Niagara, ON, Canada
We think that Francois Morissette makes natural wines but he will tell you that they are neoclassical. For him the wines are digestible and edible and nothing more. Francois cut his teeth in Burgundy learning from people like Frederic Mugnier, Christian Gouge and Jean Marc Roulot. He finished his studies at the University of Dijon to study enology.
Sustaining the natural environment around them is a crucial part of life at Pearl Morissette. They are primarily organic and the guiding principle at the winery is “leave the least amount of footprint possible”. To that extent they eschew any dogmas - regardless of whether they come from the conventional or organic/biodynamic movements. They try to keep an open mind, research their options and have an intelligent responses to their environment as they continue learning more about it each year. They use oils, preparations and compost teas out of the Biodynamics playbook in their vineyards because they work not because they subscribe to the philosophies of Rudolph Steiner. They avoid the use of herbicide and insecticide because they want bees to live in their vineyards. For Francois and the team remaining open minded about the world around them is key. Finding balance in the vineyard, the winery and in life is his focus. Francois is a philosopher and a true modern thinker, we envy much more about him than just his wines.
The Home Vineyard was planted from 2009 to 2012 on Jordan Road where the winery is and sits on sandy loam soils with a very high gravel content. Other vineyards rest on dolomitic limestone. Currently most of the fruit they use in any vintage is from their 19th Street Vineyard, a 16.5-acre plot within the Twenty Mile Bench VQA which they own and farm themselves. It is mostly heavy clay loam with silt and was planted in 1999.
Harvests are always based on phenolics - skin ripeness by taste. Their picking window is very short, usually about half a day per parcel. Grapes are picked in small 15kg totes by hand. They bring the fruit inside to cool it down and process after everything is picked and organized. Sorting is done on two double slotted sorting tables very slowly. Whites are all pressed whole bunch. Reds are fermented whole bunch (the destemmer hasn’t been used in years). By the time the grapes are in vat, the juice is at 5-9 degrees. They let it warm up on indigenous yeast and during this process don’t protect the pressed juice or grapes from oxygen (no S02). All wines are fermented fully with indigenous yeast and spend a long time again on their lees.
New oak use is miniscule and stainless steel is usually used only for transferring must and for sedimentation - Francois says it is too clinical for their wines. They ferment almost exclusively in old oak barrels, demi-muids, puncheons and foudres - as well as in concrete and in clay. Almost all the wines are bottled without fining and filtering.
2014 Cuvee Blackball
Riesling coming from their 19th Street Vineyard, whole bunch pressed, fermented and aged in 100% concrete. Powerful fruit, intense aromatics, dry with full malolactic fermentation completed. A very textural riesling and a unique expression of Niagara Terroir with balanced oxidation and freshness. This wine has famously has been refused VQA certification multiple time hence the name “Blackball”. This wine is available in very small quantities.
2016 Cuvee Sputnik
Riesling from fruit planted on sandy soils near Lake Ontario. Fermented in Stainless Steel and old oak Foudres before being transferred to Concrete for aging. Tightly wound and energetic with more fruit revealing itself as the wine is open. Bright and fresh, mineral and very dense. Dry, with full malolactic fermentation completed.
2013 Cuvee Metis Blanc
Chardonnay. A blend of young estate fruit planted in 2011 at high density and fruit from their Redfoot vineyard. Whole bunch pressed and fermented in concrete and old oak. The name comes from Francois’s 400 years of family history in Quebec. Another powerful wine from the Pearl Morissette team. Incredible balance and a wealth of orchard fruit and spice with soft, well-integrated oak rounding it out.
2013 Chardonnay Dix Neuvieme
Chardonnay from 20 year old vines planted on loam and limestone. Whole bunch pressed and fermented in a combination of new French oak barriques (10%) and old, large format oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered after resting on its’ lees for just over a year. A wine that is an incredible pleasure now but with a long life ahead of it.
2014 Cuvee Mon Unique
Gamay planted in heavy red clay soils. Whole cluster fermentation in open vats and cement before again in cement. Francois' gamays are extremely textural, dark and brooding with incredible finesse and savoury aromatics. Very small quantities available.
2016 Jeunes Vignes Pinot Noir
From vines planted in 2010. Fermented whole cluster in cement and open top foudres. A glou-glou style of Pinot that offers texture, umami and serious drinkability. With food or without this wine is a banger!
2014 Cuvee Metis Rouge
A blend of 3 different Cabernet Franc sites. Some from 3 year old estate fruit at high density planted on gravel and the remainder from the Redfoot vineyard and Bakery Vineyard. Three week 100% whole bunch fermented with an additional 10 days of post fermentation maceration and pressed into large-format old oak for aging. A wine that walks the line between power and finesse. Delicate aromatics, rich and full.
2012 Cuvee Madeline Cabernet Franc
Fermentation (40% whole-cluster) took place in oak vats and concrete. Élevage was done in neutral oak barrels, demi-muids and in concrete vat. The wine aged on its lees for a total of 18 months. This is Francois’s most structured and age worthy wine to date from a near perfect vintage for Cabernet Franc. Austere and structured now, give this wine some time in your cellar. It will be with you for decades.
- Kenaston Wine Market
- The Winehouse
- Banville and Jones Wine Co
- DeLuca's Fine Wine
- Ellement Wine and Sprits