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Barrel of Golden Wine at the Rainbow's end

Winemaker Dan Sullivan, and his barrels of golden Chardonnay suitable for St. Patrick's Day
Winemaker Dan Sullivan, and his barrels of golden Chardonnay suitable for St. Patrick's Day
Colin Leonard photographer

Dan Sullivan has to go back 160 years to get to his Irish roots, but there is a barrel of gold at the base of his rainbow this St. Patrick's Day. Golden wine that is. Dan is the part owner and winemaker at Rosehall Run Winery in Prince Edward County.

The golden wine is his JCR Chardonnay 2011 which was selected by the Drinks Business Magazine from the UK, as one of only two Canadian Chardonnays to win a medal in their International Chardonnay Masters wine competition. The other Canadian wine which medaled was Clos de Jordanne 2009 from Jackson Triggs.

The JCR Chardonnay was barrel fermented and aged for 14 months in 30% new and 70% old large French oak puncheons and was made from the oldest chardonnay vines planted on the Rosehall Winery Estate back to '01 and '02. Sullivan explained that barrel fermentation allowed the lees (spent yeast) to coat the barrel thereby softening the impact of the oak, giving a taste of creaminess to the wine.

Dan Sullivan began as an amateur winemaker learning from some of Niagara's leading winemakers during his days of home winemaking when he bought and pressed Niagara grapes. These days, Dan is a director of the Ontario Wine Council and has been a certified Canadian Wine Judge. His wines, especially Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, have received international attention.

Rosehall Run estate winery is jointly owned by Dan and Lynn Sullivan with Lynn's brother-in-law Cam (JCR) and sister Cindy Reston as silent partners It is located between Hillier and Wellington on the Greer Road in Prince Edward County, Ontario.

In addition to to the award from the Chardonnay Masters, the JCR Chardonnay has received excellent reviews from Canadian wine critics including Michael Pinkus, David Lawrason, John Szabo, Sarah Amato and Konrad Ebjich.

I interviewed Dan Sullivan back in 2010 for a magazine article and confessed I really didn't care for oaked Chardonnay. Then he poured me a tasting of his Cuvée County Chardonnay, a blend of barrel and tank aged Chardonnay, that was very easy on the palate. It changed my mind. Next, I tried the fully oaked Chardonnay, which had none of heavy tannins I expected, and was rich with notes of slightly tart white fruit, toast and creamed buckwheat honey.

At the time, I didn't buy it. Instead, I chose the more affordable and approachable Cuvée County but the memory of the taste haunted me for weeks afterwards. By the time I'd talked myself into buying a bottle, it was sold out. Like leprechaun's gold, if you don't hold fast when it's in you hand, it's gone.

The JCR Chardonnay 2011 is the newest vintage of that fully oaked Chardonnay and a little cheaper at $29.95. The tasting notes say "enticing fruity aromas of golden delicious apple, and yellow pear with vanilla and toasty goodness undertone, on the palate layered with juicy citrus and tropical fruit, vanilla crème brûlée and subtle minerality with a lush, creamy lingering finish".

It's the bottle of gold at the end of the rainbow for this spring's St. Patrick's Day. It will disappear fast. JCR Chardonnay is available at the winery and from their online store.

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