Wednesday, August 11, 2010

BC VS Ontario - Pinot Noir

In our BC VS. Ontario series we are looking to showcase the differences and uniqueness of Canada's two main wine producing Provinces. In this article we look at Pinot Noir which grows well on the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario and in the cooler pockets of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. The aim is not competition but rather an exploration on what makes the wines produced so different. We've selected two Pinot Noirs that offer excellent typicity for their respective regions:

Le Clos Jordanne 2007 Talon Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir
Full Review

Okanagan Valley:
Cedar Creek 2006 Platinum Reserve Pinot Noir
Full Review

The Niagara Peninsula may offer the terroir that resembles Pinot Noir's famous home in Burgundy the closest in Canada. It may be to no one's surprise then that the best Pinots produced here are Burgundian in character: earthy, austere and age worthy.

Pinot Noir loves warms days and cool nights making the Niagara Peninsula a natural fit for the grape. The temperature on the peninsula is regulated by the two Great Lakes which form its Northern and Southern borders; Ontario and Erie. The best plots for Pinot Noir tend to be in vineyards closer to Lake Ontario where the hot, muggy Ontario summer is mellowed by cool breezes coming from the lake. The Niagara Escarpment runs the length of the peninsula and acts as a bit of a rain shield. The vines are usually left to fend for themselves with no irrigation and a developing trend towards biodynamic and organic practices.

Le Clos Jordanne Estate Wines, a Vincor company in partnership with Boisset France (Burgundy), produce six Pinot Noir wines; a Village Reserve (an entry level blend), four vineyard specific wines and their iconic The Grand Clos which is from the western part of their Le Clos Jordanne Estate Vineyard.

The Talon Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir offers elegant, developing aromas of dark cherry, raspberry seed, oak spice and steely minerality on the nose. The palate recalls the limestone terroir with earthy flavours, austere acidity and smooth, integrated tannins.

The long Okanagan Valley of British Columbia has many different meso and micro climates. Pinot Noir grown in cooler pockets to the north of the valley from Naramata to the Kelowna area tend to produce the best fruit, offering good sun exposure, warm days and cool nights. The Okanagan Lake helps regulate the temperature, cooling the vines in the extreme heat of July and August. Early frost is always a concern in the valley but modern viticulture practices help abate the risk.

The best Pinots in BC have traditionally been unapologetically New World, fruit-forward wines that corral super-concentrated flavours of dark cherry and raspberry with pronounced spiciness. However, there is a growing trend towards austere, mineral and earthy wines as producers learn the best vineyard spots in the valley. As this trend develops we may see more similarities between the Pinot Noirs of Niagara and the Okanagan Valley.

The Cedar Creek 2006 Platinum Pinot Noir is an expression of concentrated fruit flavours and aromas blended effortlessly with French oak, creating an expression of bright fruit with smooth, rounded edges. A long finish of lingering oak spice completes the experience.

Seek these two wines out, or two similar wines, and do your own comparison. You may find you prefer one style to the other or maybe you'll enjoy them both for their differences. Due to Canada's archaic liquor laws and feuding Provincial liquor board monopolies, this may be hard to do. Twitter and Facebook are good resources to find hard-to-get wines in your corner of the world.
 - Liam Carrier

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