California and Canada: A Comparative Wine Study

California and Canada: A Comparative Wine Study 

Taste the wines we're featuring Thursday, June 9th at our event with Inconnu and Pearl Morissette


We can't wait to host our first tasting event in over two years, happening tonight! Though tickets sold out in less than 24 hours, we still want to offer Laura's and François' wines to everyone.

Laura Brennan Bissell of Inconnu Wines in California, and François Morissette of Pearl Morissette in Ontario, Canada are working in very different climates, but they both heading projects based around great farming to craft wines that are fresh, exciting, evocative expressions of their respective terroirs. Tasting through their wines is a great way to learn about winemaking in North America.

Though the differences between southern Ontario and northern California are pretty obvious, what I find compelling about these two winemakers is all that they have in common. Both are outliers to me. Laura's Inconnu wines are easily identifiable as California but don't succumb to any clichés. They're not goopy, hot, oak bombs; nor are they undderripe and green. François has an impressive résumé from time in Burgundy with Alain Gras, Frédéric Mugnier, and Jean-Marc Roulot. His expertise has not boxed him into any clichés either about trying too hard to make Burgundy in a very different climate. His wines show a careful mix of playfulness and earnest, polished, elegance that is worlds beyond anything I've tasted in Canada or in the nearby Finger Lakes.

If Inconnu and Pearl Morissette are outliers, their wines are anything but challenging to enjoy. That's what I'm hoping everyone will take away from tonight's event or from opening these at home. Laura and François have forged unique paths in the service of making delicious, crowd-friendly wines that defy expectations. For those who can't attend tonight, at least you can still join in the fun of drinking these bottles we are excited to help get the attention they deserve.


Jonathan and Kirk

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Pearl Morissette "Roselana" Niagara Peninsula 2020


A dark rosé that is almost a light red – one of my favorite categories! Mostly Pinot Noir with Gamay and some Merlot, direct pressed, and aged without sulfur. It is smooth and plush with ripe blueberry, violet, and juicy strawberry notes. Dry and energetically refreshing.

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Pearl Morissette "Primesautier" Niagara Peninsula 2020


100% Lemberger, aka Blaufränkisch, a grape that is in pretty short supply in the Niagara Peninsula, so it's the only fruit that François purchases instead of grows himself. It tactfully avoids the cured meat notes I often get from this variety and instead offers up a lifted, vibrant wine with lavender, violet, and mouthwatering acids that show just a hint of iron and mineral tang. A lovely wine that has me hoping Lemberger catches on more in southern Ontario.

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Pearl Morissette "Irreverence" Blanc Niagara Peninsula 2018


This is always an ambitious wine that I find I enjoy more each year. The 2018 is a blend of Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Chardonnay, with some of the Riesling and Gewürztraminer getting 6 months of skin contact in amphora. The result is truly unique, as it's not a funky orange wine nor an opulent, overwrought affair. Lychee notes and a viscous, round body are complemented with dry extract, wet stone, and a chalky texture. The finish is lithe and vivid. Complex? Yes, but it's also a satiating with enormous gastronomical versatility.

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Inconnu "Lalalu" Rose 2019


This is one of the craziest rosés I've come across but easily one of my favorites. This is like a California version of the famous Provençal rosé Clos Cibonne, who is known for making a wine with flor, not unlike that found in the Jura or Sherry. In a wine like this, it adds a fantastic, unexpected dimension. The wine has the snap and tension of Jura Chardonnay, with the briny undertones of a Portuguese coastal white. It's just the thing for a hot day and it will turn some heads in a great way. Mostly Mourvèdre with some Cab Franc and Merlot; it is 2019 and only improving with age.

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Inconnu "No Gods No Masters" Cabernet Sauvignon California 2019


A new offering from Laura, "No Gods No Masters" is a fun and lively addition to the Inconnu line up. Sourced from organic vineyards in Clarksburg, Carneros and the Russian River Valley, this bright and vibrant Cabernet harkens back to old school California wines with its lower alcohol level and joyful freshness. Medium-bodied and spry, with high-toned red and blue fruit aromatics backed by a deliciously energetic palate of ripe cherry, blackberry and peppercorn with refreshing acid and gentle tannins. Hits WAY above its price point.

Inconnu "Alaric" Cabernet Sauvignon Russian River Valley 2018


The Russian River Valley, a beautiful region in Northern California, is most often associated with the production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay - it's a little bit cooler climactically than Napa, which lends itself to a longer growing season, and is especially well suited for slow ripening grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc. Laura Brennan stumbled upon a 4 acre vineyard of Cabernet planted in the 1970's, and after a hand shake deal with John Bucher she took it over, convincing Bucher to farm the plot no-till organic. She was able to produce 2 vintages off of the vineyard before it was lost to wildfires in 2020, and boy am I glad she made what she did. This wine single-handedly reignited my love for California Cabernet. 95% Sauvignon, 5% Franc, fermented slow and cool and aged 18 months in barrel. Pure, energetic and sublime, the wine rides the perfect line between concentration and elegance with enough density and texture for fans of "bold" Cabernet, and enough rusticity and earthy intrigue for the rest of us.


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