Every fall, we begin the meticulous process of selecting oak barrels for our youngest vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon. Unlike many wineries, we don’t follow a recipe for which types of barrels we purchase each year. Barrel selection decisions–from country of origin (French or American) and forest source, to cooperage, toast level and even age of barrel–are based entirely on taste.
There are many different coopers to choose from, and options of barrel type and style will often be available from each cooper, whether they are different sizes, made from the trees of different forests, or have varying toast levels. Every barrel, even if the same make and model, will be slightly different. In fact, all 31 staves that make up a barrel will likely be different from each other. Just as it is imperative for winemakers to understand the personality of each vintage’s grapes, it is equally important for us to understand the personality of the barrels, and to determine whether or not those personalities complement each other.
We start first with tasting tank samples of newborn wines during fermentation. This gives us initial impressions of the wine’s fruit, as well as tannin, profile. But we also must ensure that the types of barrels we love for aging our Cabernet are still meeting our standards. That’s where blind tastings play a critical role. Blind tasting two vintages of Jordan Cabernet allows us to evaluate our coopers without bias. Our blind tasting rankings are evaluated against our perceptions on the young tank samples to determine the final barrel order. Cooperages are surprised that we reassess the quality of their product every year. We think it keeps them on their toes.
Since 2010, we have be continuing to increase the amount of French oak for aging Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon. The sensational fruit intensity and natural grape tannins lend themselves to the more elegant, subtle barrels. French oak actually mollifies the sterner character of our Cabernet, providing a round, soft, complex finish. As soon as Winemaker Rob Davis tasted the first tank sample of 2010 Cabernet, he said, “I can’t wait to put this in a bottle.”
With every vintage expressing a unique personality, like children, the raising of the wine, or élevage in French, of each wine must be specifically tailored in order for its potential greatness to be fully achieved. It is the subtle supporting contributions from barrel aging in the sleepy depths of the winery’s cellar that are responsible for this intensely supervised upbringing of our young wines.
Winery Jordan 1474 Alexander Valley Road • Healdsburg, CA 95448-9003
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