Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Niagara Tour - Le Clos Jordanne

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Le Clos Jordanne, Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard

Le Clos Jordanne. It's been more than a month since our visit - one that made me the target of more than a few ornery comments. Yet I learned more about the potential of Niagara terroir after this visit than from any other tour. I know I didn't make myself very popular with all the posting in early March. Everyone's a critic.

It's taken me so long to put this down in print because I needed more time to reflect. Le Clos Jordanne isn't just about making high quality wines - it's about an ideal, that Niagara can produce the greatest pinot noir and chardonnay outside of Burgundy. There is a responsibility here, to finally solidify Niagara's international standing as a serious wine region.

Great wine terroirs are great not because they produce stunning wines in excellent vintages, but because they can achieve greatness in difficult vintages as well. In difficult years, the winemaker has to have a heavier hand in the process, but that doesn't refute the fact that great terroirs will consistently produce excellent wines. That is why the focus here will be on pinot noir, from the 2008 vintage.

As Ontarians know, 2007 was a legendary vintage. Dry, hot weather, breeding wines of immense concentration, density, and ripeness. But 2008 was a different matter. Cold winter, leading to late flowering. Heavy rain falls, during the growing season and harvest. In a word, disastrous. There were expectations that the wines were going to be nothing more than thin, insipid, and green. I wanted to see how Le Clos Jordanne coped with this vintage, as it would be misleading to judge them purely on the blockbuster 2007's.

Le Clos Jordanne has 4 distinct terroirs - Talon Ridge, Le Clos Jordanne, Claystone Terrace, and La Petite. Scattered throughout Twenty Mile Bench in west Niagara, they have a commonality in that they all occupy the highest land. This elevation is what sets them apart. Higher elevation means better drainage, and better sun/wind exposure. Mix of clay and sand on top of limestone. I've always felt that Twenty Mile Bench and Beamsville Bench produced the most elegant wines, with the ability to age. Le Clos Jordanne's sites are clearly the premier vineyard sites in the area.

The epitome of Burgundy is the wine's ability to distinguish different terroirs in the glass, sometimes dramatically. Parcels just metres apart can taste significantly different. And that is what I found in Le Clos Jordanne. To put it simplistically, Talon Ridge showcased lots of red fruit, with a lovely balance of big tannins and big acidity. Claystone Terrace was brawny - meatier, gamier, and reminiscent of dried fruits and roses. La Petite Vineyard was just ultra-elegant - silky weight and texture, lots of rose petals and a finish that just dances on your palate. Timeless beauty, in vinous form. Le Clos Jordanne was clearly the powerhouse. Seamless texture, but on a stern foundation. Lots of freshness - fresh roses, cranberries, cherries. A darker, more brooding wine with lots of layers and depth. This showed the mystery that Burgundian wines have - there's an aspect of its character that is undefinable, but so intoxicating.

I absolutely fell in love with La Petite Vineyard. It's situated on a very high slope, like a glistening ruby in the crown of Niagara's escarpment. The sheer elegance was absolutely stunning - I've never drank a more weightless, silky wine. Absolute sophistication and grace. Perfectly balanced, subtle - I remember standing there speechless, and all I could manage was, "It's so beautiful!"

There's not a doubt in my mind that Le Clos Jordanne is world class. To my palate, the 2008's are superior to the 2007's. While not possessing the same density and tightness, the 2008's demonstrate perfectly the seductiveness and great class of pinot noir. As the vineyards age and their root systems become more ingrained, the minerality present in these wines is only going to increase. In 10 years time, we are really going to see these distinct terroirs flourish and showcase their unique characters. Will these wines age well? I don't know, and it seems Le Clos Jordanne isn't clear either. That will take time. I have a feeling that the wines will easily hold for 10+ years. Excellent balance and acidity is not a problem in these wines.

This piece does not do Le Clos Jordanne wines justice. It's just my impression, and as you can tell, I was floored and amazed. Running out of superlatives. I would like to extend my gratitude and appreciation to the kind lady that took us around, and explained Niagara terroir to us.

I'll be following these wines with great interest. I've fallen in love, for life.

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