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Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay 2002
In the vineyards, a combination of science and intuition drives the selection of grape varietals best suited to the Okanagan Valley's diverse microclimates. Investments in technology, irrigation systems, frost protection and weather stations are all designed to encourage the production of premium fruit. Complete control of the process from planting to harvest is essential. At the winery, new presses, expanded barrel aging capacity and new temperature controlled underground cellars ferment and carefully age the wine under optimum conditions.
With a cool climate suitable for more than just icewine production, Canada is also home to excellent dry still and sparkling wines. Most viticulture is based in Ontario on the east coast and British Columbia on the west coast. Because of the high risk of winter freeze and spring frost, plantings are typically centered on large bodies of water to take advantage of their temperature moderating effects.
In Ontario, particularly on the Niagara Peninsula, aromatic white varieties like Riesling and Gewürztraminer are most successful, often with racy acidity and citrus notes. Many wineries produce both dry and semi-dry versions. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Cabernet Franc perform nicely here as well. For icewine, French-American hybrid variety Vidal is popular. In British Columbia, many of the same grapes are grown, but there is also a significant emphasis on Bordeaux varieties—especially Merlot.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While practically every country in the wine producing world grows it, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. As far as cellar potential, white Burgundy rivals the world’s other age-worthy whites like Riesling or botrytized Semillon. California is Chardonnay’s second most important home, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia and South America are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay flavors tend towards grapefruit, lemon zest, green apple, celery leaf and wet flint, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of melon, peach and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut and spice, while malolactic fermentation imparts a soft and creamy texture.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with flaky white fish with herbs, scallops, turkey breast and soft cheeses. Richer Chardonnays marry well with lobster, crab, salmon, roasted chicken and creamy sauces.
Since the 1990s, big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays from California have enjoyed explosive popularity. More recently, the pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction, towards a clean, crisp style that rarely utilizes new oak. In Burgundy, the subregion of Chablis, while typically employing the use of older oak barrels, produces a similar bright and acid-driven style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy its lighter style.