Ask Chuck

Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Le Clos Jordanne Proves Its Merit Once Again!

I was there at the start. It was 2000 when I and a number of writers were invited by then CEO and President of Vincor, Donald Triggs and Jean Charles Boisset of Boisset La Famille Des Grande Vins to view what was to be Le Clos Jordanne. The vines were small then----actually quite tiny. The day was electric----with anticipation of greatness. The feeling was positive. We were all gathered atop this very hard to locate vineyard on the Niagara Bench knowing that magnificent wine was going to be produced here. I remember walking along side of Don Triggs throwing out names for a second wine label should it be needed. I suggested "Le Petit Clos Jordanne". While the name was never used in that context, it was a good beginning which continued to get better.
Nothing was spared in the creation of Le Clos Jordanne. The best Bugundy clones, experience viticulturists and of course pain was taken in the selection of the location. All the parts were a perfect fit and fit well they did. Now, some ten years later, Le Clos Jordanne is part of Vincor----A Constellation Company and Boisset. As the parents have grown, so has Le Clos.
Vinicultural Practice
Organic viticultural practices along with time honoured Burgundy methods and New World innovations have catapulted this vineyard's wines into the World scene. Well known wine writer, viniculturist and wine maker Thomas Bachelder took over the reigns and made a good thing even better. His dedication to perfection metamorphosed into a magnificent and lovely butterfly. His work has been advanced by new (2007) winemaker, Sebastien Jacquey.
Sebastien was Thomas Bachelder's assistant winemaker for several vintages and has now inherited full winemaker's status. He came with exceptional credentials such as Baron Philippe de Rothschild in Bordeaux, Loire Valley, Corsica, and of course Burgundy.
Now he assumed control of the 2008 vintage. While it wasn't an easy go----the summer rains made life difficult for viticulturists and the weather was variable however vineyard management techniques and a warm, dry spell during harvest certainly helped the cause. While this was not your best "red" year, cool climate Pinot Noir showed well and the skill of the winemaker proved the difference.
I went up to the winery proper on Sunday, November 21st and got a first hand tasting of the 2008 Le Clos Jordanne Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. My taste leaned a bit toward the Chardonnays especially the Claystone but both sets of wines were amazing.
All the wines had a clear, brilliant lemon yellow colour
Village Reserve (a blend of three vineyards Talon Ridge, Claystone and Le Clos Jordanne)
Nose: Initially a bit reluctant but floral notes and nuances of vanilla spice, citrus fruit were slowly given up.
Palate: Nice mouth feel with good harmony. Butter gives way to ripe pear/melon/citrus with a clean pleasant fruit/and mineral finish
Talon Ridge
Nose: Initial smoke gives way to apple nuances and tropical fruit
Palate: As previous, nice mouth feel and body. Butter and nut fruit with a minerality that seems to be a consistent with these wines. Nice finish.
Claystone Terrace
Nose: Another wine with flinty smoke, mineral with peach/apricot and nut.
Palate: Predominately cream with butterscotch and white fruit, pebbles/minerality and pleasant vanilla oak.
Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard
Nose: Floral with mineral flint, white fruit (pear/apple/peach) with nicely integrated oak
Palate: Minerality predominates through the wine with vanilla oak spice and a steely, pebble finish.
Le Grand Clos
Nose: A tough wine to access since it was very reluctant to give any indication as to who or what it was. Smokey flint was first noticed. Nutty almond, maybe some pear nuances and definitely mineral. I am sure that as it ages, it will become very complex.
Palate: Mouth feel is excellent in body----somewhere between medium and full. Mineral steel with nuts, maybe peach/apricot nuances. Vanilla oak spice and pebble finish.
Pinot Noir
Village Reserve
Nose: Red berries, vanilla wood spice, some toastiness and a touch of Listerine on nose.
Palate: Light to Light/Medium in body, red fruit (strawberries, red currants, cherries) and lasting mineral finish. Well integrated. Very nice wine for the price ($25).
Talon Ridge
Nose: Red fruit (cherries, strawberries) keeps evolving in the glass to riper reds. Vanilla nuances and minerality.
Palate: Medium body, some stone with cherry/red berry flavours as the wine evolves in glass. Lingering finish with pleasant acidity. Nice wine!
La Petite Colline
Nose: Mixture of black and red fruit but mainly black (cherry, blueberry, raspberry). Somewhat spicier than expected but with a strong mineral influence. Somewhat floral notes and dainty elegance.
Palate: Medium bodied, more dark fruit and pebbles/stone with a lingering blackberry fruit finish.
Claystone Terrace (very dark wine)
Nose: Tight and foreboding. The wine releases bits of clues to what it will be like in a few years time. Chocolate, black fruit with smoke and a sense of strong mineral.
Palate: Lean and mean but with much promise. Strong mineral ore style. Nice tannins and acidity. Medium to full body. Promise of black fruit and much richness to come. Long lingering finish. Live long and prosper of heavenly wine!!!!!
Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard
Nose: Rich and more forward than the Claystone. This wine wants to please immediately yet has the staying power of a trooper.Violets give way to black/red fruit flavours great vanilla spice with hints of cedar.
Palate: Medium plus body, black berry and cherry flavours linger in the mouth with harmonious acid/sugar integration. Power with elegant class.
Le Grand Clos
Nose: Closed but with time reveals itself very slowly. Some dark fruit reveals itself in the glass with floral bouquet barely evident but indicating promise. After an hour in glass some smoke, leather and seems to mingle with the fruit. Much promise!
Palate:Full in body with dark fruit flavours. Evidence of chocolate and licorice spice. As with the other wines, strong mineral component leads to a strong and powerful finish. Much to come!!
My Favourites
It is hard to dwell on favourites when one has such a great array of wines. It also depends on what you are picking your favourites for. For drinking purposes now I would pick without hesitation the Village Reserve Chardonnay and Pinot Noir followed by the Claystone Chardonnay and Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Pinot Noir. For long aging/cellaring I would definitely pick the Grand Clos of both colours as well as the Claystone Pinot. However, any of these wines would be worth a place on any table or cellar.
Le Clos Jordanne will do for Canadian red wine what Inniskillin's Icewine did in the '90's.

Friday, November 12, 2010

There's A New Wine In The Paddock

Actors and Vineyards!
It used to be that one's fantasy about life's progression was "to plant a Fig tree and grow old with it!" Some would exchange the Fig with another form of arboreous love, an Oak or Cherry or maybe even that old stand by, the Apple tree! However, more and more the attention to existential survival has become-----The Vine!
Wine has been around since the dawn of civilization and the source of all wine. The vineyard, has captured man's imagination almost as long. It has come to be associated with a serenity, patience, simplicity and all that is good about life.
Lately, more and more celebrities have used their resources to fulfil this dream albeit many also do it as an investment. Steven Seagal, Mario Andretti, Dan Ackroyd, Wayne Gretzky, Mike Weir, Cliff Richard, Johnny Depp, Francis For Coppola, David/Victoria Beckam, Brad Pitt/Angela Jolie and Nancy Pilosi to name a few all own vineyards. Trend does not seem to be stopping none too soon either. Actor Sam Neil is doing just great with both his fine acting career and as owner (since 1993) of Two Paddocks Vineyards located in New Zealand's Central Otago (South Island).
Paddock Vineyards and Sam Neil

When I met Mr. Neil at a tasting of his Paddock wine I mentioned to him that I did not envy him since acting was a very tough profession. What I should have said was that it would be very hard for me since I just didn't have the stuff that Mr. Neil was made of!
Sam Neil is indeed one of the most talented and versatile actors that I have ever had to pleasure of watching on the big and little screens. I have never seen him in a live play but would guess that he is equally talented in that end also.
Mr. Neil's roles have been many and he plays each one that I have seen to perfection. Whether it is the restrained and loving husband in "The Horse Whisperer", a Paleontologist with a penchant for meeting Velociraptors in "Jurassic Park" or a Cardinal (Wolsey) in The Tudors, he does so with utmost competence and accuracy. His most recent project is acting in a new film yet unreleased (2012) called "The Vow".
When I met Mr. Neil he appeared very much in shape, youthful and, for a person who had only about an hour's sleep (late filming) ----very fresh and relaxed. He struck me as a very gentle, sensitive individual who did anything he attempted with a perfectionist's seriousness. Yet, he also struck me as an individual who loved life, his privacy and most of all his art! Easy to talk to and reservedly friendly, Mr. Sam Neil in my mind was the perfect example of the term "Class"!
Paddock Wines
"Class" can also be used in describing his wines. Why would one get involved in a vineyard? Well for one thing there would have to be a great deal of three items: Patience, Terroir and most of all finances. Owning a vineyard in an up and coming country like New Zealand is not for the feint hearted or the poor. There also has to be a great deal of foresight and faith about and in the product. I guess love would also have to come into the picture since if you did not love what you were involved in there would be no reciprocity and thus no reason for being there.
I would think that the work done on and with Paddock wines has certainly succeeded. The winery produces first rate Pinot Noir, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough).
Three Vineyards
Paddock has three vineyards: First Paddock in the Gibbston Valley, Alex Paddocks near Alexandra and above the Clutha River and Redbank Paddocks Earnscleugh Valley. Two Paddocks produces two types of wine levels, Picnic Wines by Two Paddocks an affordable and top notch quaffing wine for easy drinking, nice times and fun atmosphere and Two Paddocks Pinot Noir a first rate premium contender to the Pinot crown.
The Wines
The following wines were tasted at the Albany Club, Toronto on October 21st 2010.
Picnic Riesling By Two Paddocks
Colour: Light Straw
Nose: Citrus lime and orange, hint of peach
Palate: Citrus, small suggestion of fruit sweetness, mineral/pebbles and very nice lingering crisp finish
This wine is a winner------too bad it will disappear from the shelves quickly at $19.95. Oh that Christmas Turkey!!!!

Picnic Pinot Noir 2009 (not yet released)
Produced in a cooler year with a fair bit of moisture/some early frosts.
Colour: Cherry red
Nose: Somewhat closed at first but second try revealed some spice and floral notes! Some barn characteristics followed by herbal spice and dark/red fruit.
Palate: Some strong tannins but lean---almost French like. Nice minerality and mouthfeel. A lengthy spice on the finish.An every day wine by some but will definitely improve over the next five years or possibly more if kept correctly. A credit to those who tended the vines as well as the winemaker.
Picnic Pinot Noir 2008
Nice mild year with a dry harvest
Colour: Cherry Red
Nose: Expressive red fruit with floral notes as well as a hint of barn.
Palate: Lean minerality with pleasant tannins for drinking but accentuated enough to suggest further aging of up to four years or more. Nice harmonious mouthfeel with pleasant finish.
Two Paddocks 2009
Colour: Dark Cherry Red
Nose: Needs time! Somewhat closed but initial notes of violets, dark fruit and herbal spice
Palate: Powerful tannins have a way to go towards integration but there is great future promise ahead. Mid mouthfeel and long finish. A wine to age in cellar but this will be worth it.
Two Paddocks 2007
Apparently a difficult year in the Central Otago but one where careful maintenance proved the turn around.
Colour: Ruby Red
Nose: A cornucopia of scents from violets and exotic spice to rich floral and red berry scents
Palate: Red, dark fruit with coffee and chocolate as well as some toastiness and a very nice finish. It could age a couple of more years maybe but why bother----clearly my favourite. It cries for New Zealand (or Ontario) lamb!!!!
While I sometimes wonder whether it is just an "it sounds like a good idea" and/or "because I can" thought process for certain celebrities to purchase and maintain vineyards, it clearly is apparent that Mr. Sam Neil invested for the right reasons and if my humble opinion is worth anything, Two Paddocks is and will continue to develop as a very well respected maker of fine wines throughout the globe. Nice stuff.