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Time to Do a Gallo (April 1, 2000)

On a recent visit to California I visited Gallo’s Frei Ranch in Sonoma where I sampled their1996 Laguna Ranch Pinot Noir. It was one of the most exciting New World Pinot Noirs I have tasted. Unlike most Californian wines made from this variety it was not jammy and sweetish but lean and sinewy in Côte de Nuits style.

Unfortunately, this wine is not commercially available. Only three hundred cases were made; but it shows what a mega-company can do when it puts its resources behind a project. Gallo has a mission to produce stunning Pinot Noir and they will not release the wine on the marketplace until they consider it to be in the same league as their Estate Chardonnay and Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.

I mention this in our issue devoted to the Ontario wine industry because Vincor has set itself the same quest for the Holy Grail - producing the ultimate Ontario Pinot Noir. Their joint venture with Boisset, the giant Burgundy house will give Ontario a new winery, Le Clos Jordan, which will specialize in Burgundy’s two varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They have hired a winemaker whose name is familiar to Winetidings’ readers, Pascal Marchand, a Quebecker who has earned an enviable reputation in Pommard at Clos des Epinots.

Le Clos Jordan will release its first wine in 2005. One hopes just its Chardonnay. There is no question that these wines will be highly priced so it would be in the best interests of both Vincor and the consumer if they took a leaf out of Gallo’s book and don’t release a Pinot Noir from young vines that is nasty, brutish and short. A rush to market would be a disservice to all parties.

This not the first sortie by Burgundians into the wine fields of Ontario. Six years ago Bernard Repolt of Jaffelin got together with Inniskillin (now part of Vincor) to assist Karl Kaiser in the selection of barrels for their high priced label called Alliance Chardonnay and Alliance Pinot Noir. The results, while interesting, were not as successful as both parties had hoped. But planting a vineyard and building a winery dedicated to the project show that Vincor is serious in wanting to “do a Gallo” and demonstrate to the world that it not only can make money but can make fine wine too. But in the immortal words of Orson Welles, they should “sell no wine before its time.”

 

 

 

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