April 16, 2010 Le Clos Jordanne
Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace
I’ve never seen crocuses in such profusion as they are this spring. Such perfect bursts of colour. Summer is definitely just over the horizon. And isn’t that something to drink to!
Since starting this wine adventure I have been wanting to celebrate a wine from my home and native land. Sometimes it takes leaving a country to truly appreciate what is to be found on one’s doorstep. What we have in Canada more than anything is space — space and time to get things right, unencumbered by the weight of history. Our tradition of wine-making is a short one. When new, wonderfully well-made wines step into the sunlight we stand up and take notice.
Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace 2006
What to expect of Canadian chardonnay? Likely not something this good. This wine could be poured as confidently in the finer vineyards of Burgundy as in its true home, the Jordan Bench of the Niagara Escarpment. It is first rate all the way — from the golden glow lighting the glass, to the aromas of spiced white fruit, to the lacings of mineral and caramel on the palate. Fine concentration, the oak expertly integrated. Dry, yet edging just a slight degree or two toward something sweeter. Lovely, lasting finish. All accomplished during a challenging vintage that saw rather too much rain during the harvest period. Makes me want to sing the national anthem. $$
Maybe not belt it out. Le Clos Jordanne started in 1999 as a joint venture between New World/Old World partners, both huge wine conglomerates in their respective countries — Vincor Canada and Boisset of France. Its first release was in 2004. Vincor has since been bought out by the U.S.-based Constellation Brands. (And yes, it is the world’s largest wine company.) Thankfully, Le Clos Jordanne seems to have been left to do its own thing. Even so, the Canadian pedigree is a bit diluted, at least on the ownership side.
The winemaker, Thomas Bachelder, however, is Montreal-born and bred. He returned home after stints in Burgundy and Oregon to put his talents to use at Le Clos Jordanne. He set out to learn the character of each of the four vineyards that comprise the estate, working organically and with a view to letting the terroir express itself, a terroir Jean Charles Boisset had recognized as exceptional the moment he saw it. And how smart were the owners to recruit Bachelder. The man definitely has his wine wits about him, and anyone eager to dismiss Canadian chardonnay and pinot noir should sample his handiwork before uttering a word. The chardonnay is world class. My bet is that the pinot is as well.
I am skeptical of blind wine tasting showdowns, but the wine world seems to relish them. In last year’s so-called “Judgement of Montréal” the 2005 Claystone Terrace Chardonnay topped 13 other chardonnays from around the world, including several prestigious offerings from Burgundy.
Will wine drinkers shrug it off as a backwoods sleight-of-hand? Many no doubt have a question mark… ?/100. Perhaps those of us who have tried Le Clos Jordanne should stock up now while the American wine ratings princes have yet to cross the border.
It would seem to me that the wider wine world generally fails to take Canadian wine-making seriously, except of course for icewine. It thinks Canada is all ice and snow.
But what’s that on the tight little crocuses that were wide awake in brilliant sunshine a few days ago…a little of the white stuff in mid-April? Oh, but we like to surprise. In weather and in the quality of our wine.