured and grew out of that). No, it actually has everything to do with my perennially hectic work travel scheduling.
For the past five years I have been booked in for FAM (familiarisation) trips to Europe, and have never been in Canada when i4C was taking place. That being said, this year I have made a firm commitment to attend and cover for Good Food Revolution.
The Extensive Programme
The event, taking place in Niagara over the weekend of the the 22nd to 24th of July, is now entering its sixth year, and in those six years since its original conception it has grown, evolved, mutated, and augmented to become the rich, diversely-programmed beast it is today. From the essential core events (almost all sold out and with waiting lists!) through to the myriad satellite tastings, luncheons, dinners, and seminars, there is a little something for everyone over the course of the i4C weekend. Just take a gander at the roster of Chefs taking part! There will be some good eating too, of that I have no doubt.
The Keynote Speaker – Ian d’Agata
i4C has developed a reputation for bringing in the very best of keynote speakers. Matt Kramer (Wine Spectator) has been twice (2011 and 2015), with appearances by Stephen Brook, Steven Spurrier (Decanter) and Tim Atkin MW in those interim years. For me, this year’s real highlight is the inclusion of the simply incomparable Ian d’Agata (Decanter/Vinous). If you haven’t witnessed his informed, erudite, and incredibly entertaining commentary previously, then i4C is the perfect environment in which to experience the wit, charm, and vast knowledge base of a gentleman I consider to be one of the great wine writers of our time.
The Vast Array Of Wines On Offer
And let’s not for a moment forget the wines. With some 60 wineries taking part (30 from Ontario, and 30 international), there is an impressive selection of some of the finest examples of just what this grape is capable of when grown in cooler climates. If you even occasionally enjoy Chardonnay you are sure to find something to your liking. From reductive, minerally, stoney/flinty bottlings to more rounded, unctuous, weighty offerings, looking at the list of this year’s wines, I can see that i4C has them all.
The Addition Of Some Cool Climate Reds
I have seen some criticism levelled at i4C 2016’s inclusion of cool climate red wines into what was previously a strictly Chardonnay-only invitational. While I can see why some may feel this diffusion somehow dilutes the brand, I’ve been around long enough (and to enough single varietal symposiums) to understand that after a couple of days tasting/drinking nothing but the yin of Nebbiolo/Zinfandel/Pinot, there’s nothing better than the yang of a glass of Arneis/Riesling/Chardonnay… and quite frankly, after all that top-notch Chardonnay I’ve seen listed, I’m going to be seriously looking forward to the crunchy red fruit and juicy acidity of a perfectly chilled Ontario Gamay. Bring it on!
The Fruits Of So Many’s Labours
Having previously worked on similarly ambitious food and wine symposiums, I have an intimate understanding of just how much work goes into organising such an event, and the political, fiscal, and logistical challenges inherent in doing so. With this in mind, I have the utmost respect and admiration for the 2016 i4C committee and the supporting wineries for putting together what looks to be the most fascinating series of events yet.
See you in a couple of weeks… and let’s keep our fingers crossed that the weather holds up!
P.S. The Non Doctor Soundsystem may be making a surprise appearance.
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he’s really looking forward to this.