By Robert K. Stephen (CSW)
(JORDAN, ON) – Le Clos Jordanne is perceived by many wine writers to be Niagara wine royalty for Niagara Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I attended the release of the 2008’s last year and was quite distressed with the results of my tastings. The Pinot Noirs were so tannic I just could not continue tasting all of them and the Chardonnays failed to impress except for the wickedly delicious Claystone Terrace. I was unable to attend the 2009 release party in Toronto this fall due to a bad case of Croatian gurgling lung. So the charming and utterly professional marketing team at Vincor took pity on an invalid and sent the 2009’s to me to review upon my recovery and at my leisure. There is no better and honest way to evaluate wine in a quiet setting and at a slow pace spending 20 minutes with each wine over a couple of weeks rather than jostling with the crowd and trying 12 wines in 90 minutes. What a difference a year can make to a wine.
For those interested in corporate trivia Le Clos Jordanne is a joint venture of Vincor Canada and Boisset France. Vincor Canada in turn is owned by mega global Constellation. Le Clos Jordanne has a tremendous website in terms of description of the vinification process! Who needs a wine reviewer with notes like these guys have although it will take you at least 30 minutes to read all the details for each Pinot Noir and it will take you 10 minutes to read my reviews for the same Pinot Noirs (shameless self-promotion). Top class Windsor Square journalism! There are certain Clos Jordanne Pinot Noirs you may wish to consider and savour over the upcoming holidays when you have a moment to relax, quietly enjoy these wines and come to a conclusion a Pinot Noir is not a Pinot Noir. Although they share certain characteristics such as a lighter colour than what you might expect from a red wine they are really all different characters like the composition of fellow students in your Grade 1 class! Try all of these in a short period of time and you will see how terroir influenced the end result of the wine in your glass. Same grape, same oak treatment yet 5 different wines with their own characteristics and price points. Ask me which one I like the best but like a family they all have their individual characteristics. The child with the best report card is not always your favourite. In this case my favourite is the Claystone Terrace!
Beet and cherry juice colour looking quite peaceful and calm in the glass. Seamless integrated oak on the palate. Dainty aromas of cherry, milk chocolate, lavender and perfectly ripe California raspberries with just the slightest nuance of wet sand. Tough guy and delicate lady struggle for dominance on the palate with the tough guy winning with a long finish and delicate lady preventing a gruff or overly austere palate. It hits the palate in a smooth swirl and picks up intensity at mid palate leading to a serious and broad finish. Acids and tannins are restrained. Nice charcoal and smidgen of chilli pepper on the palate. Long after the glass has been put down your mouth is still processing. It’s a tricky wine trying to convince you initially it’s a coquettish shyster knowing all the time there’s a big personality just busting to get out. Tricky is good here as it shows complexity. It’s so complete you may be tempted to put the bottle away and savour it on yet another day. (Le Clos Jordanne 2009 Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir, Le Clos Jordanne Estate Wines, Jordan, Ontario,VQA Niagara Peninsula, 13.5%, 750mL, $70. Windsor Square Rating 95/100, LCBO # 034553).35% of the wine was aged in new French oak with remaining wine aged in select 1-4 year old French oak. 876 cases of 6 were produced. I’d give this another 2-3 to smooth it out a bit but I would not hesitate to say drink it now. You think $70 is expensive? Compare this against many a French Burgundian and you may be laughing all the way to bank with the great deal you made.
Light garnet and beet coloured. Bold and muscular on the nose with maraschino cherry, blackberry, milk chocolate and loam not shouting but underlying it all it is muscular and very disciplined like the first few days of a New Year’s resolution. Its tannins are also muscular. Excellent and restrained use of oak. Like Le Grand Clos above it grows in intensity on the palate like a crouching tiger ready to pounce on its prey. On the palate some black cherry, cranberry, loam and cedar. It seems a bit thin on the palate but develops a certain creaminess and charm with aeration. Think about decanting if you are drinking now. I think it needs 2 more years in the bottle to settle down. More muscular and aggressive than the Le Grand Clos but if you like it a bit rough this is your Pinot Noir. ( Le Clos Jordanne 2009 Village Reserve Pinot Noir, Le Clos Jordanne Estate Wines, Jordan, Ontario, VQA Niagara Peninsula, 12.5%, 750 mL, $30, Windsor Square Rating 92/100.) Same barrel ageing as for Le Grand Clos. 9,615 cases of 6 produced.
Moving on to Pinot Noir #3 this one is light garnet coloured with vibrant and urgent aromas of ripe black cherries, rich choco covered cherries and sandalwood all in a sweet and nervous frame. I can’t quite put my finger on it but this is a hyperactive and fidgety wine packed with energy ready to pounce on the palate and prove it can play with the big boy Le Grand Clos. On an aroma basis it has remarkable depth going well beyond the bottom of the glass and hitting the floor far below. On the palate the choco cherry knocks about with some cranberry and coconut. Tannins are just shy of firm and acids are perfectly balanced in this subtle heavy hitter. A subtle and long finish. Not a rough and muscular wine but one of nervous power. You might think it’s a bit thin on the palate but it’s a momentary illusion like with the other Pinot Noirs reviewed above. Once again it grows in intensity and complexity. Deeeeelightful! (L e Clos Jordanne 2009 Claystone Terrace Twenty Mile Bench Pinot Noir, VQA Niagara Peninsula, 13.5%, 750 mL, $40, Windsor Square Rating 91/100). 1,120 cases of 6 produced and aged 35% in new oak and the rest in 1-4 year old oak barrels. I like a detailed description of wines on a bottle or on a website but I must admit I had a bit of a chuckle when I read on the website for this wine that , “ The April rains allowed our chicken manure to penetrate into the ground…..”.
Garnet coloured already showing a bit of orange on the rim. Aromas are a bit on the rough and ready side. Not a country gentleman but by no means a bumpkin. The oak seems a bit overpowering overshadowing the black cherry and black currants. There is a deep richness to the nose if you cast aside the slightly distracting oak which arguably gives this wine a funky character. More oak on the palate than all the other Clos Jordanne Pinot Noirs. On the palate there are Thompson raisin, black currants and bacon. The acids and tannins are in control like flows of 1973 tourists through Checkpoint Charlie in West Berlin heading into the DDR. Short finish on this medium bodied wine. A naughty boy in the highbrow Le Clos Jordanne Pinot Noir Family. Holden Caulfield’s favourite Pinot Noir I’m sure.( Le Clos Jordanne, Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard 2009 Twenty Mile Bench Pinot Noir, VQA Niagara Peninsula, 13%, 750 mL, $45, Windsor Square Rating 85/100.) I am not sure why the oak beats up the rest of the aroma and palate as the wine, like the others, is aged in 35% new oak and 1-4 year old oak barrels. Wimpy grapes? Not a bad wine but far from what a Pinot Noir should be. Please give me the grape and not the wood! You be the judge please. Give it a shot. 1,020 cases of 6 produced.
After being a bit roughed up by the wood in Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard 2009 I dabble in the Talon Ridge Pinot Noir which is garnet coloured with some Jimmy Hendrix purple haze. A gorgeous aroma of black cherry, roasted almonds, chocolate and iodine enveloped in a subtle, delicate yet powerful frame. The tannins are a bit too aggressive and overwhelm the wonderful aroma and the light sweet cherry infusion on the palate that is just ready to pounce with a thin sensuality but is blocked by the tannins. Either this wine is a bit unbalanced or it just needs a couple of years to smooth out I am not quite sure. What I am certain of though is that this is not really a sipping wine but one that requires food…particularly something with a big load of mushrooms in a red wine sauce. When we talk of a balanced wine we mean a wine that is harmonious. In this case the tannins seem just a tad out of whack with the refined and subtle power of the aromatics. (Le Clos Jordanne, Talon Ridge Vineyard Vinemount Ridge, 2009 Pinot Noir, VQA Niagara Peninsula, 13%, 750 mL, $40, Windsor Square Rating 88/100). 953 cases of 6 produced.
We will have another article on Clos Jordanne Chardonnays coming soon.
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