The wines of Norman Hardie, Prince Edward County
An incredible vertical tasting of Pinot and Chardonnay from one of Canada's star winegrowers


Norman Hardie is making what many consider to be Canada’s finest wines. He finished his studies at Dijon, where he ended up training as a sommelier, learning all about fine wine. In 1989 he returned to Canada and ended up washing dishes at the Four Seasons in Toronto. But it wasn’t long before he found his way to the sommelier job. 

He decided he loved wine, and that he wanted to learn how to make it. So off he headed to Oregon, where he did a harvest. This was followed by four years at Bouchard Finlayson in South Africa’s Hemel-en-Aarde (he was actually born in South Africa, moving to Toronto in his teens), with three vintages in Burgundy slotted into the South African winters. 

Hardie was on a rapid learning curve, and generating quite a CV. Next up was vintage with Dean Shaw in New Zealand’s Central Otago, and then Jim Clendenen at Au Bon Climat in California.

It was inevitable that Hardie was going to set up his own operation, and he took a partner, bought almost 90 acres of vineyeard land in two sites in Prince Edward County, and began, with a winery built in time for the 2004 vintage. It was the soil that led him, after all these travels, to the County: the rare mix of limestone and clay that is the holy grail for those who want to make world-class Pinot Noir. 

The wines come from both Prince Edward County (referred to as just 'County') and also Niagara, where Norm has found two red clay sites, from which he says he wanted to make mineral-driven Chardonnay. For the Chardonnay, in the best years a cuvee L is made, blending County and Niagara together. 

There’s something magnetic about Norm: he seems to draw people in. It’s a combination of a magnetic personality, a generosity of spirit, a relentless drive towards a goal (Norm used to run ultramarathons), and a pizza oven.  There’s a bunkhouse at the winery, and a group of volunteers often end up here at weekends helping out. The team here seem focused and tight-knit as a group, and there’s a sense here that something special is being achieved.


Norman Hardie Riesling 2012 Ontario, Canada
9.1% alcohol, 30% County, 70% Niagara, three quarters wild ferment. Lovely, precise, citrussy Riesling that is pure and lively with good acidity. Lovely precision, some pithy notes and a hint of sweetness. 89/100

Norman Hardie Pinot Gris 2012 Prince Edward County, Canada
11.2% alcohol. Textured and fresh with a fine, expressive nose. Fruity with nice weight, but also has lovely non-fruit complexity. Interesting texture here, restrained with some mineral notes. 90/100

Norman Hardie Calcaire 2012 Ontario, Canada
This is a tank built with a bit of everything over 8 weeks, with light to medium lees. It was racked, the clear juice was taken, and the lees were taken and filtered. Norm's goal was to make something with freshness, texture and vibrancy. It's very fresh with some minerality and lovely purity. Taut texture: real precision but also lovely fruit: fresh, multidimensional and detailed. 94/100

Norman Hardie Chardonnay 2007 Prince Edward County, Canada
The vines were 4-5 years old at this stage. Profound and quite elegant, with lovely pear and white peach fruit, as well as spice and minerals, and a hint of matchstick. Lovele precision and detail with elegance, texture and weight. 93/100

Norman Hardie Chardonnay 2008 Prince Edward County, Canada
Reductive and tight with some pithy notes, and lovely tension to the citrus, peach and pear fruit. Good acidity and freshness; real focus of flavour. Textured, complex, profound. 94/100

Norman Hardie Chardonnay 2010 Prince Edward County, Canada
11.5% alcohol. Deep colour. Lovely, lively, rich and spicy, with mineral tension. Real complexity, freshness and finesse, but also some generous richer flavours. Some nut and toasty notes. 94/100

Norman Hardie Chardonnay 2011 Prince Edward County, Canada
Nutty, mealy richness to the nose with some precise pear and white peach fruit, as well as some spicy minerality and a flinty edge. The palate is supple and pure with some precision and freshness. Lovely weight. 95/100

Norman Hardie Niagara Chardonnay 2006 Ontario, Canada
There’s an almost salty, seawater, marine edge to the pithy pear and apple fruit here, with some herby characters, too. Lovely with that’s full of interest. 92/100

Norman Hardie Niagara Chardonnay 2008 Ontario, Canada
Hint of matchstick on the nose. Lovely finesse with some minerality. The palate is ripe with pear and white peach fruit, as well as a generous texture with some breadth. Nicely mineral, with ripe fruit and fine texture. 94/100

Norman Hardie Niagara Chardonnay 2009 Ontario, Canada
This was showing a subtle earthy, musty character, so it’s not rated.

Norman Hardie Niagara Chardonnay 2010 Ontario, Canada
‘This is one of the wines I am most proud of,’ says Norm. ‘It’s not the best wine, but we did everything in a hot year to make this work.’ It’s the only wine he has ever made over 13% alcohol, at 13.1%. Ripe white peach and pear fruit. Generous and rich with some spicy structure and nice freshness. Lovely texture: broad but not blowsy. Stylish. 93/100

Norman Hardie Niagara Chardonnay 2011 Ontario, Canada
12.5% alcohol. Lovely hint of mineral matchstick character on the nose. There’s lovely apple, pear and white peach fruitiness here with some citrus freshness, as well as a hint of almond. Beautiful focus and balance here: it’s very fresh, but has some richer notes, yet avoids being austere. Much more presence and focus than many Niagara Chardonnays. 94/100

Norman Hardie Chardonnay Cuvée L 2008 Ontario, Canada
A blend of County and Niagara only made in the best years. Mineral, taut, matchstick nose. Lovely precision with some pith, spice and nice pear and citrus fruit. The palate is so fresh with great acidity and lovely structure. Very bright with a bit of pith and grapefruit, and lovely precision. 95/100

Norman Hardie Chardonnay Cuvée des Amis 2010 Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
This spends 19 months in 500 litre oak. Concentrated and precise, showing a little oak, but it’s the fruit that dominates: fresh pear and peach, with some toastiness in the background. Very pure with lovely texture. 94/100

Norman Hardie County Pinot Noir 2007 Prince Edward County, Canada
Beautiful floral nose. Very fine and expressive with red cherry fruit. Supple, fresh and bright with lively fruit and nice texture. The acidity provides the train tracks keeping all the flavours on line. Precision and purity. 94/100

Norman Hardie County Pinot Noir 2009 Prince Edward County, Canada
Supple and bright with nice sweetness and some spiciness. Ripe and textured with some grip and a bit of structure. Lovely tension. 94/100

Norman Hardie County Pinot Noir 2010 Prince Edward County, Canada
Very interesting nose with floral, fruity raspberry and cherry fruit. Sweet and smooth on the palate with black cherries and plums. Very long, pure fruit here: so drinkable, but also has complexity. 93/100

Norman Hardie County Pinot Noir 2011 Prince Edward County, Canada
12.5% alcohol. Pale cherry red colour. So expressive, pure and supple with red cherry and herb fruit and complex, fine, spicy notes. Real precision and elegance with a subtle meatiness under the silky cherry fruit. So supple and pure, with haunting perfume and real finesse. 95/100

Norman Hardie Niagara Pinot Noir 2008 Ontario, Canada
12.2% alcohol. Fresh, lively and herby with some sappy notes, spice and minerals. Nice fresh cherry fruits too. Lovely wine. Light and supple with some spice. 92/100

Norman Hardie Niagara Pinot Noir 2009 Ontario, Canada
This spent 42 days on skins. Lovely sweet broad cherry and berry fruits on the nose. Sweet, silky and boldly structured on the palate with nice grip and supple, pure fruit. Fresh black cherries, plums. Quite structured with real precision and depth. 94/100

Norman Hardie Niagara Pinot Noir 2010 Ontario, Canada
Floral, fresh, sappy cherry fruit nose. The palate is sweet and fruity with lively cherries and berries, and a bit of spice. Nice grippy structure here. Sweetness and precision combined, with good structure and density. 94/100


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Wines tasted 07/13  
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