When Thomas Bachelder says he knows how Catherine Zeta-Jones feels, he's not talking about living the glamorous life of an A-list Hollywood star. The talented winemaker is commiserating about what it's like to talk about a past project that's buried under experiences that are fresher. It's impossible to go back in time and successfully recapture the creative process.
In the same way, movie stars are called upon to promote films that they finished years earlier, Bachelder had to present the 2005 wines he produced at Le Clos Jordanne to wine journalists in Toronto on Thursday. Earlier in the week, when I turned up at his cellar door for an interview, he said he wasn't sure what he was going to say.
We tasted through the miraculous Pinot Noirs from 2007 that he had just run into barrel and some of the 2006 Chardonnays that are well on the way towards being fully realized (and stunning) finished wines. Along the way, as Bachelder commented on these stellar wines, he found his talking points for Thursday's media session.
"I think it's going to be a case where I take everything we have learned up to now and apply it back to 2005. Even if my thoughts were so advanced in 2005, it explains things we did back then," says Bachelder, who works with fruit from four estate vineyards located in Jordan.
"Hopefully I will learn something in 2008 and 2009 to say about the 2007s because I will have given the 2007 story with the 2005s."
There's little doubt Bachelder will be at a loss for words when the 2007s are unveiled two years hence. The wines he is making at Le Clos are getting better and better with each harvest as he dials in the unique fruit expression that comes from each of the four vineyards he works with, namely La Petite, Claystone Terrace, Talon Ridge and Le Clos Jordanne. The marked improvement each year is made all the more remarkable given the astounding reception that Le Clos's 2004 wines received from media and consumers. The 2005 wines, which have more convincing flavour and better balance, are sure to garner even more rapturous praise. Every one is a winner, though with subtle differences in character and personality.
"Our job is to discover what is the Niagara flavour and what lets the Niagara flavour shine," says Bachelder, who worked in Burgundy and Oregon prior to settling in Niagara in 2003. "I'm trying to listen to each vineyard and discover what makes Claystone Vineyard different from Le Clos Vineyard different from... The wine is giving the cue."
In 2005, Le Clos Jordanne produced five Pinot Noirs and four Chardonnays. At the entry level, there is a Village Reserve Chardonnay and Village Reserve Pinot Noir, which are blends of fruit sourced from various estate vineyards that retail for $25 per bottle. As was the case in 2004, the quality of these wines given the price is astounding.
At the high end, there's Le Grand Clos Chardonnay ($55) and Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir ($60), which are sourced from the best vines within the namesake Le Clos Vineyard, nestled just above King Street (Regional Road 81) near the Jordan Road intersection.
There are also single-vineyard bottlings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (priced at $35) from the Claystone Terrace and Le Clos sites and a bottling of Pinot Noir from La Petite, the smallest vineyard in the Clos Jordanne family, which is only planted to that variety. Bachelder says the personality of each hasn't wavered, particularly for the Pinot Noirs. The Claystone Terrace bottling is the most structured and tannic, La Petite is the most perfumed and elegant, and Le Clos Vineyard has a remarkable depth and balance, with an unmistakable rose scent.
The one aspect that the new 2005 wines shares with Le Clos's 2004 portfolio is scarcity. Total production hovers in the neighbourhood of 4,000 cases. There isn't a lot to go around. Our best chance of tasting these fine wines will likely be at restaurants, such as About Thyme in Vineland, Treadwell in Port Dalhousie and Stone Road Grille in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Some of the wines are turning up at select LCBO Vintages stores today. The 2005 Claystone Terrace Pinot Noir (033951) is slated for Vintages' December 8 release. If you manage to score a bottle count yourself lucky.
A larger release will follow at Vintages in March 2008. Visit www.leclosjordanne.com for more information.
Wine of the Week:
Le Clos Jordanne 2005 Le Clos Vineyard Chardonnay
Niagara Peninsula $35 (033910)
It's strange how the new Le Clos Vineyard Chardonnay comes from the warmer 2005 vintage but offers much more finesse and better balance than the inaugural 2004 vintage single-vineyard bottling. It shows an intensity of flavour, unmistakable minerality and an impressively long aftertaste. This masterful white brings the Le Clos Jordanne Chardonnays up to the same dizzy heights of quality as the worldclass Pinot Noirs. www.leclosjordanne.com (LCBO Vintages)