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The long awaited arrival of Le Clos Jordanne wines, plus other special Niagara wines hitting Vintages shelves

By Rick VanSickle

Christmas has come to Vintages stores in Ontario and perhaps the biggest gift of all is the return of Le Clos Jordanne wines to shelves around the province.

The release on Saturday is large and of high quality with a healthy bevy of Ontario wines being released for the ho-ho-holiday season. Consumers can choose from a wide range of styles mostly from the Niagara region (only one Ontario wine is being released from outside Niagara and it won’t be mentioned here). Some of our favourites from the release, and reviewed by Wines In Niagara, are:

• Queenston Mile Vineyard Brut Blanc de Noirs
• 2027 Cellars Falls Vineyard Riesling
• Flat Rock Cellars Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling
• Cuddy by Tawse Chardonnay
• Henry of Pelham Bin 106 Baco Noir
• Bachelder Les Villages Pinot Noir Reserve
• Domaine Queylus Tradition Pinot Noir

There are also other classic Niagara wines being released such as Stratus Red, Cave Spring CSV Riesling, Hidden Bench Terroir Caché, and Kew Barrel Aged Blanc de Blancs, which we have not reviewed to date.

The full list is posted below with reviews of wines tasted by Wines In Niagara. But first …

Le Clos Jordanne
back at last

Niagara wine

Ontario wine

It was in June of this year that Wines In Niagara was summoned to the Jackson-Triggs winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake to witness the first Le Clos Jordanne wine since 2012, when the project was shelved, rumble down the bottling line. It was a proud moment for original Le Clos winemaker Thomas Bachelder who was tapped by Arterra Wines Canada to reboot the project from the very vineyards planted to produce the original wines.

Wines In Niagara wrote the exclusive story and posted it here.

The very first Le Clos Jordanne wines were released in 2007 to great critical acclaim. In 2009, the 2005 Le Clos Claystone Terrace Chardonnay generated global praise after winning first place in the Judgement of Montreal competition, showing the truly exceptional capabilities of the Niagara region and beating out favoured competitors from France and California. It was only the second wine Le Clos produced. But, after the 2012 vintage, the brand, which was then part of the giant U.S.-based Constellation Brands, was ditched despite an impressive history of producing some of this country’s most profound and beautiful Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs wines ever made.

After Constellation Brands sold its Canadian properties to the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (since rebranded as Arterra Wines Canada), it opened the door to a rebirth of Le Clos and, in turn, the wines being released for the first time at Vintages stores this Saturday with both

Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir 2017 and Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2017. The 2018s are safely in barrel at the Jackson-Triggs winery.

The resurrected project sticks to the previous distinctive branding with one striking difference — both the Pinot and Chardonnay are bottled with under Stelvin (screw caps).

Bachelder says that the wines are essentially made in the same way he made them originally with subtle differences such as not stirring of the lees on the Chardonnay, to keep them lean, and picking them earlier to retain that taut minerality so prevalent in the Jordan vineyard. For the Pinots, he is less concerned with colour than he was previously and more interested in not over-extracting the fruit.

“It’s great to start with a classic year (2017) with some older vines,” Bachelder said in June. “I’ve been anticipating this since six months before the 2017 vintage when we hooked up with each other (Arterra and Bachelder) and it’s nice to see your babies go to high school and now college,” he said.

Bachelder also makes wine under his namesake label from Niagara, Burgundy and Oregon, and is also chief winemaker Domaine Queylus wines in Niagara. As an aside, both Bachelder wines and Queylus have wines being released at Vintages Saturday.

Le Clos Jordanne was founded with the goal of producing ultra-premium wines expressive of the unique terroir of the Jordan Bench. The vineyards were planted with rootstock imported directly from Burgundy and low-yield vines were harvested using an unhurried approach — hand-picked, hand-sorted and moved using a gravity flow system that ensured careful handling. These techniques, combined with Bachelder’s personal expertise in cool-climate winemaking, helped create wines that truly raised the bar on quality for the Canadian wine industry and put the Niagara region’s distinct terroir on the world wine map.

The ‘clos’, or enclosed vineyard, of Le Clos Jordanne is surrounded and sheltered by the Carolinian forests and their glacial ravines. The limestone-laced, silt and clay glacial soils are known for bringing intensely-focused fruit, minerality and age-ability to the wines produced there.

“Le Clos Jordanne holds what is arguably one of the top-sites in Canada for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay,” says Bachelder. “I’m incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to return to this vineyard and reignite what I’ve always considered to be my passion project, with the goal of producing the highest quality wines from this region.

“As the founding winemaker of Le Clos Jordanne, I instantly fell in love with the micro-climate of the Jordan Bench in Niagara. Surrounded and sheltered by Carolinian forests and their glacial ravines, the ‘clos,’ or enclosed vineyard, of Le Clos Jordanne sits on limestone-laced silt and clay soils, which bring forth intensely-focused fruit, minerality and age-ability to the wines we produce there.

“To me, it remains one of the most surprising vineyard discoveries of our time and showcases the best of Ontario by bringing Old World Burgundian winemaker techniques together with New World terroir. The result is truly exceptional wine, beautifully reflective of this unique place.”

I tasted both the 2017 Le Clos wines recently, the Chardonnay for the second time after I had a preview before it was labeled months ago. Le Clos has not missed a beat, in fact, with the extra vine age, the wines continue to evolve with more depth and more profound minerality (Bachelder succeeds at coaxing it out of his wines better than ever before). The wines are both $45 and made at what the top level of Le Clos was originally made — when last released, the Le Grand Clos was $70 and the Le Grand Clos Chardonnay was $65.

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2017 ($45, 93 points) — The Chardonnay is whole-cluster pressed and wild fermented in tanks with the barely fermenting juice transferred to 228L French oak barrels to complete the fermentation. The wine is aged in barrels (no more than 20% of the barrels are new oak) for 16 to 18 months, racked and left to settle in tank for a month and filtered prior to bottling. The wines are aged a further eight months and bottled. This has a highly perfumed nose with notes of pear, quince, elegant and subtle spice, profound limestone minerally and freshening waves of salinity. While it’s tight and still rounding into form on the nose, it opens up beautifully on the palate with persistent and generous stone fruits, complexity and depth, barrel spice notes working in harmony with the pear/apple fruit, pristine river-rock minerality, lemon peel, integrated oak spices and a long, vibrant, intense finish. This is a terroir-driven Chardonnay you should cellar and watch grow as the acidity melts into the fruit and the minerality has a chance to strut its stuff.

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir 2017 ($45, 94 points) — Grapes for this top Pinot are hand-sorted, destemmed and wild fermented. After fermentation, the young wine is left on the skins for several days to fully extract aromas, finesse and complexity and then naturally goes through malolactic fermentation before aging in French oak (33% new barrels) for up to 20 months. After aging the wine is left to settle in tank and then bottled with a light filtration. The nose is highly perfumed, like the Chardonnay, and rich in minerality with gorgeous black cherries, brambly raspberries, dried violets, forest berries and lovely integrated oak spice notes. It’s texturally inviting on the palate, silky but structured, with savoury red fruits, anise, a touch of earth and loam, stony minerality, integrated oak spices, freshness and finesse through a long finish. It’s young, taut and a joyous wine that will reward for 7-10 years in the cellar.

Niagara recommendations from
the Vintages release Saturday

Queenston Mile Vineyard Brut Blanc de Noirs 2015 ($50, 92 points) — A 100% Pinot Noir sparkler that was whole bunch pressed from estate fruit and left on the lees for 26 months before disgorging. Very low dosage. Pretty cranberry colour in the glass with a nose of red berries, brioche, vanilla toast and citrus accents. A fairly energetic mousse is followed by tangy citrus, subtle raspberries, cherries and cranberries with biscuit and toasty notes through a long, vibrant finish. Quite lovely.

2027 Cellars Falls Vineyard Riesling 2017 ($19, 90 points) — This vineyard, located just below Calamus winery on the edge of the Ball’s Falls conservation area, has always produced wonderful Riesling for winemaker/owner Kevin Panagapka. It’s finished with 18 g/l of residual sugar (feels like less) and 10% abv. It shows vivid lime, grapefruit, citrus, apple and minerality. It’s juicy with high tension between myriad sweet-tart fruit, ginger and minerals. Racy acidity keeps this lively and balanced through the finish.

Cuddy by Tawse Chardonnay 2014 ($26, 89 points) – The nose exhibits pear, green apple, lemon, toasted oak and a subtle almond tone. On the palate the pear is front and centre backed by the apple and lemon with some spice notes – nutmeg/mace. Nicely balanced with lingering toasty oak and roasted almond. (Michael Lowe review)

Flat Rock Cellars Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2018 ($25, 91 points) – This vintage exhibits a very expressive and enticing nose of citrus tree blossoms, lemon and lime zest, grapefruit, and green apple notes. The off-dry sweetness and vibrant, juicy citrus flavours burst on the palate backed up by racy acidity and a distinct seam of minerality. It’s a perfect partner for mildly spicy dishes, much like the vegetable curry I paired it with. (Michael Lowe review)

From Rick VanSickle, not scored, tasted as part of Riesling retrospective — This is one of Niagara’s benchmark single-vineyard Rieslings and it rarely disappoints. The 2018 vintage shows a racy vein of stony minerality with lime, grapefruit, lemon pith and apple skin on the nose. The firm acidity on the palate highlights a range of citrus, green apple and mineral notes that are all crisp, dry and vibrant through the finish.

Domaine Queylus Tradition Pinot Noir 2016 ($32, 89 points) — From the warm 2016 vintage, this Pinot has a nose of brambly wild raspberry, black cherries, violets, plums and integrated herbs and spice. The tannins are evident on the palate with darker fruits, cassis, black cherries, cocoa, spice and good vibrancy through the finish. Can age 3+ years to soften the tannins.

Bachelder Les Villages Pinot Noir Reserve 2016 ($30, 90 points) — This is sourced from a blend of Niagara terroirs but still has that signature perfumed nose that all Bachelder Pinots possess to go with savoury cherries, raspberry bramble, earth and light oak spices from neutral oak aging. It has lovely texture and shows ripe red berries on the palate with a certain earthiness, finesse and integrated woodsy notes through a long finish.

Henry of Pelham Bin 106 Baco Noir 2018 ($30, 92 points) — This single-vineyard Baco has a powerful nose of smoky dark fruits, plums, dried tobacco, cherry compote, toasty vanilla and spice with an interesting array of integrated herbs. It’s thick in the glass and full-bodied on the palate with smoky/savoury cassis, currants, jammy red fruits, licorice, savoury spices and herbs all kept lively from the retention of bright acidity through a big finish. Cellar 5+ years.

Also released, but not reviewed:

• Rosewood Mead Royale Honey Wine 2017 ($20 for 500 mL)
• Inniskillin Gold Vidal Icewine 2017 ($90 for 375 mL)
• Stratus Red Icewine 2018 ($45 for 200 mL)
• Featherstone Joy Premium Cuvée Sparkling Rosé 2017 ($30)
• Kew Barrel Aged Blanc de Blancs 2011 ($30)
• Peller Estates Signature Series Ice Cuvée Rosé Sparkling ($36)
• Cave Springs CSV Riesling 2016 ($30)
• Tzafona Cellars Cold Climate Unoaked Chardonnay 2015 ($23)
• Tzafona Cellars Nava Blanc KPM 2016 ($20)
• Hidden Bench Terroir Caché 2016 ($45)
• Stratus Red 2016 ($50)
• Tawse Grower’s Blend Cabernet Franc 2015 ($29)
• Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Red 2017 ($25)