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i4C Niagara: There’s no cooler way to learn about chardonnay

July 26, 2023

When Michelle Cherutti-Kowal, MW stands up to speak, it’s hard not to be lured in by her impeccable knowledge drawn from years of experience tasting and judging wines.

As the keynote address speaker and host of two discussion panel masterclasses at i4C in Niagara-on-the-Lake – one of North America’s biggest wine celebrations that puts the spotlight on cool climate chardonnay – Cherutti-Kowal spoke of her own relationship with wine before presiding over both “Learn to taste like a Master of Wine” and “Filling in the ‘Blancs’” to a captivated audience.

Read Also: i4C: A seriously cool chardonnay celebration

Celebrating its 13th anniversary in 2023, the i4C is a huge operation and has easily become one of the most anticipated events on the wine calendar each year. This four-day celebration offers exceptional experiences for everyone who wishes to take part – with the ‘School of Cool’ educational day being the highlight for trade and media from around the world to come together.

Cherutti-Kowal joined an esteemed list of internationally known keynote speakers that include the likes of Andrew Jefford, Julia Harding, Karen MacNeil, Ian D’Agata, Matt Kramer, Tim Atkin, and Steven Spurrier.


i4C 2023: The School of Cool educational session is always a must-attend event.

The i4C’s mandate isn’t just about creating a showcase event for Canadian wine enthusiasts, it has also created international ambassadors – winemakers, media and influencers – who have marveled at the sophistication and quality of the wines produced in Ontario, proving that this is the perfect backdrop for Ontario’s VQA wines to share the stage with the world’s best.

The masterclass sessions

The ‘Learn to taste like a Master of Wine – a study in chardonnay’ had us tasting eight chardonnays blind from within the 90 wines of the i4C. Attendees were asked to challenge their blind tasting skills, trying to pinpoint country (and even region). One by one after each round of guessing, Cherutti-Kowal invited winemakers to come up on stage for a one-on-one chat about their chardonnay. It’s the type of exercise that reminds us how everything we experience in the glass is the secret to the story of any wine.

During the ‘Blend like a Winemaker’ session, hosted by Niagara winemaker Rob Power (Creekside, Queenston Mile) audience members were allowed to peek behind the winemaking curtain and taste four unfinished chardonnays – brought in by winemakers, straight from the barrel cellar. Each winemaker joined the panel to walk audiences through some of the choices and options that go into the final blend of a bottle of chardonnay.


The ‘Blend like a Winemaker’ masterclass panel at i4C.

The final session of the 2023 School of Cool, called ‘Filling in the Blancs’ was about bubbles. The sparkling wine category is well on the rise, with many suggesting that traditional method sparkling made from chardonnay is the most elegant and has the most longevity. Michelle Cherutti-Kowal returned as moderator for this panel discussion, featuring eight winemakers, digging deep into the world of lees, base wine choices, reserve wines and the differences in vintage and non-vintage sparkling winemaking.

In total, 57 Ontario wineries are members of the i4C Association. Since 2011, nearly 250 wineries have participated, representing 38 cool climate wine regions, and over 1,000 different cool climate chardonnays and Blanc de Blancs have been poured.


– Carmelo Giardina is the principal editor at VineRoutes


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