In 1978, six years after Tom and Sally Jordan founded Jordan Vineyard & Winery in the Alexander Valley, there were 180 wineries in existence in Sonoma County and the Napa Valley combined. So much has changed in the last forty years, not just in terms of the total number of wineries found in Wine Country, but also in terms of ownership. After years of reading headline after headline about another family winery selling to a wine group or corporation, we decided to dig into the data and discover exactly how many wineries have changed hands since the 1970s.
Of those 180 wineries, more than 150 are still in business today. Many were sold to corporations or purchased by new families when the founders retired or moved on. Only about one-third—62 wineries in total—are still owned today by the founding families. Jordan is proud to be part of this exclusive club, and with second-generation vintner John Jordan at the helm since 2005, the winery will continue its family ownership long into the future.
Trends in Family Owned Wineries Infographic
We created this infographic to show the fate of family-owned wineries in Napa and Sonoma over the last four decades.
Total Number of Wineries: 180
Still Owned by Founding Family: 62
Now Corporate Owned: 65
Sold to a New Family: 28
Data compiled from independent research using Wines Vines Analytics.
During the month of June, grapevine berries have formed and are beginning to grow. This critical time in the development of the vine is called the grape fruit set. The below photo gallery shows fruit set images at various stages.
Fruit set happens at slightly different times for white grapes and red grapes. The temperature of the wine region also plays a factor. For Jordan, chardonnay grapes grown in the cooler Russian River Valley tend to flower and set fruit in mid-May, around the same time that our merlot grapes flower in the warmer Alexander Valley. Cabernet sauvignon is a later-ripening grape variety and typically doesn’t flower until 2-4 weeks after early-ripening grapes.
The flowering of grapevines in the spring determines the number of berries that form and their size. Without consistent, moderate weather during flowering — also known as bloom — grape flowers cannot turn into berries and have what farmers call a great “set.” What winemakers and grape growers hope Mother Nature will deliver every May is moderately warm days with very little wind, no rain and no heat spikes. In this case, she grants their wish for both early- and late-ripening white and red grapes. But in inclement years during flowering, chardonnay, merlot and other early-ripening varieties don’t have a great fruit set. When May weather is a mix of cool days, rain showers and even heat waves, the bloom of grapevines will be uneven –some flowers won’t even pollinate– leading to fewer berries per cluster of fruit. But this transition from flowering to fruit set determines quantity, not quality. With a few chardonnay clusters in these grape fruit set photos, you’ll also see examples of what we call “hens and chicks,” where the they grow at different sizes due to inconsistent flowering times. You’ll also notice that a handful of the grape flowers that didn’t turn into berries are visible in the bottom-left photo.
Once the fruit sets, it goes through rapid cell development, expanding in size quickly. Before the end of July, red wine grapes will begin to change color, the next step in the life cycle of the grapevine called veraison. Geek out on fruit set in the vineyard with our other wine 101 blog.
In the world of grape growing and vineyard management, the abundant fall harvest is generally what springs to mind. But the stages leading up to this yearly bounty are crucial factors to success. Grape flowers, or grape “flowering” in vineyard manager parlance, arrive in late spring, 40-80 days after bud break, depending on the temperatures and rain. To make their welcomed appearance, grape flowers need average daily temperatures to stay between 59-68 degrees Fahrenheit, generally sometime in May in Sonoma County. It’s during this stage of a grape’s lifecycle that pollination and fertilization occurs, with the results ultimately producing a cluster. To learn more about how spring weather influences bloom and fruit set, watch this fruit set video.
For fertilization to occur, unlike many other plants, the bees don’t have to buzz in the vineyards. Grapevines are hermaphroditic – they possess both male and female parts so, barring weather issues or pest invasions, grape flowers can transform into berries all by themselves. Read more about this process and the geeky science behind flowering.
What Can Affect a Grape Flower?
Every vineyard manager wants an even fruit set, defined as when the fertilized flowers develop into a grape and then into picture-perfect clusters. But if the delicate grape flowers are exposed to rain, wind or cold temperatures, the dream of a beauty-pageant cluster can be dashed. Low temperatures can freeze the flowers or a heavy rain can wash them off. This unwanted result is called “shatter,” meaning the cluster grows without the ideal, tight shape with the berries differing in size. While this variation thankfully doesn’t affect the quality of the berries, it definitely affects their quantity. This article offers a photo gallery of various fruit sets and what a shattered cluster looks like.
Once the tiny berries appear, we begin our leaf pulling or thinning practice. This crucial activity allows for increased air movement within the vine’s canopy, as well as helps manage light penetration through the vines. The breezes help keep non-beneficial pests at bay and the dappled light helps prevent sunburned grapes which can negatively affect a wine’s flavor. To learn more about our leaf thinning program here at Jordan, watch this video: Leaf Vineyards to Prepare Grapevines for Ripening.
With the right practices and if Mother Nature cooperates, grapevines thrive, especially in the temperate and normally predictable weather of California. We’re fortunate to grow vineyards here but we pay a lot of attention to everything to maintain the highest quality standards. We know it shows in the bottle.
With record rainfall and multiple heat waves, the 2017 vintage was full of surprises and challenges in Napa and Sonoma wine country. The high quality of the wines is a testament to the resilience and hardiness of grapevines during extreme weather, and to the determination and skill of the vineyard and cellar teams working together to make the best of a difficult situation. Here are five key practices that allowed California winemakers to craft great 2017 chardonnay despite uncooperative weather conditions.
Delayed Vineyard Leafing
The growing season started out beautifully. Record rainfall in the winter filled the drought-parched reservoirs and the water table recovered. April showers were plentiful, and flowering began in mid-May—three weeks later than the last few vintages due to cooler temperatures. Bloom conditions were normal, allowing an average-sized crop of grape clusters to form on Russian River Valley chardonnay. So far, so good. Then, three heat spikes hit Sonoma County in June and July, bringing temperatures from the mid-90s to well above 100 degrees. Clusters seized up over Father’s Day weekend, and the vines maintained small clusters without much increase in berry weight. We knew we had to take action to protect the fruit, so we made the tough decision to delay leafing of the canopy. The additional shade this provided helped to cool the grapes and prevent sunburn.
Irrigation of the Grapevines
August days were blessedly cool, with ideal foggy mornings and night temperatures that dipped into the mid-50s. But over Labor Day weekend, just after our chardonnay harvest kicked off, another heat wave hit and temperatures reached well into the triple digits. Sugars in the fruit climbed due to dehydration, and the vines fought to retain enough water to stay alive. We made a quick decision to begin a judicious amount of irrigation to help rehydrate them without compromising flavor concentration. Fortunately, the brutal heat was contained in a few days, and our irrigation efforts did the trick. Grapes tested at Jordan just after the heat spell showed very high sugar readings, but two days later, sugar levels dropped back to their normal rate of maturation.
While irrigation can help cool the fruit and bring much-needed moisture to the plants, there is a limit to what a grapevine can endure. Once the stomates (microscopic openings or pores in the plant leaves) close to prevent water loss through the leaves, respiration and photosynthesis shut down. Maturation is essentially stunted until weather conditions improve. If the heat continues day after day, then the vine aborts the fruit in a last ditch effort to survive.
Patience with Picking Grapes
When an extreme heat wave hits, there’s a temptation to rush and pick the grapes before further damage is done. This is not the ideal approach, since the grapes are not yet fully developed. Our growers always get anxious to pick when challenging weather conditions arise, and my usual response is to take care of the fruit through the heat and wait for the vines to work their magic. And so we resisted the urge to harvest early and rode out the heat wave. This allowed the grapes to reach their full maturity.
Sacrificing Quantity for Quality
The 2017 vintage was a reminder that quality winemaking requires sacrifice. In order to retain our high standards of quality and flavor, we declassified most of the hard press juice—about one-third of our production—to ensure that the 2017 chardonnay retained its brightness and fresh fruit aromas and flavors. The clusters were small, about 25 percent below normal weight and additional clusters were lost when the stressed vines aborted some of the fruit during the Labor Day heat wave. Juice yields were about 10 percent below normal, but the flavors were clean, showing no ill effects of sunburn—with bright aromas and crisp flavors of apple, pear and peach. As a result, we bottled about one-third less Jordan Chardonnay in 2017 than in a typical vintage.
Diligence in Winemaking
Due to the effects of the hot weather, diligence continued in the cellar, where were worked to uplift the fruit and soften the edges. Bitterness in the finish of the wine is a natural result of a season where the fruit is exposed to excessive heat, and despite our efforts to eliminate any juice from the press that tasted bitter, we still detected a hint of bitterness in the finish of the wine that we didn’t want. During the fermentation, however, that last bitter note disappeared in the juice, settling to the bottom of the barrel in the lees. Obviously, we would not want to re-introduce a bitter note back into the wine, so batonnage, or stirring of the lees, was eliminated in our winemaking for 2017. I am truly proud of how our team tackled the challenges Mother Nature handed us to make a beautifully balanced 2017 chardonnay. When we tasted the wine out of barrel after five months, we were sampling startled at how good the wine tasted. The finished wine surpassed all of our efforts at crafting a beautifully balanced, fruit-forward chardonnay. The 2017 Jordan Chardonnay displays inviting aromas of honeysuckle and lemon peel, leading to bright flavors of stone fruits and citrus. The palate is elegant yet succulent, with layers of oak-laced lemon, pears, quince and white peach—all supported by uplifting acidity.
Following three exceptional harvests, the 2015 vintage experienced more difficult weather conditions, but great vineyards prevail during these climatic challenges. In years like this, it is especially important to pay meticulous attention to farming practices and vineyard site selection in order to craft elegant, perfectly balanced wines. Five main factors played a key role in making classic 2015 Cabernet Sauvignons in Sonoma and Napa—and for Jordan in particular—despite the curveballs Mother Nature pitched our way.
Meticulous Viticulture Assured Great Quality
Mild spring weather resulted in an early bud break, with grapevines emerging from dormancy three weeks ahead of a typical growing season. Temperatures remained warm in March and April, mitigating any frost threats, and it looked like the vintage was off to a great start. But when early May arrived, the weather took a dramatic turn. Suddenly, it seemed more like February than the end of spring, and unusually cool, damp days lingered the first two weeks of the month when fertilization of the grapevines’ flowers was occurring. This caused shatter in the forming clusters, which led to fewer flowers on the grapevines developing into berries. Sometimes a smaller crop is not a bad thing. Fewer and smaller clusters can provide more concentration in the wine, as long as the vine growth is balanced. But too many times, when nature takes a bite from the vineyard in terms of crop size, the grower has to work diligently to maintain the balance of vigor in the vine. “Undercropped” vines in years like 2015 require vigorous canopy management to get the vine to focus on their grape clusters rather than the excess growth of the canopy. It all comes down to achieving physiological maturity in the fruit.
The cool weather also led to uneven flowering and fruit set in some of Jordan’s Alexander Valley vineyards. Because uniformity of the clusters is key to growing exceptional fruit and making great wines, I asked all of our growers to drop any flower clusters still hanging while they completed hand-leafing of the canopies. Fruit set was so prolonged that I wanted to ensure any latent clusters that were less mature than the rest were removed. Because Mother Nature didn’t cooperate, we had to sacrifice some of our precious crop to bring the vintage back into balance. Fortunately, warm weather soon returned and remained throughout the summer, helping the vines ripen their reduced crop.
Smaller Berries Brought More Concentration
The growing season was free of major heat spikes until September, when temperatures climbed above 100 degrees. Extremely hot weather makes winemakers and growers uneasy, because it causes vines to shut down and withdraw water from the clusters to help them survive. The heat fluctuations, coupled with the cold weather during flowering, resulted in grape cluster weights being down 20-30 percent from normal. All the work prior to the harvest maintaining the balance between the canopy and the bearing fruit came literally to fruition when we chose the timing of our pick for 2015 cabernet sauvignon, which ensured that the small berries retained their concentrated flavors.
Fruit Quality Was Excellent
The September heat wave lingered throughout the first half of the month, accelerating sugar levels in the grapes and speeding up harvest dates. It was a scramble during the last five days of harvest to get all the ripened fruit into the winery, when much-welcomed cool weather moved in. The last grapes made their way through the hopper and into our fermentation room on September 28, making the 40th vintage at Jordan one of the earliest-finishing harvests in our history. Despite low yields, the quality of the fruit was superb. The cabernet displayed deep, rich, blackberry and cherry aromas with a concentration of tannin provided by the vintage’s uniquely small berries.
The Cooler Vintage Lent Itself to Silky, Bordeaux-Style Wines
The overall coolness of the 2015 vintage lent itself perfectly to crafting beautifully balanced, Bordeaux-style cabernets—Jordan’s house style since the winery was founded. The 2015 Jordan Cabernet is pure elegance in a glass, with aromas of black cherries, pomegranate, dried cranberries and a hint of graphite. Its lovely, silky texture coats the palate with layers of black cherries and a touch of cedar from French oak’s fine tannins. From beginning to end, the balance carries all the way through.
All French Oak Elevated the 2015 Vintage’s Structure
Aging entirely in French oak barrels for the first time in Jordan’s history played a pivotal role in this wine. Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon historically was aged in a 50-50 mix of French and American oak barrels, as a tribute to the wine’s European inspiration and American roots. However, in 2005, when John Jordan took the reins from his parents to become the winery’s CEO, we set a plan in motion to transition to entirely French oak barrels to better complement the shift in the winery’s vineyard sourcing away from valley-floor fruit. The proof is in our 2015 Cabernet, which exudes a great fruit character and fine structure that French oak supports and elevates—a truly classic vintage. Read the full story behind our transition from French-American to all French oak barrel aging.
We’re thrilled to announce the completion of the redesigned Jordan Winery dining room in Healdsburg by Geoffrey De Sousa of San Francisco, one of the top interior design firms on the West Coast. This is De Sousa’s first project for a winery, and the Jordan dining room’s first remodel in more than 20 years.
Geoffrey De Sousa is known around the world for creating interiors that are cosmopolitan and warmly modern. With the Jordan Winery dining room and its adjoining areas, De Sousa and his staff reimagined the 18th century-French design, retaining its best architectural features while introducing new design elements. He and his staff worked closely with John Jordan and Todd and Nitsa Knoll, the husband-wife team behind Jordan’s culinary hospitality program, to reimagine the space, which is central to both Jordan’s winemaking philosophy of making elegant, food-friendly wines and to the chef’s culinary philosophy of bringing a snapshot of the surrounding countryside to the plate.
“I’d always loved the dining room, with the French neoclassical lines and antiques, but I wanted the space to show reverence to nature and the habitats across our estate that inspire my cooking,” said Todd Knoll, executive chef at Jordan Winery. “Our vision for the dining room remodel was to refresh the room in a way that pays respect to our French inspiration while honoring the land and conveying an appreciation of timeless beauty and craftsmanship. The new design has brought drama, elegance and mystery to the space.”
Situated in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, Jordan is a 1,200-acre estate with more than 80 percent of the property preserved as natural habitat. Large swaths of Jordan Estate remain as they did when the native Pomo and Wappo tribes hunted and gathered in the region—groves of towering oak trees are draped in lichen, time-sculpted rocks are wrapped in velvety-green moss and prized mushrooms poke through the underbrush of the woods. In the thick morning fog, these quiet corners of Sonoma County are mysterious and ethereal to Chef Knoll, who often finds himself lost in the primal wonder of nature while foraging for Jordan menus. He worked with De Sousa to capture all of these elements and emotions in the dining room design.
“We always enjoy working with spaces that have strong architectural features and a story to tell,” Geoffrey De Sousa, proprietor of Geoffrey De Sousa Interior Design and De Sousa Hughes. “The Jordan dining room is now not only an homage to old-world France, it’s also a portrait of the surrounding estate and the chef’s philosophy.”
The before and after transformation is quite striking. Look at the above of the dining room two years ago before Valentine’s Dinner at Jordan and in again February 2019, the latter of which was taken by photographer Kim Carroll from the same angle.
The original interior design of Jordan Winery’s dining room and guest suites, led by John Jordan’s mother in the 1970s, featured antiques and other elements that celebrated 18th-century French design. A minor remodel in the mid-1990s continued in this style. Today, buttercup yellow walls with sherbet green fabric in framed molding are now a deep gray with an elegant wallpaper pattern that brings the outdoors in. Mahogany brown chairs were disassembled and completely reimagined with embroidery that celebrates nature; all woodwork has been painted and lighting was replaced. Bathrooms were also updated. French toile fabric partitions that kept guests from viewing the kitchen’s prep area have been replaced with a new butler’s pantry. The butler’s pantry features French doors that open to a covered alcove, giving guests the opportunity to see Jordan’s culinary staff in action during outdoor events, such as Picnic Days at Jordan, Bastille Day Brunch and Bounty of Sonoma County Dinner.
The wallpaper installation was extremely intricate. Master craftswoman Heidi Wright Mead of A Paper Hanger said it was the most challenging project of her career–more difficult than the paper hanging at McDonald Mansion in Santa Rosa, Calif., during its historic renovation. She and her staff formed the wallpaper over the moldings from the crown to the base board to accentuate the original character of the room. This included intricate work around the oculuses located above and below the windows (check out her Instagram video). According to Heidi, she’s never seen a wallpaper installation with this much meticulous hand-labor; every wall in the room had some sort of molding from floor to ceiling. We captured a portion of her work through time-lapse video.
Design features include:
Restoration of Jordan’s existing high-back chairs, including intricate chair embroidery by a renowned, haute-couture artist based in London, who studied with Alexander McQueen, and has worked for some of the world’s most renowned fashion houses, including Tom Ford, Versace, Givenchy and Fendi. Each embroidery pattern is distinct and inspired by the vibrant, moss-carpeted rocks and lichen found across Jordan Estate.
Addition of an elegant wallpaper design called Midsummer Night from Wall&deco, created by graphic designer Lorenzo De Grandis of Milan, Italy. The forest-like pattern is both mysterious and elegant like the woodlands of Jordan. The exciting installation was led by an expert wallpaper hanger, who specializes in applications for historic buildings and projects with intricate details.
All new lighting selected by San-Francisco based designer Jonathan Browning Studios, pulling inspiration from French Beaux Arts classicism—an homage to Jordan Winery’s original inspiration.
A refresh of the room’s grand fireplace by Sonoma County metalsmith Randell Tuell of Tuell + Reynolds, who created a bronze surround, hearth trim and tools to give the fireplace a modern touch.
Accent walls and woodwork painted with Benjamin Moore French Beret, a cross between dark gray and navy that conveys timeless elegance.
Floor-to-ceiling drapes in gold leaf (reminiscent of the golden hills visible across Jordan Estate each summer) and navy cotton velvet tablecloths with flax-hued linen toppers fabricated by Susan Lind Chastain, Inc.
Wall art featuring Chef Knoll’s photographs of estate tree bark, moss-covered stones and wild mushrooms.
Addition of a “Piethian Apollo,” a playful statue by New York artist Stephen Antonson from his pie-faced bust series, which aligns with Jordan’s reputation for its fun culture and humorous music videos.
Custom vases by wine country’s leading ceramic artists, Nikki and Will Callnan of NBC Pottery, were created for the space. NBC also harvested clay from Jordan’s garden to create “estate garden plates” that will be used to showcase food pairings in the dining room and on Jordan’s Estate Tour & Tasting.
Hexagon terracotta floor tiles found throughout the hospitality wing of Jordan Winery’s iconic chateau—sourced from Provence and installed in the late 1970s—were stripped, stained and sealed by hand in a warm gray tone, adding to the overall ambiance of the newly reimagined dining room.
Guests can experience the new dining room at Jordan’s next seven-course, prix fixe dinner party event, Spring Dinner with the Winemakers, on May 4. Tickets are $295 per person and go on sale on April 2. Members of Jordan Winery’s loyalty program, Jordan Estate Rewards, can also book private food-and-wine-pairing experiences in the dining room with Jordan Private Tables. Once members spend $500 at Jordan, they gain Silver status and access to booking the dining room.
What do you think of the new Jordan Winery dining room? Please leave us a comment.
Gorgeous photographs by internationally renowned interior design photographer, Jose Manuel Alorda, are featured in the below gallery.
A historic vintage calls for a historic shoe. Serious wine drinkers need serious arch support, right? The first vintage in Jordan history aged entirely in French oak barrels–the 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon–releases May 1, 2019. To celebrate this milestone, we are thrilled to unveil the Air Jordan XV Retro 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Edition sneakers. Shoes drop April 1, 2019.
The Air Jordan XV Retro 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon series was created by Troy Cole of Kickasso Kustoms, a Los Angeles-based artist, beloved by celebrities and NFL players, who is known as the “Picasso of Custom Cleats.” (And for all your sneakerheads: We do know that this shoe is an Air Jordan XI. We are releasing the ’15 vintage, hence the XV.)
Shoe design highlights include:
Wine cork midsoles
Detachable corkscrew for versatility, featuring a Jordan French oak barrel stave handle
2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon wine cork lace lock
French oak barrel stave aglets
French Digitsoles with Vivino wine app integration
Egg-white fined lining for extra comfort
2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon-infused leather upper
Inserts marinated in coq au vin for 12 months to ensure the shoes always smell like a fine French restaurant
Packaged in small French oak barrels for the ultimate unboxing presentation
Find the Air Jordan XV Retro 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Edition sneakers at fine shoe retailers worldwide on April 1.
Happy April Fool’s Day.
If you’re not already on our mailing list, be sure to sign up to receive the 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon release announcement.
Since our founding in 1972, Jordan Winery has been an homage to First Growth Bordeaux. The French mindset has been infused into all aspects of the winery, from the design of the chateau and dining room to the grapes planted at the estate and the methods used to craft old-world-style wines. With the release of the 2015 Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon on May 1, we come full circle by aging our singular red wine exclusively in French oak barrels for the first time in the winery’s history. It’s serendipitous that 2015 also marks Winemaker Rob Davis’s 40th harvest at Jordan.
To pay tribute to the wine’s European inspiration and its U.S. roots, the inaugural 1976 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon was aged 50/50 in French and American oak. The shift in barrel philosophy didn’t begin until 2005 when John Jordan took the reins from his dad and asked Rob what could be done to elevate quality while staying true to Jordan’s elegant house style. Rob created a prototype of his dream Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2005 vintage, using only the best tanks from the top vineyard blocks and aging them entirely in French oak barrels—some of which were hand-picked by Davis at a barrel auction in France. When John tasted the wine, he loved it so much that he gave Rob approval to explore moving Jordan’s entire cabernet production to the super-blend model.
Rob started with the vineyards. He began changing Jordan’s grape sources beginning in 2006, focusing on finding vineyards with the ideal soils and locations for growing cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes with a finer, natural tannin profile that reach optimal maturity at healthy sugar levels of around 24 Brix.
“French oak, with its greater array of complex tannins and much greater porosity, lends itself much more to the black fruits and deeper, richer flavors we’ve achieved through new grower vineyards,” says Rob, the longest-tenured winemaker in Sonoma County who will complete his 44th harvest at Jordan this fall. “Once we stopped including grapes from the estate valley floor and hillsides in our blends, we found that the American oak was overpowering the beautiful dark fruit in the young wines while French oak elevated the fruit.”
Known for bringing aromas and flavors of dill, coconut and cedar to red wines, American oak played a vital role in Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon for decades, masking the herbaceous character in the wine—a result of the challenging soil types found in many estate vineyard blocks—grapes that are now sold to other wineries. After six harvests with the new fruit-sourcing philosophy, the flavor concentration and natural tannins were so beautiful in the young wines, Rob had his winemaking team put together two blends from the 2012 vintage: one with the standard American and French oak medley and one aged solely in French oak to share with John. In a blind tasting, everyone chose the 100 percent French oak blend. John gave the winemakers the green light to move the entire Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon production to all French oak aging in 2012. The full transition took another three vintages, as new American oak barrels, which are filled 2-3 times during their lifespan in the Jordan cellar, completed their cycle.
“If we’d continued with our old barrel regime,” Rob says, “our cabernet would taste less refined and out of balance.”
The 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon ($57) is a blend of 77 percent cabernet sauvignon, 15 percent merlot, 6 percent petit verdot and 2 percent malbec, created from 60 different vineyard blocks—a combination of 13 different growers and Jordan Estate. Eighty-five percent of the final blend is grower fruit. The wine aged for 13 months in 47 percent new and 53 percent one-year-old barrels before gaining added complexity through nearly two years of bottle age. Primarily medium-toast barrels from six French coopers were selected based on blind tastings and the vintage’s flavor profile.
How long should cabernet sauvignon be aged before you reach for that corkscrew? It’s the question we’re asked most by winery guests and friends on social media, which inspired us to create a new kind of wine vintage chart for cabernet sauvignon. This wine aging chart gives wine lovers an idea of how each vintage of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon may taste and when to enjoy it. In addition to the standard wine bottle size of 750ml, magnum bottles, three liters and six liters are also included. Each year, we will update our Wine Vintage Chart so you’ll have an up-to-date Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon aging guide.
Wine Vintage Chart: Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Aging Guide
Cabernet Sauvignon aging potential is quite long due to this Bordeaux wine grape’s natural tannins, ample acidity and affection for oak. But, as with all red wine longevity, the key to aging gracefully in bottle for decades is balance in winemaking. Crafting cabernet sauvignon with fruit flavors, fine tannins, and natural acidity all in balance allows for the gradual, graceful aging and evolution of great cabernet in bottle.
With proper wine storage, Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon has been known to maintain its grace and elegance in 750ml bottle for about 30 years. Though our winemakers prefer to drink Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 7-10 years after the vintage date, we continue to receive emails from customers who are still enjoying bottles from the late-1970s and 1980s. (I opened a bottle of 1980 Jordan for my birthday last weekend, and it was magnificent.) As a general rule, magnum and other large-format bottles of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon taste best 12-20 years after release.
As you’ll see in this wine vintage chart, Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon flavors change from vintage to vintage, but you’ll see some flavor trends in each decade as the wine ages in bottle. Taste characteristics range from the bold, ripe fruit flavors of black cherry and blackberry in younger vintages of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon to the subtle aromas of dried cranberry, black tea and leather found in bottles opened more than 10 years after their vintage date. If you like to taste a lot of fruit in your cabernet sauvignon, it’s best to enjoy it within about a decade of its vintage.
Virtually all wine vintage charts are produced by wine journalists who give each vintage for the entire wine region a score, based on the growing season weather and how the wines tasted while young. We decided that our wine vintage chart should be more of a hybrid wine aging chart/wine peak chart/wine flavor chart. Due to the breadth of the aging guide–it goes back to the inaugural 1976 Jordan–we have broken it into decades below. There are also links to download the full vintage chart. We hope you find it helpful when you’re storing bottles of great cabernet and trying to decide when to drink them.
History has shown us that when winemakers harvest cabernet grapes at traditional sugar levels (below 25 Brix) to keep alcohol levels lower (below 14%), retain the wine’s acidity, and age the wine in the types of barrels that do not overpower the fruit flavors, the cabernets tend to be more elegant and less of the powerhouse cabernet style that has come into fashion since the 1990s. In our experience, wines that are high in alcohol and tannin lack the acidity and fruit to age gracefully and taste harmonious when mature. Even for a bottle of red wine, one of the keys to a long life is balance and moderation.
The first few growing seasons for Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon were a rollercoaster. Drought conditions prevailed in 1976, and 1977 enjoyed a small crop that yielded balanced wines. 1978 was considered the best of the four vintages, producing ripe, rich red wines. However, the 1979 was more balanced and elegant across the region–ideal for the Jordan house style. All Jordan Cabernet Sauvignons from the 1970s are considered past their peak, though we do come across the occasional 750mL bottle that is still alive. Jordan didn’t start producing big bottles in 1977, and the large-format bottles of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon are still quite alive, especially 1978 and 1979. Click view all vintages to see tasting notes from this vintage chart.
1980-1989 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Vintages
This is the decade Jordan Winemaker Rob Davis rarely wants to revisit, as it reminds him of all the challenging weather conditions he had to overcome to make great cabernet. Journalists declared 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1988 as the best vintages of the decade upon release–each producing ripe, flavorful red wines. 1981, 1982 and 1983 were considered tough years that produced leaner wines with 1981 being the most charming of the three. Even though 1980 had a large crop, the vintage has continued to surprise us; even the 750mL bottles are still alive in 2018. Both 1988 and 1989 yielded more simple wines even though 1988 was a small crop and 1989 a bumper. As with the 1970s, Jordan Cabernet Sauvignons from the 1980s are considered past their peak, though the 1985-1989 and the 1980 Jordan still have some life in 750mL. Large-format bottles are allowing the 1980s cabernets to retain a longer life. Click view all vintages to see tasting notes.
1990-1999 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Vintages
Ah, the memories. There were so many great cabernets in the 1990s, it’s hard to pick the best. Look at all those red fruit notes in the wine vintage chart! Upon release, red wines from 1990, 1991, 1994, 1997 and 1999 were all rich and complex; 1992, 1993 and 1995 produced cabernets that were most elegant and supple, but equally delicious. The 1996 is considered a sleeper vintage that came around with age; winemakers were struggling to replant vineyards due to the phylloxera epidemic, but compelling wines were still produced. 1998 was the most challenging vintage of the decade in terms of weather, yielding leaner, more elegant wines. But, 1998 blossomed and gained complexity with time. Magnums of 1998 Jordan opened at our winery Christmas party three years ago were the star of the show. Still alive with lots of cherry fruit and layers of silk. These vintages are still drinking nicely, so view the wine vintage chart for flavorful profiles that suit your taste. Click view all vintages to see tasting notes.
2000-2009 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Vintages
Another strong decade for great cabernet in California. 2001, 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2009 are considered the best vintages, producing stunning, complex red wines. But, 2006 should not be overlooked, as it created cabernets that are concentrated and age worthy. The 2000 and 2008 vintages had the most challenging weather, but 2008 is a sleeper vintage–like the 1998–and has never tasted better. It has gained complexity with age. These cabernet vintages from the 2000s are in an optimal drinking window, with big bottles still showing the most dark fruit flavors, so view the wine vintage chart for flavorful profiles that suit your taste. Click view all vintages to see tasting notes. from this vintage chart.
2010-2014 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Vintages
A string of great cabernet vintages with only one hiccup. The 2010 vintage was a cooler year producing more elegant cabernets, while the 2011 was so cold and rainy, that many winemakers struggled to make balanced wines. 2012, 2013 and 2014 are the best string of vintages in Jordan winemaking history; most Sonoma/Napa winemakers would agree. All three of highly textured, flavorful vintages with the tannin and acidity to age gracefully. Click view all vintages to see tasting notes.
Since 2012, a large portion of the proceeds from Jordan Winery sales have funded the John Jordan Foundation (JJF), which works to fight the negative health effects of poverty, improve and provide special educational opportunities, and support children and families in need. Facilitating early childhood education in and around Sonoma County is a key focus, including support for a county-run teach-the-teachers project dubbed Teachers Acquiring Language Learner Knowledge, or TALLK.
Founded in 2010, TALLK provides preschool teachers with training and coaching in specific strategies for interacting with English learner children to support language acquisition. Overall, the project aims to support language development among preschoolers in their home language and in English, recognizing that skills learned in both languages will support the children’s literacy development.
According to Jenn Guerrero, English learner program coordinator for the Sonoma County Office of Education, TALLK is based on the research-demonstrated best practice of providing adult education through a combination of information sharing followed by coaching.
“In California, 57 percent of children birth through age 5 live in a household where English is not the primary language,” she says. “The TALLK Project provides our Early Childhood Education educators with the the tools and strategies needed to effectively meet the needs of these Dual Language Learners in our preschools.”
Guererro adds that through the generosity of the JJF, TALLK was able to train close to 25 coaches from across the state of California, thereby enhancing language acquisition for 250-300 preschoolers.
Participation in TALLK begins with a one-day orientation session that introduces participants to resources that will be used throughout the year. After that, over the course of the school year, a bilingual coach provides one-on-one sessions with teachers, on-site monthly staff trainings, periodic check-in meetings, and individualized support.
TALLK even doles out $200 stipends to each participant who completes the program.
At the same time, TALLK coaches also offer parent workshops at each project site, emphasizing school readiness and strategies for building a language-rich environment at home. Guererro says these workshops have a dual purpose—educating parents and training preschool staff to provide parent trainings on their own.
All told, the JJF has supported TALLK since 2017, donating $15,000 in each of the last two years. Executive Director Lisa Wittke Schaffner says she is “blown away” by how well the program has worked.
“When I visited a preschool and saw the TALLK program in action, I was riveted,” Wittke Schaffner says. “The one-on-one coaching through earphones was so powerful for kids and grownups alike—it enabled coaches and teachers to interact and respond to the questions and needs of the students immediately.”
This is the kind of impact the John Jordan Foundation seeks to make in the communities it serves. We are honored to be a part of this program and will continue to support it in 2019 and beyond.
California vineyards rely on winter rains to fill water reservoirs and replenish the underground water table. Reservoirs, such as lakes and ponds, are used for irrigation during dry summer months when the grapevines are growing, and the deep roots of grapevines need ample water to seep below ground and help feed the vines when they awaken from winter sleep during bud break. After many years of historic drought conditions, Napa and Sonoma wine country have experienced very wet winters and major flooding. This blog summarizes how flooding impacts vineyards and how recent winter storms affected the drought.
Does flooding harm grapevines?
Most of the annual rainfall in California comes during winter, when vineyards are dormant. During this phase of the grapevine’s annual cycle, the rain has no effect on the plant. Vitis vinifera, the types of European grapevines planted throughout California, can tolerate flooding and cold temperatures, to a degree. The vines can have “wet feet” for about 20 days of straight rain without any issues, and we only received a week’s worth. Because Sonoma County winters are mild, temperatures also rarely fall below 30 degrees, and these types of grapevines can handle temperatures down to 5 degrees Fahrenheit before the cold potentially damages the wood trunk of the plant. A bigger concern is erosion of hillsides and fallen trees, which can destroy a vineyard or impact our staff’s ability to get back into the vineyard to do the most laborious, important work each winter—pruning.
How flooding affects grapevine pruning
It takes our crew of five employees about three months to hand-prune each grapevine, removing almost 90 percent of its canes from the previous year. Grapevine pruning is a race against the clock. It’s a critical step for setting the balance of the crop, and it can only be done by hand. Precision is involved, and that means moving slow, as demonstrated in this pruning video. Machines can be used to cut the top of the cane off, saving workers time and decreasing the possibility of shoulder injuries (see blog post about our pruning experiment), but a skilled vineyard worker must examine each vine and make decisions on which canes to cut, whittling each vine down to a two-bud spur, which should produce four grape clusters that growing season (two clusters per bud). Mother Nature wasn’t on our side in recent years. In 2017, we had to begin winter pruning on mornings where temperatures dipped just below freezing, and then the rain delay began. In 2019, when the ground was too wet to prune grapevines, we focused on erosion control and other pre-storm measures to protect our creeks from soil run-off. All pruning must be completed prior to bud break, which typically begins in March. When heavy rain continues well into February, as it did in 2017 and 2019, the weather puts us 2-3 weeks behind schedule for Jordan Estate pruning in Alexander Valley and also at the grower Chardonnay vineyards in Russian River Valley.
What causes major flooding in Wine Country
The main cause of heavy winter rainfall that leads to flooding throughout California is a climatic event called an atmospheric river, aka the Pineapple Express. The series of storms gets its name from the Hawaiian Islands, where moisture pressure builds as it moves east and then gets dumped on the West Coast.
After a week-long atmospheric river wave dropped up to 20 inches of rain and 12 feet of snow in January 2017, Northern California’s drought was declared officially over. According to the federal government’s U.S. Drought Monitor, the 2017 atmospheric river, coupled with significant rainfall in fall of 2016, pushed Sonoma and surrounding counties into a drought-free zone for the first time since 2012. A Washington Post report said 35 percent of California emerged from drought, a big jump from the previous 19 percent. In 2016, the entire state had some sort of drought designation. As vineyard owners prepared to enter the sixth year of a historic drought, the rain began to fall in late October. It seemed as if Healdsburg had more rainy days than sunny ones; most cities in the Bay Area saw more than double their annual precipitation in the fall of 2016. When the Russian River crested in January 2017 around 38 feet, that was its highest mark since 2006, when it topped 42 feet during storms on New Year’s Eve of 2005 that continued well into the new year—the most damaging floods in recent memory. The ground had plenty of water for vegetative growth, which fueled the fall 2017 fires, sadly.
The Pineapple Express came roaring back in 2019. The Russian River flooded in several areas around Valentine’s Day–including where the river bends and turns north near Jordan Estate. About 10-12 inches of rain fell around Healdsburg over three days. Alexander Valley Road was closed at the bridge east of Jordan Winery, which created a lot of headaches for tour guests and delivery drivers. Less than two weeks later, another atmospheric river hit Sonoma County, causing the Russian River to swell to 45 feet before cresting. The winery driveway at the bottom of the hill flooded for the first time since 1997, but the waters receded within a few hours. The cities of Sebastopol and Guerneville in western Sonoma County were the hardest hit.
The good news? Drought is no longer a constant concern, reservoirs are full and the vineyards have ample moisture down to their roots, all of which bodes well for the next vintage.
We know how it is when you’re trying to find fun things to do in Healdsburg. Some days, you’re all about the wine; others, you just want to get outside among the vines. Here at Jordan, we offer an array of experiences by appointment to satisfy the outdoor, food or wine lover in you. To help you find the Jordan wine experience that’s best for you, we created this “Choose Your Own Adventure”-style infographic.
From formal library wine tastings in Jordan’s cellar room, to epicurean excursions among the hills of our Alexander Valley estate vineyard, to special events like our Sunset Supper at Jordan Vista Point and Bastille Day Brunch at the vine-covered Winery Château, we’ve got you covered.
Fun Things to Do in Healdsburg: Find Your Jordan Wine Experience Infographic