Since it began in 1999 Le Clos Jordanne has had a simple goal. Create the very best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay possible in Niagara and capture the region's essence in the glass.
Although it sounds relatively simple it's a goal that takes a lot of hard work and some luck from mother nature. 2009 was one of those years where everything came together precisely to the liking of the temperamental prodigy that is locally grown Pinot Noir.
When the joint project called Le Clos Jordanne began with a partnership between Canada's largest wine company Vincor, now the Canadian arm of Constellation, and Burgundy's largest producer Boisset, the landscape in Ontario was very different. A winery with a focus on producing quality local Pinot Noir didn't really exist and the grape was still largely unproven with only a few pioneering wineries and growers taking up the task growing it. With a preference for temperatures neither too hot nor too cold, extreme sensitivity to high wind, frost and humidity, and tightly-packed thin-skinned clusters prone to disease and rot, it's easy to see why many growers took a pass. Today Pinot is one of Niagara's most popular grapes thanks in large part to Le Clos Jordanne, which put in the resources and the hard work crucial to making quality Pinot Noir. Both the critics and consumers seem to agree with the winery's vision. The wines have received rave reviews, selling out quickly since the first vintage.
It hasn't always been an easy journey and small adjustment have been made along the way. Although winemaker Sébastien Jacquey sometimes finds that his training as a engineer of Oenology and Viticulture doesn't always apply to the conditions in Niagara the same way it would in Burgundy, learning from the different challenges of the climate excites him. He's also passionate about helping to discover the identity of the different vineyards in a young region with vast vintage variation like Niagara. If he was working back in Burgundy where the regional identity and viticultural path is firmly established there would be less room for exploration. Jacquey mentioned that the winery has moved away from certified organic viticulture as it allows more flexibility to judiciously combat disease pressure and pests particularly in challenging and wet vintages. But the vision of treading lightly on the land and sustainably producing the best Pinot Noir possible without pesticides or insecticides remains.
At Spotlight we were recently invited to taste its 2009 single vineyard Pinot Noirs at an event held in the beautiful, but highly secretive Vintage Conservatory. Without a spittoon in sight and the space full of impeccably dressed professionals, it wasn't a typical wine event. In fact when I talked to Vincor's National Hospitality Director Del Rollo about it, he mentioned that while Le Clos Jordanne still does tradional tastings for oneophiles, with this event they wanted to introduce the wines to a bit of different audience. That audience turned out to be a group of some of Toronto's most infulenial Generation X and older Generation Y/Millenials. It's a wise decision because this young compolitain group has a great enthusiams for fine food and wine and is much further along in the development of their epicurean tastes than previous generations. Juding by the chatter in the room and talking to staff they liked what they tasted.
In the video below winemaker Sébastien Jacquey talked to Spotlight about the philosophy of Le Clos Jordanne and a little about how the 2009 single vineayard Pinot Noir line-up is tasting right now.
At the recommendation of Jacquey we began with La Petite Collline. Its sandy loam soil always produces a lighter wine that's often described as feminine by Pinot enthusiasts. That characteristic comes through on the nose and palate with cranberry, roses and a minerally finish. It was the lightest bodied Pinot of the night with a medium minus feel and tannins to match. The refreshing high acidity gives the wine great structure. It's drinking nicely now but should continue to develop over the next couple of years.
Claystone Terrace is always a perennial favourite. The heavy clay and limestone of the soil makes for much more masculine Pinot Noir. The flavours and aromas are earthier with roasted beets, mushroom and forrest floor blending with sour cherry. There's also a touch of an intriguing meaty note with a rare steak-like edge to the finish. In the mouth it feels weightier, but not heavy. Its tightest of the three with medium tannins and a strong acid backbone that suggest it has potential to age and come into its own with a few years in the cellar.
The Le Clos Jordanne vineyard is usually the boldest of the bunch, but it's by no means a lout. Coming from the eastern side of the property it tends to get more sun producing riper flavours. In 2009 that means flavour and aromas of wild strawberries, classic Niagara sour cherry, ripe red raspberry and hints of toasty oak, vanilla and damp earth. Tannins are less grippy than the Claystone. They're silky, but firm and well integrated providing great structure when combined with the high acidity. Although its certainly drinking the best of the three right now it also has the elements to continue to evolve and develop.
Le Clos Jordanne 2009 La Petite Colline Pinot Noir
Le Clos Jordanne 2009 Claystone Terrace Pinot Noir
Written by Mike Di Caro
Michael Di Caro covers all things vinous at Spotlight. His lover affair with Ontario wine began over a decade ago and he’s been in front of tasting bars trying to sweet talk staff into pouring a taste of a library wine or the latest unreleased bottle ever since. Since good wine can’t be made without great grapes, you can also catch him amongst the vines trying to persuade the winemaker into revealing his/her next big thing for you on Spotlight. His epicurean tendencies don’t just stop in the glass either. During the rest of his free time you can find him searching for the perfect bowl of Dan Dan noodles, exploring the city’s best tasting menus or baking cookies and mucking about in the kitchen.