The return of Thomas…

The terroir feature the last Vintages release introduced three wines made by Thomas Bachelder, the former winemaker at Le Clos Jordanne (LCJ) in Niagara region.

Thomas is a Quebec-born winemaker who started his career as a journalist but who made his name as a winemaker in Niagara after learning the ropes in Burgundy and Oregon.

When he left LCJ, Thomas left a legacy in the person of Sébastien Jacquey, a young Burgundian who had assisted him for several vintages and who was promoted to winemaker at LCJ in 2010.

Sébastien and Thomas at LCJ, August 2010

After working for a large corporate venture – the Vincor-Boisset experiment that was LCJ continues today, with little Boisset investment left and regrettably without the Frank Gehry showpiece winery that was scrapped from the plans following the acquisition of Vincor by Constellation in 2006 – Thomas decided to start a project that was his alone.  The mission was simple: to make the best Chardonnay wines possible, in each of Burgundy, Oregon and Niagara.

Thomas re-surfaced at the International Cool-Climate Chardonnay Celebration last July where he presented his wines at the Saturday evening hoe-down at Tawse Family Winery. The wines were newly-bottled and while youthful showed very fine potential, befitting Thomas’ well-earned reputation as a craftsman. It was great fun watching Thomas and his wife introduce the three children that were these young wines to an adoring and enthusiastic crowd of wine lovers.

This recent weekend, we saw these same wines now available commercially at your local Vintages corner and they are an exceptional demonstration of the effects of terroir on wine style.  Made with the same grape, by the same winemaker from fruit grown in the same vintage in three different cool-climate regions, these wines provide a textbook demonstration of what we mean when we use the term coined by Matt Kramer, somewhereness.  Kramer says, “great wines taste like they come from somewhere. Lesser wines taste interchangeable; they could come from anywhere” (Making Sense of Wine, p.9).  If this concept doesn’t resonate with you, buy each of the Bachelder Chardonnays, invite some friends over for a tasting and do an A-B-C comparison of the three. Herewith, my brief assessment of each of the Bachelder wines:

VQA Niagara Peninsula Bachelder Chardonnay     2009 ($34.95 per bottle)

Bachelder Oregon Willamette Valley Chardonnay 2009 ($34.95 per bottle)

AOC Bourgogne Bachelder Chardonnay 2009 (34.95 per bottle)

Nose

Complex with apple, lemon, smoke, pineapple, vanilla. Assertive nose of tropical and tree fruits: apple, pear, mango, pineapple. Vanilla and light smoke. Nose is closed but shows brown apple and pear with modest vanilla.

Palate

Apple, lemon, toasted almond, firm minerality, bright acid, vanilla, medium body. Supple mouth feel. Full-bodied with crisp acidity, integrated oak, ripe tree and tropical fruit flavours. Austere mouth feel throughout. Reserved flavor profile: stony minerals, tree fruits and light vanilla.

Finish

Long, juicy. Very long and full. Long

Overall assessment

Elegant mouth feel, well-integrated oak, structured and harmonious – best wine of the three. Ripe, balanced and full – more voluptuous than the Niagara. Distinct Old World character: reserved nose and palate. Modest use of wood and less ripe fruit.

OK, you may ask, which wine gets the nod?

I have to say I would go for the Niagara, followed by the Bourgogne.  This is a matter of personal preference more than an assessment of quality.  All these wines are at the pinnacle of high quality, for the price, so you can’t go wrong with any of the three wines.  It boils down to what you like…

By the way, a similar A-B-C comparison would be worthwhile with a selection of wines from the LCJ portfolio.  M. Jacquey has defined four distinct terroir-driven styles from each of the three vineyards where Chardonnay grapes are grown on the LCJ estate: Le Clos, Claystone Terrace and Talon Ridge.

Try it: you will be amazed that these wines are all from Niagara.

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2012.

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Author: John Switzer

I am wine writer, educator and tour guide. From 2005 to June 2014 I published a bi-weekly newsletter, the Winesights Vintages Newsletter (WVN). This Newsletter was closed in July 2014 when the Government of Canada put in place the onerous administrative requirements of Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation. The legacy of WVN continues on this blog spot where I post wine-related articles as well as reviews of a small selection of best-value wines from each bi-weekly LCBO Vintages release. I hold the WSET Diploma, I am a WSET Certified Educator, I teach in the WSET program at the Independent Wine Education Guild in Toronto where I am the past Director of the WSET Diploma program. Since 2010 I have been a judge at Decanter World Wine Awards on the Rhône panel and I am a member of the Society of Wine Educators.

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