The top Canadian Chardonnay of twenty years ago were big wines. They were oak-heavy, high in alcohol, ultra-ripe, but also, often sharp in terms of their acid profile. In recent years, judging the National Wine Awards of Canada, and sampling many other top Canadian Chardonnay, it has been clear to see that the style has dramatically shifted.
Many great producers have emerged from coast to coast. In Niagara, wineries like Bachelder, Hidden Bench, Pearl Morisette, and Leaning Post – among many others – have ably shown the region’s potential to make exciting Chardonnay. Among the newer entrants, On Seven Estate Winery is a true stand out.
The property, “on seven” acres of abandoned vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Four Mile Creek area, was acquired by aficionados Vittorio & Sula de Stefano in 2009. After extensive uprooting, site analysis, and planning, five acres were planted in well-draining, clay loam soils with significant chalky deposits . No expense was spared.
After a lengthy wait, de Stefano was able to procure top quality rootstocks and clones directly from Burgundy’s highly respected Mercier nursery. Under the guidance of veteran viticultural consultant, Peter Gamble, On Seven estate proceeded to produce very low yields (1 – 2 tonnes per acre) of certified organic wines of impressive complexity and finesse.
The quality here is all the more noteworthy given the location of vineyards. Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to many of the warmest vineyard sites of the peninsula. Most vintners head for the benchlands, in the Niagara Escarpment area, to make cool climate Chardonnay. On Seven derives freshness from a combination of north-facing slopes, chalky soils, and higher acid Dijon clones.
The wines are made in a low intervention style, with gentle, whole cluster pressing, wild yeast fermentations, and lengthy ageing in low levels of new French oak. Tasting across the years, from the inaugural 2017 vintage, to the 2018s and now the 2020s, the quality is consistently high.
And now, the wines are finally available in Québec, though in minute volumes so get them while they last!
On Seven Estate “The Pursuit” Chardonnay 2020 – 94pts.
Initially reserved, with attractive green fruit, citrus blossom, almond, and brioche notes emerging with aeration. The palate displays lovely tension, with crisp acidity, steely structure, and subtly creamy core. Tangy orchard fruit and savoury nuance linger on the finish. Still quite youthful and taut, with a long life ahead. Decant an hour before serving.
On Seven Estate “The Devotion” Chardonnay 2020 – 95pts.
Sourced from their best plots, The Devotion is On Seven estate’s star Chardonnay. A mere 91-cases were made of the 2020 vintage. It is a hugely promising wine. Enticing aromas of anise, white flowers, apple, and hazelnut nougat define the nose. The palate is full-bodied yet lithe and silky in texture with an expansive, layered mid-palate. Finishes on a lifted, savoury note with subtle, refreshing salinity.
Given the boutique size of the winery and lengthy ageing (three years from harvest to bottling), it is not always easy to get your hands on a bottle. If you live in Ontario, I highly recommend getting on their mailing list for future releases. In Québec, the first allocation has arrived! Inquire with agent: Symbiose Vins