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Start your engines! The Farm’s annual release of Pinots and Chard begins Aug. 1

By Rick VanSickle

In the world before COVID, there was this cool little once-a-year bash on the Jordan Bench where wine lovers danced to live music with wild abandon, ate delicious food, swam, swirled and sipped late into the night.

It was a thing, a wine-soaked ritual of sorts, a one-day wine release from a small but coveted portfolio of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay from The Farm. You needed to sign up via email and get there early before the wines were gone in a flash. And while there, wine lovers were treated to some of the best hospitality imaginable. The party was legendary, the wines spectacular. And then COVID came along, and the party ended. The wines were still released, but without fanfare.

So here’s the good news — it’s back, baby, it’s back! But here’s the bad news — it’s completely booked for the newest release. If you didn’t sign up for the bash, you are not going.

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But if you are considering purchasing any of the four wines on release, you do have an option. Online sales will begin on Aug. 1 through Aug. 12 with the link for online sales being sent out on Aug. 1 to those on the mailing list, which you can sign up for here. There will be no limits on purchases and The Farm will ensure they have enough for tastings on Aug. 15, including the single vineyard wines — though they may sell out early on in the day.

The Farm brand is owned by the Neudorf family (Jeff Neudorf, below with Kelly Mason, is president of Ferguson-Neudorf Glass), and the family’s namesake vineyard surrounds their home and winery on the Twenty Mile Bench near Jordan. The vineyard first achieved greatness when it was called La Petite Colline of Le Clos Jordanne fame. When the Neudorf family bought the 10-acre property it was planted to hybrids from the 1960s. In 2000, the Neudorfs replaced those native grapes with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and it was immediately contracted to Le Clos Jordanne. At the time, the Le Clos brand was owned by Vincor but is now owned by Arterra, which has returned to producing the Le Clos wines. The vineyard was named La Petit Colline and provided some stunning single-vineyard wines for Le Clos.

After a decade of providing grapes for Le Clos, Constellation Brands, owner of the project at the time, decided to discontinue the brand. Next up was Thomas Bachelder, the original winemaker at Le Clos, who purchased the grapes for Domaine Queylus, where he was the founding head winemaker. The Neudorf family bought back two barrels and made the first Farm wine in 2012. Production was ramped up for the 2017 vintage, with up to 20 barrels, still tiny for any winery, but large enough that The Farm had to consider how they were going to sell the wines beyond restaurants. Kelly Mason (head winemaker at Domaine Queylus and Honsberger) was hired as the founding winemaker and grapes from her own Mason Vineyard were added to the mix. As of the 2015 vintage, the Mason Vineyard bottling is one of two single-vineyard wines in the portfolio, joining Neudorf Vineyard as the other. The Farm also has a Niagara-sourced Pinot Noir “Black Label” offering and a Chardonnay. Both the Pinot and the Chard are from grapes sourced around Niagara and offer good value and provide a steady supply for restaurants around Ontario, and now, of course, consumers who are on the mailing list.

The single-vineyard 2018 Pinots and Niagara Pinot Noir and Chardonnay 2019, the current releases, were made by Mason, but this is her last vintage with the project. Morgan Juniper, winemaker at 16 Mile Cellar, has taken over for Mason.

If you were lucky enough to snag an invite to the big bash on Aug. 15, booking times for tastings are in 1-hour blocks. Your group can arrive anytime within the hour that you book and after your tasting time you’re welcome to stay for drinks, bites and the fun.

The hospitality is free of charge, but this year The Farm has added an optional donation to support the local restaurant industry through Save Hospitality.

The Farm only releases its wines once a year and they have quickly become a must-buy for Pinot and Chardonnay lovers in Ontario. The two single-vineyard vineyard Pinots — the Mason and Neudorf — are highly sought after while the smartly priced Niagara-sourced Pinot and Chardonnay offer great value.

Wines In Niagara had a chance to try the four wines prior to the release. Here’s what you can expect.

The Farm Chardonnay 2019 ($25, 91 points) — This Chardonnay is from grapes across the Niagara peninsula using “fruit from friends.” It’s wild fermented, goes through full malo and is aged in French oak barrels and puncheons in a combination of second and neutral casks. It’s fresh on the nose and quite complex for a wine priced at this price point with a nose that shows layers of green apple, pear, saline/chalky minerality, lemon and integrated spice notes. It’s lean and taut on the palate and perfectly balanced with stone fruits, lemon zest, chalk, spice and electric acidity through a beautifully vibrant finish. $25? A no-brainer.

The Farm Pinot Noir Black label 2019 ($25, 90 points) — Another smart buy with the fruit sourced and blended from various terroirs across Niagara. The wine was aged in French oak, only 20% of which were new barrels. This bursts with dark cherries, sweet wild raspberries, plums and light spice on the nose. It’s perfectly smooth and silky on the palate with red berries, touch of cassis, earthy/savoury notes, integrated spices and freshness through a vibrant finish.

The Farm Mason Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018 ($50, 93 points) — The Mason vineyard, owned by winemaker Kelly Mason with grapes 30+ years old, allows The Farm to work with two distinct terroirs within the Twenty Mile Bench appellation. The grapes are handpicked, hand-sorted and undergo wild fermentation (both primary and secondary) with a cold soak and a long maceration on the skins post fermentation. This has an enticing and perfumed nose of ripe cherries, sun-drenched strawberries, touch of cassis and elegant spice notes. This is such a treat on the palate with a full range of savoury and persistent red berries, fresh turned soil, grippy tannic structure, supporting spice notes and a long, long finessed finish. Such a beautiful Pinot Noir that will benefit from 5+ years of aging.

The Farm Neudorf Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018 ($55, 94 points) — Just a great comparison for the two extremes of terroir on the Twenty Mile Bench. The grapes for both Pinots are hand picked, hand sorted and undergo wild fermentation (both primary and secondary) with a cold soak and a long maceration on skins post fermentation. They are fermented and aged in French oak barrels ranging from second fill to completely neutral. The Neudorf has such a pretty and penetrating nose of richly perfumed cherries, strawberries, wild raspberries, floral notes, sweet, but understated, oak spices with just a hint of earth and mineral notes. The highly concentrated red berries on the palate carry effortlessly along a bed of silky, fine-grained tannins with lovely elegant spice notes and a long, vibrant and lifted finish. You can cellar for 5+ years, but it’s incredibly delicious right now.