He has been given the keys to one of Niagaraâ€™s most impressive portfolios â€” the elegantly styled Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays of Le Clos Jordanne.
The joint venture between Vincor Canada and the Boisset family from France has been firmly established in a few short years by viticulturist and winemaker Thomas Bachelder, who nurtured the brand through five vintages before announcing his departure earlier this year.
Itâ€™s now up to Sebastien Jacquey, Bachelderâ€™s former assistant, to carry on the quality of winemaking that has made Le Clos one of the regionâ€™s most collectible and sought-after wines.
Jacquey is an enthusiastic and dynamic young winemaker who brings with him a rich and varied background in oenology, viticulture, and environmental studies, primarily based in France, with practical work at some of the most famous regions (and wineries) in that country.
He has worked as Bachelderâ€™s assistant and knows the vineyards and site-specific terroir of Le Clos inside and out. Jacquey inherits the 2008 vintage thatâ€™s just being released, the 2009 vintage thatâ€™s now in barrels, but the 2010 vintage is all his from harvest to bottling. A tasting of barrel samples reveals both the 2009 and 2010 wines will be exceptional back-to-back vintages.
The 2008 vintage in Niagara was a tough one with plenty of wet weather making ripening a challenge. But both the Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays were two varieties that fared best in the cool and damp season.
â€œOverall, 2008 was a good vintage,â€ said Jacquey, during a full portfolio tasting at the winery recently. â€œI would say it was harder to manage. But there is no fun if every vintage was the same. In Ontario, winemakers are going to have lots of fun because every year is going to be different. And thatâ€™s what makes the job interesting.â€
Jacquey and Bachelder used 35-40% new oak (light to medium toast barrels) for the Pinot Noirs and bottled the wines sooner to preserve freshness on the palate. The finished wines are of medium colour and medium body, fresher and leaner than previous vintages but â€œwith good intensity,â€ said Jacquey.
It was a better overall vintage for the Chardonnays. The fruit was clean even though the wet weather was a bit of a worry. The winemakers chose to stir the lees a bit more and cut back to 15% new oak to show off the intensity of the fruit. The resulting wines are fresh and integrated on release with good aging potential.
Hereâ€™s what I liked from the tasting (note: wines will all be available through Vintages, on-line or through Jackson-Triggs winery):
Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir 2008 ($25, Vintages now, 3.5 stars) â€” A well-priced and delicious every day Pinot Noir with fresh red berries and oak-toast on the nose. Itâ€™s on the lighter side in the mouth with good acidity, strawberry and tart red fruits.
Le Clos Jordanne Talon Ridge Pinot Noir 2008 ($40, Vintages Jan. 22, 3.5 stars) â€” Talon Ridge is located at the top of the escarpment with stoney soil which makes it vulnerable to both rain and cooler temperatures. This is a light to medium style Pinot thatâ€™s both fresh and fruity with red berries, spice, oak and a touch of vanilla flavours for early drinking.
Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Pinot Noir 2008 ($40, Vintages, 4.5 stars) â€” Consistently the most personable and identifiable Pinots in the portfolio drawing its profile from the heavy, dark clay and limestone soils of Jordan. Itâ€™s a masculine style with game, mineral intensity, underbrush, cassis and red fruits around the edges. It shows wonderful fruit and oak in the mouth with both structure and a playful hint of restraint, suggesting more to come with some time in the cellar.
Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir 2008 ($70, Vintages now, 4 stars) â€” The grapes for the top wine come from the best block located the western side of the Le Clos Jordanne vineyard. Itâ€™s the darkest of the Pinots with an intense fresh red fruit nose and hint of bramble and licorice. Itâ€™s silky on the palate but needs time to fully integrate with the toast and oak.
Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay 2008 ($25, Vintages now, 4 stars) â€” Love the seamless oak tones on the nose to go with citrus-tropical fruits and whiff of vanilla. Itâ€™s ripe, fruity and balanced on the palate. Lovely sipper.
Le Clos Jordanne Talon Ridge Chardonnay 2008 ($37, Vintages now, 4 stars) â€” Quite muted at the moment but some fresh apple and citrus notes to go with flinty minerals and toast. Good weight and acidity on the palate and beginning to open up. Wait and be rewarded.
Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Chardonnay 2008 ($40, 4.5 stars) â€” Soft, mellow Chard with wonderful broad aromas of elegant oak, citrus zest, peach, flint, wet stone and vanilla. Just gorgeous in the mouth with a balanced attack of creamy fruit, mineral and integrated oak flavours.
Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2008 ($65, Vintages today, 4 stars) â€” A complex, interesting nose of pear, peach and tropical fruits all kissed gently by vanilla and oak. The flavours range from vanilla custard and mineral to a range of stone fruits all nicely integrated with stylish oak. Drink or hold in the cellar for 3-5 years.
The Vineyards of Le Clos Jordanne:
Le Clos Jordanne
Le Clos Jordanneâ€™s estate vineyard is located on the premium parcel of the Jordan bench, on the first rise from the plain, a natural plateau near the slope of the escarpment. At 7.6 hectares, it enjoys light limestone soils created by the ancient ice shield with rich sediments, and produces the wineryâ€™s fullest expressions of the terrior, all are ultra-premium. Planted with both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir between 2000-2001,it surrounded on three sides by environmentally- protected forest, woodland and pond nature areas which have been left in their natural state, featuring statuesque weeping willows and a picturesque pond complete with lily pads and wild flowers. This vineyard exemplifies the best of Le Clos Jordanneâ€™s emphasis on organic and natural practices to produce premium products. It is located at 2738 King Street, Jordan Station, at the T-junction of Jordan Road and Highway 81.
Located at 17th Street and King Street and at approximately 10 hectares, Claystone Terrace is just 300 metres east of Le Clos JordanneVineyard. Planted in 2000-2001, the vineyard should essentially be a mirror image of Le Clos Jordanne
Vineyard, separated by only a thin, treed ravine. The wines of the two vineyards, however, could not be more different in style, simply because of the change in the soil.Characterized by its heavier, darkÂ Â Â clayÂ Â Â soilsÂ Â Â whichÂ Â Â retainÂ Â Â moreÂ Â Â moisture, Claystone Terrace produces more full and fruity wines than the more floral Le Clos Jordanne. Claystone Terrace wines have been described as robust and masculine in character, with rich fruit tightly wound around a core of minerality, acid and tannin.
La Petite Colline
The smallest of Le Clos Jordanneâ€™s vineyards, La Petite Colline is only 3.25 hectares. Despite its size, La Petite Colline produces excellent vintages due to its well-drained sandy soil, slightly warmer temperatures, and its location on the Jordan Bench. It is the most eastern vineyard, situated two kilometers east of Le Clos JordanneVineyard and Claystone Terrace, located within the Twenty Mile Bench appellation at 11th Street and King Street, Jordan. Often the first harvested vineyard at Le Clos Jordanne, La Petite Colline was planted in 2002 with solely Pinot Noir grapes and produces for the Single Vineyard Tier.
Talon Ridge is the youngest and the largest of Le Clos Jordanneâ€™s four estate vineyards. Located at 7th and 17th Streets in Jordanne in the â€˜Vinemount Ridgeâ€™VQA, the vineyard is situated close to both the Twenty-Mile Bench VQA and Le Clos Jordanneâ€™s ClaystoneTerraceVineyard.Unlike the other vineyards, it is located in the top of the Niagara escarpment rather than at its base. It also faces south rather than north, which makes it less influenced by Lake Ontarioâ€™s warming effect, but is more influenced by the natural sunshine of a southerly slope. Its soils are stonier, with higher silt, and are therefore more vulnerable when it rains.
As a result of its cooler temperatures, the vineyardâ€™s winesÂ Â Â areÂ Â Â lighterÂ Â Â andÂ Â Â fruitier. FeaturingÂ Â Â both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varietals, the vines in Talon Ridge are Burgundian Dijon clones which were imported directly from France; planted from 2000-2002. At 37 hectares, Talon Ridge is The Clos Jordanneâ€™s largest vineyard, producing for both the Village Reserve Tier and the new Single Vineyard Tier.
Although the vineyard is young, the Le Clos Jordanne team have been diligently searching for the block that would provide a consistently mineral-scented wine with full expression of the Niagara terroir and â€œsense of place.â€
Through their labour, they discovered that a well-drained block in the south-west parcel of the Pinot Noir grapes and a perfectly-exposed part of the southern hill of the Chardonnay grapes produced such wine, and have confirmed this through several excellent vintages. These select blocks provide true expressions of the Niagara terroir and add new interest to the Single Vineyard collection called Talon Ridge.