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Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Montreal Passion du Vin tasting event. The event is conducted by the SAQ; Quebec’s provincial wine and spirits monopoly.  I was delighted with many of the wonderful tastings, but one stood out as a real surprise. Among the tastings of classified Bordeaux, and Vintage Champagne, we enjoyed several wines with lunch that were from Canada.

Yes, Canada, the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario to be precise.  The wines were from the Clos Jordanne winery and I was surprised, not only by quality of these wines, but also by their stylish beauty. I am not and have never been a fan of much Chardonnay produced in the new world, and only marginally more Pinot Noir, but these wines captured my attention.

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Related video
Interview with Jean-Charles Boisset
Interview with Thomas Bechelder
The Niagara Escarpment, most famously represented by the drop that creates the famous Niagara Falls, runs in an arch that roughly defines the northern boundaries of several of the great lakes that separate the USA and Canada. These tremendous bodies of water serve to moderate the climate of the region, allowing Vinifera grapes a chance to thrive where in the past most people had only thought to plant hybrid grapes or Lambrusca varieties.

Many of the earlier forays with Vinifera grapes that seemed promising were made with Gamay, at least those were the wines I was able to get my hands on. It’s not surprising that Chardonnay would work well in the region, but the success Clos Jordanne is having with Pinot Noir is beyond surprising. It’s not just that the grapes seem to be just barely ripe, recalling burgundy vintages such as 1988, 1993 and to a lesser extent 2004., but that the wines seem to be exhibiting real terroir.

Now some may say I am damning these wines with faint praise by comparing them to what many perceive as a set of weak vintages in Burgundy. I would disagree, vehemently. What many may deem as weak are, in fact, wonderful vintages that express Burgundian terroir. Allow me a brief digression to explain.

We consumers, as a group, are being convinced that they more fruit a wine has the better. The truth is that some of the “greatest” vintages coming to market these days are too much of a good thing for many palates. Wines, great wines at least, should not simply be about the concentration and ripeness of fruit. They should be about the balance inherent in the wine. There is structural balance that allows for the harmony of acid, tannin and fruit but then there is also the balance of flavors, and resulting complexity.

One of the great appeals of wines like Burgundy and Barolo, for example, is that they tend not to be dark, monolithic, fruit bombs. Instead, at their best, they have fruit that lays like gauze over notes of earth and spice imparted by barrel ageing and the soil and sun the grapes enjoy through the growing season.

In Ok, short ranty digression is over. In this respect the wines from Clos Jordanne resemble certain vintages of Burgundy. Perhaps it’s just a passing resemblance. In all honesty one would need more experience with these wines to say anything more definitively.  What I can say is that this small group of wines tasted like Pinot Noir, were not extracted and massive, and showed nuance and detail that new world Pinots rarely show. So I liked them.

Clos Jordanne is a collaborative effort between Constellations Vinocor and Burgundy’s Boisset.  Jean-Charles Boisset, the vice-president of Boisset, discovered the region in 1998 and was determined to capitalize on the unique geology of the region to produce world-class, terroir driven, wines. I sat down with him briefly and asked him to comment on the project, as well as how things are doing in Burgundy.

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  • Snooth User: Philip James
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    1 12,575

    We all had a great time at the event - really nice to meet all the winemakers (particularly Jean-Charles, a real character) there.

    Keep your eye out for the rest of the series over the coming weeks

    Dec 09, 2009 at 11:53 AM

  • Snooth User: John Andrews
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    36106 3,448

    I have to admit I am quite jealous of you guys for this event. I have a couple of bottles of Clos Jordanne in my fridge and can't wait to get to them.

    What I love about Clos Jordanne is is it is creating awareness of the region so that other great small producers like Thirty Bench, Fielding Estate and Stratus will get recognized as well.

    By the way ... if you have any extra bottles of Clos Jordanne, I will be happy to take them off your hands!

    Dec 09, 2009 at 12:28 PM

  • I'm glad you mentioned the other producers Honda John! I completed my winemaking degree at Brock in the Niagara region and there are far more wineries than just Clos Jordanne that are producing world class. In every vintage!

    Dec 09, 2009 at 1:08 PM

  • Snooth User: LisaTillis
    221025 13

    We recently visited many of the wineries in the Niagara Peninsula -- one of our favorite stops was at Thirty Bench. They are producing some really superb Riesling.

    Dec 09, 2009 at 3:37 PM

  • White wine from Clos Jordanne are very good. The quality is, to my opinion, remarkable. Two months ago, I had the chance to invite over at my house, one of the best producer in St-Émilion François Despagnes from Grand Corbin Despagnes. I wanted him to taste wine from my country. He said he had a blast. He didn't know it was possible to create such great wine within this country. I was proud to be a Canadian that day : )

    Note: I also attended Montreal Pasison Vin. I highly recommend it to any wine passionate around the globe. Truly, this is an extraordinary experience. Right guys?

    Dec 09, 2009 at 4:46 PM

  • Snooth User: Philip James
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    1 12,575

    Martin - absolutely. We were really glad to be there, and more so, to be sharing it with other Snooth users via these articles and video interviews.

    This is the first time we've put video on the site (other than as part of the welcome/signup page), so I'm looking forward to seeing how our users like it.

    Dec 09, 2009 at 4:48 PM

  • Snooth User: hugh27
    Hand of Snooth
    253137 65

    While I agree with you regarding Clos Jourdan the major problem with Niagara is that the soils are too rich for most varietals(and while I will get lots of Canadian flak here) they are not well suited to most Varietals- and like most Canadian winemakers Niagara tries to be all things to all people, to their detriment- the Rieslings, Gewurz and Cab Franc are world class (Try Calamus Winery or Konzelman) the others with some rare exceptions are at best mediocre- however now we can look at Prince Edward County for the Pinot- definitely world class, and North Shore of Lake Erie for outstanding wines(poorer soil but better for wines) worth a try are Viewpoint for Auxelrois, Riesliong and Cab Franc- definitely in the 89 to 92 point rqnge- but do not just listen to my rant- try some and put your mouth to the test

    Dec 09, 2009 at 5:12 PM

  • Snooth User: John Andrews
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    36106 3,448

    @Hugh while I don't disagree with entirely I think you are over generalizing the Niagara Peninsula. It takes time to figure out what plots and grapes work best.

    I think the Beamsville Bench area is getting a lot of good stuff because the wineries are more in tune with the soil and what works. The experimentation (all stuff) needs to happen to figure out what works.

    Dec 10, 2009 at 3:18 PM

  • Snooth User: hugh27
    Hand of Snooth
    253137 65

    Hi Honda John
    I still stand by my original comments- I do find it somewhat distressing that so many so called wine "Experts" still equate rich soil and good wines- yes the bench does do better because it is a Glacial esker and the soil is stony, sandy with a clay base, thus allowing deep root penetration but as a Canadian and a wine person,I still think that we do too many wines that are mediocre, and as a result it is harder to find the good ones- Why cannot Canadian wine makers follow the example of the historic world regions and concentrate on what we do best- and make no mistake that best is world class- but we do not see Gamay in Bordeaux nor Riesling in Spain. Experimentation is great but it saves a lot of time to follow history as well

    Dec 11, 2009 at 10:09 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Thanks for the tips Hugh, and your great perspective on the Canadian wine scene. I'm not familiar enough with the soil composition of Niagara but was concerned enough by the appearance of heavy, potentially waterlogged soils to ask Thomas Belcheder, the winemaker about it in our brief video interview.

    Dec 11, 2009 at 11:36 AM

  • It was indeed a great event in Mtl. Participants are real wine lovers. The like the product as well as the story behind it, and Clos Jordonne has most definately a great story to tell. All the Pinots and all the chards are very well made. They are elegant yet accessible. It is hard for those who like burgandy to find a better a glass of new world comparable at those price points. Who knows...with climate change Canada may just be the new burgandy.

    Dec 11, 2009 at 6:34 PM

  • No doubt this was a wonderful event. Would have liked to have attended.

    I discovered the Le Clos Jordanne a few years ago, when a well known musician from Toronto suggested I taste some of their wines. Being a Sommelier and quite curious about the wines, I made a trip to Le Clos Jordanne.

    This past summer I had the pleasure of having lunch with Le Clos Jordanne's winemaker, Thomas Belcheder. After lunch we toured the vineyards and my visit ended with a wine tasting. Great Pinot Noirs are coming out of these vineyards. Keep up the good work Thomas!

    Other preferred Niagara wineries Kacaba Vineyards, Tawse Winery.

    Dec 16, 2009 at 12:52 AM

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