Thomas Bachelder has been a revolutionary figure in Ontario wine circles since coming to Niagara to launch Le Clos Jordanne in 2003, but he’s arguably never had a better year, professionally speaking, than 2019.
The Montreal native and Burgundian-trained winemake helped revive the venerable Le Clos Jordanne brand, which re-emerged with the release of a top-flight chardonnay and pinot noir in November after being discontinued in 2016.
The reborn Le Clos Jordanne enjoys an extensive sales force from owner Arterra Wines Canada. Sales of the Le Grand Clos Chardonnay and Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir, both from the 2017 vintage, were brisk following their Nov. 23 release at LCBO Vintages outlets. (Product is also available via leclosjordanne.com.)
But that’s not all Bachelder has been up to. He and wife, Mary Delaney, started selling the wines they produce under their Bachelder label online this year. “The opportunities have really expanded since we started producing our own wine,” Bachelder says. “In 2011 when we were bringing out our first vintage, selling wine online wasn’t really happening in this country.” The couple also celebrated the opening of a tasting room they playfully refer to as “the Batcave" at Bachelder’s Beamsville Bench location in Ontario.
His Bachelder portfolio was one of the earliest virtual wineries in Niagara, meaning it operated without Bachelder or Delaney owning any vineyards. All of the grapes for the wines were purchased from growers.
Before they secured a retail license this summer, Bachelder and Delaney could only sell their own wines to provincial liquor boards or licensee accounts, such as restaurants or wine bars. They now have the ability to market direct to consumers, but don’t have enough wine to operate the tasting room year-round.
Bachelder will produce 5,000 cases from the 2019 vintage, working with 15 different vineyards spread from the border of Hamilton to Niagara-on-the-Lake. That’s the largest production levels of small lot collections of chardonnay, pinot noir and gamay noir they have managed to date. (They managed 2,800 cases from Niagara in 2018.)
The wines will be available in two online releases, scheduled for November and April each year, to augment existing sales, largely through LCBO and SAQ outlets. The November release remains open for online sales (via bachelderniagara.com) through Jan. 15.
The wines recommended here include one of my favourite Bachelder chardonnays, as well as an exciting Bordeaux-style blend from Culmina Family Estate, a boutique winery founded by Don and Elaine Triggs in 2007 and recently sold to Arterra Wines Canada. The couple are looking forward to a well-deserved retirement, while their daughter Sara joins Arterra Wines Canada as Culmina’s sales and marketing director. And I’ve included the latest release of Dom Perignon, one of the most exceptional wines of the year and a fitting way to toast to an exciting 2020 in the world of wine and spirits.
Bachelder 2016 Wismer-Wingfield “Est” Chardonnay 2016 (Canada)
This is a special bottling of the grapes grown on the vines at the highest elevation on the Wismer-Wingfield property, located the furthest distance from Lake Ontario, which slows ripening and makes these grapes the last to be picked. The result is a concentrated and complex white wine that suggests a mix of juicy ripe fruit and zesty lemony fruit notes with subtle oak spice. It’s ready to drink now and will develop over the next three to five years. Available direct, bachelderniagara.com
Culmina Family Estate Hypothesis 2013 (Canada)
Hypothesis is an estate grown blend of merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, which was aged in French oak to contribute complexity and fragrance. Built to last, this is just showing signs of its true character, with a dense core of fruit and attractive savoury/herbal notes on the nose and palate. This has the generous Okanagan fruit one hopes for, with serious structure and intensity. Drink now to 2026. Available in British Columbia at the above price, $45.50 in Quebec, private order in Ontario from arterracanada.com
Dom Pérignon Brut Champagne 2008 (France)
Legendary Champagne house Dom Pérignon made news when it decided to release its 2009 vintage ahead of the 2008, positioning a wine from a warmer growing season ahead of one from a cooler harvest. It was the first time Dom Pérignon, which only makes sparkling wines from a single growing season, has released a Champagne out of chronological sequence. In wine circles, anticipation for the 2008 vintage was akin to lead-up to the release of the latest Avengers or Star Wars movie. As is often the case with Dom, this exceptional bottle of wine exceeds the hype. This manages the high wire act of delivering rich, ripe character along with incredible freshness and focus. It’s one of the finest wines encountered this year. Available in Ontario at the above price, $235.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta.
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