Pearl Morissette Estate Winery: Niagara Wines best kept secret

Pearl Morissette Wines
Niagara on the Lake, Ontario is one of Canada’s well-known wine regions. Also known as Niagara wines region, one discovers in the town of Jordan a little gem of a winery called Pearl Morissette. In 2007, the winery, a collaboration between developer Mel Pearl and Francois Morissette began.

One almost misses finding the winery tucked away along Jordan Station Rd. because there is no signage. The only indications of a winery are the black structures one observes on the road.

Francois trained in Burgundy, and his Burgundian experience plays a vital role in the style of Pearl Morisette wines. Francois utilizes a combination of new and old-world techniques with an emphasis on traditional winegrowing methods. Like Burgundy, one finds the vineyards planted in high density with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc. Pearl Morissette also produces Riesling, Viognier and Gamay Noir. Many of these grapes are grown organically and purchased from outside sources.

Pearl Morissette Vineyards in the Niagara Wines region
Pearl Morissette Vineyards in the Niagara Wines Region.

Working with their new associate winemaker Brent Rowland, who joined Pearl Morissette this past summer, Francois and Brent create marvelous wines using some unique aging processes. In the winery, one finds several light French oak vats, a couple of concrete vats, a concrete egg, stainless steel tanks, and a terracotta vessel much like an Amphora. The winery utilizes many cutting-edge techniques in producing the Pearl Morisette wines.

Pearl Morissette Terricotta Vessel
Pearl Morissette Terracotta Vessel

The winemaking process, a hands-off, non-invention approach emphasizes an attitude of doing as little as late as possible, so the grapes speak for themselves. One discovers no fining in the wines.  Oxygen is used to stabilize the wine in the juice stage.

Pearl Morissette Egg
Pearl Morissette Egg

We started off with the 2014 Riesling.  The wine goes through malolactic fermentation, which is unusual for Riesling. This Riesling also presented more viscosity than typically found in this variety. Both these elements create a more complex wine. I found the wine bright with flavors of pineapple and a nicely balanced amount of acidity and minerality, making this one of my favorites.

The 2013 Red Foot Riesling was dryer with nice acidity and minerality. This wine ages in a Foudre, a more massive wooden vat typically used in the Rhone Valley of France. The 2013 Black Ball Riesling with its lemony flavors seemed tighter yet more complex. Because of its tightness, the winery plans on holding its release and instead chose to release the 2014, a more together wine.

At the time of tasting, the 2014 Chardonnay had been in a barrel Foudre for 11 months. It displayed a slightly buttery texture. The wine exhibited viscosity, elegance and very drinkable with flavors of apple and pear.

Pearl Morissette Chardonnay
Pearl Morissette Chardonnay

The 2013 Chardonnay combines aging of the wine between a Foudre as well as large and small barrels. With a nice acidity, the wine displays the essence of pears and stone fruit.

The 2012 Chardonnay is a bigger wine yet very balanced. It is very ripe and bright with flavors of pear. What is unique about this wine is it was co-fermented with the Riesling must.

Last year Pearl Morissette produced a Viognier from grapes purchased. The wine emphasizes the honeysuckle aromas and flavors so typical of this variety.

Tasting the 2014 Gamay Noir and using minimal sulfa, I detected candy mixed with florals on the nose. The red fruit flavors are very juicy with lots of textures. Lacking sulfa, the 2013 Gamay Noir is savory with Mediterranean aromas.

The 2014 Pinot Noir is balanced but needs more time. It is not ready for release quite yet. The 2013 Pinot Noir is elegant yet delicate. With sweet aromas, the wine displays red fruit and spice. The 2012 Pinot Noir revealed darker fruit and balance with subtle spices.

I sampled three different vintages of the Cuvée Madeline Cab Franc, a wine named after Mel Pearl’s granddaughter. The 2014, which seemed very green with vegetable flavors especially green pepper. The 2013 will spend 2 or 3 years in a concrete vat while the 2012, which is very approachable aged 50% in new oak. One finds this Cabernet Franc less about its structure and more about drinkability. I found the wine very earthy in quality.

Finally, we finished with a 2013 Cuvée Métis, a blend of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc,  a fun and unique blend yet very balanced and a favorite of mine from this winery. This wine exemplifies the creativity and experimentation that goes on at Pearl Morissette.

Pearl Morissette Vat
The Vat is one of many aging vessels at Pearl Morissette.

Francois is branching out, in addition to the Canadian winery; he started a winery project called Chamboulé that combines three properties in California. The first is on Taylor Lane in Occidental and planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The second an 80-acre parcel on Coleman Valley Rd, also in Occidental. Finally, Francois and Mel purchased 100 acres on Mt Veeder. Their first two vintages from California vineyards were produced under the Pearl Morissette label.

If Chamboulé is anything like its Canadian counterpart, it will be a winery to look out for in the future.

If  You visit the Niagara Wines region

Pearl Morissette

3953 Jordan Road, Jordan, Ontario, Canada, L0R 1S0