2017 Wild & Inspired (by Georgian Hills) “Cuvée Niagara Peninsula” Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula VQA, Ontario, Canada (Alcohol 13%, 3g/l Residual Sugar) Winery and website $30 (750ml bottle)

2016 Wild & Inspired (by Georgian Hills) “Cuvée Wismer Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Twenty Mile Bench VQA, Ontario, Canada (Alcohol 12.5%, 3g/l Residual Sugar) Winery and website $36 (750ml bottle)

Here we have a tale of two bottles of Ontario wine, one Chardonnay and another Pinot, both of which impressed me greatly… so much so that I simply couldn’t pick a favourite, even when I tried.

I first tasted these way back at the start of 2020 at the big Ontario wines tasting at Toronto’s ROM, Monday February the 24th. This was in times pre-COVID, but I distinctly remember, on that particular day, joking with my peers that this may be the last time we see each other and embrace for quite some time. How we laughed… Things have changed quite a bit since then.

Nevertheless, I was most impressed by the wines that were poured for me that day, and I’ve always wished to revisit them in a more placid setting. So last week, after dinner, I found myself craving some cool climate Chard and Pinot, and decided I’d crack open these two bottles. 

I find the whole concept of the Wild & Inspired project rather fascinating: take fruit from some of the best vineyard sources in Niagara, get Burgundian-grape-whisperer Thomas Bachelder on board, and then have him make wild ferment wines up north at Georgian Hills Vineyards, the idea being that the different ambient conditions (and micro-flora/fauna) would bring a different character to said wines than if they had been nicely asked to ferment in their native Niagara. Having tasted many a wine from these particular sources previously, I can safely say that there is a distinct character to these wines; whether this has been brought about by the climatic factors of the cellar’s location or perhaps the residual yeast strains from said cellar’s previous barrel dwellers, I’m still unsure. But one thing is for certain, I really enjoyed both of these wines.

Tasting them over the course of three days, and checking in with the biodynamic calendar on my When Wine app for fun, I observed that both bottlings showed at their best on the second and third days, with the first day being a Leaf Day, and the subsequent being Fruit Days. While this didn’t particularly surprise me, there was a seriously marked intensity of gorgeous fruit on those last two days, whether that was the ethereal magic of the biodynamic calendar or the impact of the wines seeing a little more oxygen, who knows? Don’t get me wrong here, the wines were still good on the Leaf Day, but perhaps a little too reserved and maybe a touch austere.

The Chardonnay presents that attractive wild barrel ferment funk that I’ve always been drawn to; one just doesn’t find that aromatic on commercially inoculated wines. Beyond this one will discover gently toasted spice notes from the French cooperage, wafts of leesy autolytic, Tarte Tatin, buttery pastries, hazelnuts, and just a touch of musky smokiness. The palate brings more patisserie to the party, with correct cool climate acid levels, pulling into check a round, generous mouthfeel, with a touch more influence from the barrels. 

On to the Pinot Noir… At first I found the nose extremely reserved, but with time it opened up into a most enticing fruit compôte with understated, crumbled dried herbs on the side. Beyond this, one will find strawberry and cherry fruits, an intriguing leafy earthiness that dissipated over time, and a wonderfully charming and delicate floral element. The palate is medium-bodied, with brisk acidity coupled with some light, dusty/leafy tannin action, and a great spiced raspberry finish, with considerable length.

Both great wines. I’m looking forward to tasting further vintages.

Cuvée Niagara Peninsula Chardonnay –

Cuvée Wismer Vineyard Pinot Noir –

(Both four and a half apples out of a possible five)

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he enjoyed them, but especially on the Flower and Fruit days.