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MWG March 2nd tasting: report (1/4)

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While the March 1st release was one of the weakest in Cellier‘s history, it wasn’t totally devoid of interest, as these three wines show.

Thomas Bachelder, the winemaker who got Le Clos Jordanne rolling, has struck out on his own. His latest project is to make Chardonnays and, eventually, Pinot Noirs in the three regions he’s worked in – Burgundy, Oregon and Ontario – all using the same recipe. What better way to illustrate regional differences? For the 2009 Chardonnays, the recipe involved, to the extent possible, organically farmed grapes, native yeasts and 16 months’ aging in mostly neutral barrels. (Much of my information comes from newspaper articles and other blogs, as Bachelder’s website is lacking in technical details.)

Chardonnay 2009, Bourgogne, Bachelder Bourgogne ($34.00, 11584620)
Grapes sourced from vineyards in Puligny, Beaune and Saint-Aubin and vinified at Alex Gambal’s facilities. Classic Burgundian nose of chalk, minerals, lemon and oats. Dense and winey texture (millésime oblige) but with enough acidity to keep the wine taut and bright. The dry fruit (mostly citrus and stone) is shot through with minerals, and a faint lactic note fades in and out. The finish is long. The wine seems to retreat as it breathes, probably a sign that it needs another year or two in the bottle. (Buy again? Yes, but…)

Chardonnay 2009, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Bachelder Niagara ($33.75, 11584857)
Grapes from the Beamsville Bench, vinified at Southbrook. Lemon and tropical fruit. Rounder in the mouth – the fruit riper, the acid lower – than the other two wines. A hint of residual sugar adds to the New World feel. Minerals, such as they are, and a little spice emerge on the sustained finish. Friendly and likeable if, to my palate, less attention-worthy. Ready to go. (Buy again? Yes, but…)

Chardonnay 2009, Willamette Valley, Bachelder Oregon ($34.00, 11584814)
Vinified at Lemelson Vineyards. Closed nose: hints of coral and coconut. A mass of minerals surrounding a core of dense fruit (yellow and green apple above all). Lively acid. Quartzy finish with a whey – eventually butter – note. Perhaps the least immediately appealing of the three but also in ways the most intriguing. (Buy again? Yes, but…)

The wines were served blind. That several tasters unhesitatingly pegged the first as Burgundian attests to its typicity. All three had their partisans among the tasters, with fans of New World wines tending to coalesce around the Niagara even before it was unveiled.

Why the “yes, but…” then? In a word, price. For $35, a single loonie more, you can buy a bottle of Pattes Loup’s 2009 Chablis 1er cru Beauregard, a classier and far more enthralling Chardonnay. And tellingly, even without that benchmark in mind, when the tasters were asked what they’d be willing to pay for their favourite of the Bachelder Chards, most said $25.

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Written by carswell

March 9, 2012 at 16:39

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