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Malcolm Jolley: Domaine Le Clos Jordanne—an old winery with a new name and a bright future

Commentary

Thomas Bachelder and Kerri Crawford at the new Domaine Le Clos Jordanne winery. Credit: Malcolm Jolley.

On the first Monday morning of June, the master winemaker Thomas Bachelder was making what sounded like a germane point about French grammar and the new name of an old winery that he has been associated with for its 20-year history. I am not entirely sure what the point was because most of my attention was focused on the flute of delicious and palate-refreshing blanc de noir sparkling wine in my hand. I think it was something about the masculine or feminine gendering of the word ”clos” or possibly “domaine.”

Whatever the L’Acadamie Française might have to say, that old winery has a new name and Le Clos Jordanne is now Domaine Le Clos Jordanne. Domaine Le Clos Jordanne (or DCJ as I think I may start to pretentiously call it) has a new name because it is now truly housed in a domain: the building and estate on Niagara’s Beamsville Bench that used to be Angel’s Gate. And that’s where Thomas Bachelder and company had welcomed me and a handful of wine journalists on the eve of its opening.

Until last week Clos Jordanne, one of Niagara’s most prestigious and sought-after labels, had no winery in which to receive visitors. Until last autumn’s harvest, Clos Jordanne wines were made in other wineries controlled by its owner, Arterra Wines Canada, the country’s biggest. The acquisition of the old Angel’s Gate winery earlier last year was widely seen as a signal that the on- and off- and on-again history of Le Clos Jordanne was finally solidified, just as the original Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines with which it made turned 20 years old.

As it turns out, the acquisition of the property and building were not the only items in Arterra’s shopping cart. The company has bought a number of other vineyards on the Beamsville Bench for the purpose of making more wine under the Domaine Le Clos Jordanne label. The original Clos Jordanne vineyards, including Clayton Terrace and Le Grand Clos, are near the town of Jordan, to the east, closer to the Niagara River.

Future DCJ wines made from Pinot Noir or Chardonnay grown on the Beamsville terroir will be distinctly labeled. For Bachelder, who makes wine for his own label from sites all over the Niagara Peninsula,See this column from November 2022 on Bachelder’s Toussaints project. the idea of developing new wines for Clos Jordanne is clearly tantalizing, and he mused that fans of the Domaine might eventually split into rival camps, depending on which expression they preferred.

2020 Crémant de Jordanne

The distracting glass of sparkling wine turned out to be another new thing. This was the 2020 Crémant de Jordanne, not yet to be released. It’s a “white from black,” blanc de noir made from Pinot Noir. “We have a lot of Pinot Noir, so that’s what our first sparkling was always going to be,” explained Bachelder. Seventy-five percent of the Clos Jordanne vineyard is planted with the red grape. It should retail for about $55, and is clearly meant to rival the houses from the French bubbly region that begins with a “C.” It was crisp and clear, underneath citrus it echoed the raspberry notes that its sister still wines often show.

As it turned out the gathering was more than the showcase of the new winery, which will receive guests by appointment, but also the launch event for the 2021 vintage of the current six wine Domaine Le Clos Jordanne portfolio. Levi de Loryn, director of winemaking at Arterra across Canada was at the event. He explained to me that the 2021 DCJ were ready for release this autumn, as per the usual cycle from harvest to market. The company had held them back to wait for the new winery to open. These wines will be released, along with the Crémant, to the public this summer.

At the event, we tasted the Pinot Noirs first, on the principle that the reds are in fact lighter on the palate than the weightier Chardonnays. This makes sense in the setting of a technical tasting when the wines are taken without accompaniment. At a meal, food will serve as a balancing agent, and one would happily begin with a DCJ Chardonnay with the first course and slide into the Pinot Noir on the second.

I have grouped the wines by their classification or specific vineyard site.

2021 Jordan Village Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

The Jordan Village wines are classified by the simple appellation of “Niagara Peninsula” because even though all their fruit comes from the original Clos Jordanne vineyards, the Grand Clos and Clayton Terrace sites are technically in the sub-appellation of 20 Mile Bench, while the slightly higher Talon Ridge site is in the sub-appellation of Vinemount Ridge.

The real story of both these wines is the price: $29.95 a bottle for limited production of just 1,200 (Chardonnay) or 1,250 (Pinot Noir) cases. Arterra makes a lot of wine, and could easily market these ones as a trophy collector’s item at twice the price. If their natural competitors are the fellow cool climate wines from Burgundy, premium Oregon Pinots and Chards, or even boutique Niagara, then they are among the best deals in the country.

Bachelder said at the tasting that he and his DCJ team of associate winemaker Phillip Brown and cellar master Kerri Crawford metaphorically “go to Burgundy, not to copy but to inform.” The Pinot was pretty and vibrant, with a floral note on the nose, a cherry red fruit character, and evident tannins that suggest long life ahead. The Chardonnay was bold and showed pineapple tropical fruit that is balanced by a clean line of mineral acid, resonating into a delicious long finish.

2021 Claystone Terrace Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

The Clayton Terrace site makes the smallest production of Clos Jordanne wines with just 500 cases of each, priced at $42 a bottle. Bachelder explained his team makes more barrels of the Claystone and Grand Clos wines that they use: most of the production goes into the Village wines.

Phil Brown spoke of a wild character to the Claystone Pinot Noir, whose vines lie near the edge of a Niagara Escarpment forest. In the red were raspberry notes, and maybe a more serious and earthy and concentrated version of the Village Pinot. Claystone Pinot has its particular fans. Its sister wine, the 2021 Claystone Chardonnay also echoed the Village white, but maybe with a touch more salinity: less Montrachet, more Meursault.

2021 Grand Clos Pinot Noir and Chardonnay


Bachelder calls the wines of the Grand Clos site “meatier,” due, he thinks, to greater western sunlight exposure. Production at Grand Clos is slightly larger than at Claystone with 800 cases made of Pinot Noir and 700 cases of Chardonnay. At the apex of the DCJ pyramid, the Grand Clos wines are priced at $49.95 respectively.

Going back to the Village as a baseline, the 2021 Grand Clos Pinot presented as a kind of deeper, darker, more concentrated version, with notes moving into black cherry and a quiet balance of acidity, and soft but firm tannin in a young wine. The Grand Clos Chardonnay showed richly with a combined note of lemon meringue pie, if this could be said to be present in a glass. The wines were delicious, and want a long meal to be savoured slowly as they open up.

Other things

More good news: there will be wines to come. We had a sneak peek of some of the 2022 wines, to be released this autumn, and even a barrel sample of 2023 Chardonnay from one of the Beamsville sites. It’s too early to comment, except to say the future of Domaine Le Clos Jordanne looks bright.

Joe Varner: Canada’s selfish disregard of defence is the Achilles heel of NATO’s northern security

Commentary

Canadian Armed Forces members during a ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, on March 10, 2024. Justin Tang/The Canadian Press.

In the face of global adversaries like Russia and China bent on hegemony and conquest, Canada’s hands-off approach to defence and security is no longer tenable. While the country itself has seemingly not woken up to this realization, its NATO and Western allies certainly have.

Canada‘s recent defence policy update, entitled “Our North Strong and Free: A Renewed Vision for Canada’s Defence” situated Canada’s defence strategy on a need to protect the Arctic and NATO’s northern flank. Sadly, all the document did was point out the obvious: Canada represents a great gaping hole in North America’s defences.

The title of the defence policy update is a play on the title of the Peter C. Newman book, True North Not Strong Not Free: Defending The Peaceable Kingdom in the Nuclear Age, which was a telling critique of the current prime minister of Canada’s father, Pierre Eliot Trudeau, and his defence policy throughout the late 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s. Unfortunately, things have not much changed on the defence front with Trudeau the younger now in charge.

NATO’s Washington Summit is coming this July 9th to 11th in part to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the alliance, but also to discuss the international threat environment, Russia’s Ukraine war, and NATO member states’ readiness to defend alliance territory. One nation, Canada, stands out as the only NATO member state without a plan to reach the 2 percent of GDP spending goal and the only NATO country not able to spend 20 percent of its defence budget on capital.

Canada is the outlier on readiness and defence not because it is incapable of raising its defence spending—it is a G7 country with a top-ten largest economy in the world—but because it is unwilling to participate in the NATO goals it has signed on to. This is simply because its political leaders don’t want to, it faces no immediate consequences for not doing so, and it is happy to let others do the heavy lifting for them.

In fact, Canada seemingly has money for any social programme people care to name but will not spend what it needs to meet its NATO obligations that it sees as optional. Even though it signs on to NATO communiques agreeing to them, Prime Minister Trudeau has reportedly told allies that Canada has no intention of meeting the minimalist 2 percent of GDP goal. In terms of defence spending, Ottawa is now at 1.3 percent.

In fairness to the Trudeau government, it has finally joined the U.S. in the recapitalization and modernization of NORAD’s early warning system and Canada’s Royal Canadian Air Force with the purchase of new F-35 fighter planes, strategic Airbus tankers for in-flight refuelling, and P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. The government has decided to purchase AWACS early warning aircraft in the recent defence policy update, but it will be several years, if not the end of the decade, before these systems can become operationalized and combat-ready capabilities to defend Canada’s North.

Until then we are forced to rely on an ageing CF-18 fighter fleet that was viewed in a recent Royal United Services Institute panel as a liability for NATO operations and elsewhere.

The long-neglected Royal Canadian Navy is a very different story. On the naval side, its offshore patrol vessels, even though brand new, are at best, a constabulary defence measure. Canada’s sub-surface fleet of 35-year-old diesel-powered Victoria-class patrol submarines spends more time out of the water than in the water, and its similar-aged surface fleet of frigates is nearing its end of life. None of these vessels can go under the icecap and chase Russian—and likely in the future Chinese—nuclear-powered submarines armed with ballistic and cruise missiles.

The Canadian Army that served so ably and brilliantly in Afghanistan is forgotten about by the current government which sees them as nothing more than expensive labour to put out forest fires and fill sandbags. Once among the NATO experts in Arctic and winter warfare, Canada is a shadow of its former self. Expeditionary capability—the ability to reinforce NATO allies—was forgotten about in the defence policy update.

The Canadian Army is 8000-10,000 people short and lacks modern air and any tank defences, has no drone or counter-drone capabilities, and lacks a modern interoperable command, control, and communications system that can withstand Russian and Chinese electronic warfare capabilities. The Canadian Army is so stretched and under-equipped that it could not produce peacekeeping forces to take on the gangs in Haiti.

Canada is not in any sense prepared for Russian hybrid warfare or Chinese grey zone strategies and tactics in the rest of Canada, as its foreign interference public inquiry has shown, let alone Canada’s Arctic realm—the focal point of vulnerability of North America’s and NATO’s defences.

Canada will tell you that it found Chinese underwater surveillance devices in its northern waters and removed them, but its own coast guard put Chinese monitoring devices in the waters of its Pacific naval anchorage on behalf of a Chinese research project. As a Five Eyes intelligence community ally, it took years for Canada to ban Huawei from its future telecommunications network even though the Chinese intelligence threat was well understood. Ottawa closed down Chinese police stations in its largest cities only after they were publicly disclosed in the media and ignored a Chinese veterans association of the People’s Liberation Army that holds reunions in the country.

The Trudeau government has turned a blind eye for years to Parliamentarians working knowingly or unknowingly for foreign governments. Those are merely the things we know about because they have appeared in the media.

Canadians are facing an election perhaps two years down the road and we may very likely see a change in government, one with a much different attitude towards its defences. But as Canada dithers, the U.S. and NATO can’t wait two more years to shore up the Arctic defences so key to North American and NATO’s northern flank.

We have recently seen the U.S. and several NATO countries’ outspoken admonishments regarding Canada’s lack of interest in its allies’ collective security and defence in general. But the time has come for NATO member states to confront the Canadian government in Washington this July on its purposeful choice to allow a lack of military readiness, a choice that puts all NATO and Western allies at risk.

Canada at present is the Achilles heel of the NATO alliance and cannot be allowed to grow weaker. Insecurity and inaction are no longer viable options. The security and peace that we too often take for granted only comes through military strength and readiness. On this front, Canada cannot count on its allies to pick up its slack forever.