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Jordan Winery Debuts its First Cabernet Sauvignon Aged Entirely in French Oak

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.

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Wine Vintage Chart: A When to Drink Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Aging Guide

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.

Our wine vintage chart educates on older Jordan Cabernet Sauvignons

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.

Download Jordan Wine Vintage Chart

Download Jordan Cabernet Flavor Chart

Download Complete Jordan Cabernet Aging Guide (Both Charts PDF)Jordan Cabernet vintage wine chart 1976-1979

1976-1979 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Vintages

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.

Jordan Cabernet vintage wine chart 1980-1989

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.

Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon wine vintage chart 1990-1999

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.

Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon aging chart 2000-2009

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.

Jordan Cabernet suggested drinking 2010-2014 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.

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Charity Spotlight: Positive TALLK and the John Jordan Foundation

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.

TALLK program Sonoma County
A teacher using the TALLK headset.

“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.

TALLK program Sonoma

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.

Learn more at www.johnjordanfoundation.org.

TALLK program Sonoma County schools

Sonoma County Flooding: How Floods Impact Vineyards During Winter

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.
sonoma county vineyard flooding

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.

pruning grapes at Jordan, how to prune a vineyard
Jordan Winery staff prune the grapevines down to a two-bud spur in January.

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.

Jordan Winery driveway flooding

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.

Learn more about recent Sonoma County floods:

USA Today: California flooding

CNN: Pineapple Express drenches California with rain, snow and flooding

Press Democrat: Russian River set to flood

Washington Post: The drought is over in Northern California

Press Democrat: Russian River to crest Wednesday

Mercury News: California drought: Is October rain making a difference?

 

Fun Things to Do in Healdsburg: Find The Best Jordan Experience Infographic

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

Which Jordan Winery Experience is Best for You Infographic

More information about private food and wine pairings can be found in the Jordan Estate Rewards loyalty program overview on our website.

Dinner parties, hikes and other lunches can be found on the Jordan Winery events calendar.

All tours and tastings are available to be booked online the Jordan Winery visit page with CellarPass.

Four Secrets to Making the Best Russian River Valley Chardonnay

With 40 harvests under his belt, Winemaker Rob Davis knows his way around the vineyard… and the cellar. Although reluctant to share, Rob reveals his four secrets to making the best Russian River Valley Chardonnay in this post. His approaches spotlight the fruit, freshness and minerality in Jordan’s elegant Chardonnay to create a balanced white that has sommeliers and wine lovers alike confusing it with wines from the famed French Burgundy region. We blush.

 Russian River Valley sunrise aerial BLOG 9927

#1 Staying cool

The Russian River Valley wine region’s foggy, cool coastal influences create a natural air-conditioning for vineyards during spring, summer and fall. This allows the grapes to develop full flavor maturity over an extended growing season, sometimes up to 20 percent longer than neighboring Sonoma County wine regions. These weather patterns are ideal for cool-climate varieties, particularly Chardonnay, affording grapes an uncommon depth and richness while still maintaining bright, natural acidity. When Davis matches this cool-climate-loving grape with gravely, well-draining soils along the river, the result is grapes that are fresh and lively, with crisp acidity to add length and complexity. The exposed gravel in the soils also imparts elegance and minerality to the wine.

 Jordan Chardonnay Russian River Valley Grapes BLOG 438A9269

#2 Balancing the grapevine

When it comes to crop size, less can be more in the vineyard. Having an intimate understanding of each vineyard’s optimal number of clusters per vine—not too many or too few—yields a better wine. “Too much fruit leads to weak flavors and going too extreme with lower tons per acre makes the vine focus energy away from the fruit and into growing a vigorous canopy,” Davis says. “Under-cropping also leads to less fruitful buds the following year.” Davis spends twice as much time in our Russian River Valley Chardonnay grower vineyards than our Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon grower vineyards to give the additional attention Chardonnay vines need so that the precise amount of clusters remain and ripen perfectly throughout the summer. Ranch Manager Brent Young has also taken over farming for two of our most prized grower vineyards—a decision that costs more than letting the grower tend to the vines, but allows for the ultimate control over grapevine uniformity and fruit quality. A balanced vine means a balanced wine.

Jordan Winery Rob Davis, Russian River Valley Chardonnay grapes

#3 Harvesting for purity

Night harvests create cooling magic for the Russian River Valley Chardonnay from Jordan’s  growers. Starting at midnight, floodlights illuminate vineyards where workers gather plump bunches of grapes. By dawn, temperatures can drop to the 40s. When those chilly clusters are pressed, they release heady aromas of apples and pears. “Harvesting in the coldest hours preserves acidity and elevates both aroma and flavor. You see the purity of fruit coming through,” says Davis, who calls himself “a humble student of Chardonnay” even though he has been making wine at Jordan Vineyard & Winery since 1976—a rarity in California. Night harvesting by hand is also more expensive, but the resulting elevation in vibrant flavors, bouquet and acidity is worth it for Jordan. Quality without compromise is our mantra.

Chardonnay-winemaking-battonage-demonstration-video-1

#4 Being gentle in the cellar

Chardonnay is the puppet of wine grapes: thin-skinned and easily manipulated. Davis has always resisted the big, buttery style of Chardonnay, choosing to focus on techniques of subtlety that protect the fragile fruit intensity of Chardonnay while minimizing the grape’s penchant for bitterness. Jordan Chardonnay receives the lightest touch of French oak, the barrels carefully chosen from fine-grained woods that impart nuanced flavor and structure, and malolactic fermentation and bâttonage are employed judiciously. “Our focus is to intensify the fruit and also give beautiful balance in the palate,” Davis says. “Too much brass and percussion in the wine, and you can’t hear its violins and woodwinds.”

All this attention to detail underscores the winemaking philosophy that has guided Jordan since the inaugural 1976 vintage: craft wines of balance and elegance that can stand with the best in France. Our Russian River Valley Chardonnay showcases flavors of Fuji and green apple that play off fresh Meyer lemon and lime zest, sustained by vibrant acidity. A creamy mid-palate glides to a lingering finish, with a juicy succulence that makes you want to take another sip.

Try our Russian River Valley Chardonnay with our latest vintage and comment below with your tasting notes.

Do Grapes Change Color? Understanding Grape Veraison

Each summer, grapes begin to change color in our vineyards. The beginning of ripening, grape veraison is the time in a vine’s annual lifecycle when the red grapes change from green to purple hues. Veraison, French for the “onset of ripening,” usually begins in July in moderate weather years, but in cooler vintages, red grapes sometimes don’t start changing color until August. As a general rule, the time from coloration to harvest is typically about six weeks. In challenging, cooler vintages (such as 2011, pictured in the above video), veraison can take longer and lead to unevenly ripened grapes.

There’s much more to grape veraison than the fascinating color change we can see with our eyes. The grapes cease growing in size during this period of their lives. Grapevines begin focusing all their energy into the existing clusters hanging on their shoots, allowing sugars to increase and acids to decrease.

Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon veraison, red grapes turning green
Uniform grape veraison taking place in Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards.

Why Uniform Grape Veraison is Important

Winemakers want the grape clusters to go through veraison fairly quickly, because the uniformity of coloring within the clusters equals uniform flavors at harvest time. Being able to harvest uniformly ripened grapes is one of the keys to making a silky, balanced Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon. If some grapes in the clusters are under-ripe, some perfect and some overripe, the finished wine will express some combination of too dry, too fruity and even too hot or high in alcohol. Only uniformly colored red wine grapes can make a balanced, smooth wine.

Jordan Winery malbec grapes veraison green grapes changing color through veraison.
An example of uneven veraison, which forces winemakers to remove any clusters that were not uniformly ripening.

Addressing Uneven Colors During Veraison

The warmer the weather, the more likely the grapes will change colors swiftly and uniformly. So, what does a winemaker do when the grapes change color unevenly?  At Jordan, we practice veraison “thinning” of clusters–removing any grape clusters that still have a mix of green and red berries after ripening begins. This sacrifice ensures the remaining grapes on the vine develop consistent flavors.

During ideal growing seasons, moderately warm temperatures help veraison happen at a perfect pace. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec grapes start changing color in Alexander Valley in mid- to late July, depending on when vineyard pruning occurred and the microclimate of each vineyard. In an average year, Jordan’s Alexander Valley vineyards complete veraison over 10 to 14 days.

Do Grapes Change Color at Different Times?

Different red grape varieties go through veraison at different times. Thinner-skinned grapes like Pinot Noir tend to change color first–and thus are harvested first. At Jordan, the red grape harvest typically begins in mid-September (or the third week of the month) with Merlot grapes, which ripen about one or two weeks earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. The tiny hillside parcel of Malbec grapes we source begins veraison around the same time as Merlot, while Jordan Estate Petit Verdot grapes tend to change color 2-3 weeks later than the other three Bordeaux grapes that comprise the Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon master blend. Saving the best for last, we generally pick Cabernet Sauvignon later than the others.

Above, you can see the variation in the architecture of the grape clusters and ripening differences. These photos were taken between the end of the July to the first week of August.

Subscribe to our newsletter and go behind the scenes with our winemaking and vineyard staff twice per month.

Grape Veraison Photography Gallery

 

The Best Years for Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Back to the 1976 Vintage

Many people ask us about the best Jordan Cabernet years, either because they are wondering when to open a special bottle they’ve been cellaring, or they’re considering purchasing a cabernet from Jordan’s extensive library collection. Vintage wine is a living thing that changes and evolves over time, and each year’s weather and growing conditions can have a profound effect on individual vintages. A wine made from the same vineyard using identical techniques in the cellar can taste quite different in a cool, rainy year versus a dry, warm one. Likewise, a fresh, fruity cabernet can blossom into a deep, complex vintage wine after time in the cellar.

Each year, Jordan winemaker Rob Davis revisits older vintages in Jordan’s library to see how they are developing and adjust his annual recommendations for the Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Vintage Chart & When To Drink Guide. Inevitably, certain years rise to the top as Jordan’s finest. Following are the best years for Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, chosen from all of the winery’s vintages released to date. (New wines will be added to this post upon release.)

Jordan’s oldest vintage wines—especially those from the 1970s, 1980s and into the mid-`90s—are not listed for sale on Jordan’s website due to limited quantities. For current availability information, please call us at 800-654-1213 or email us, if you can’t find the wine online.

Best Jordan Cabernet Years: Old Vintage Wines & Recent Releases

1978 Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

1978 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

1978 was considered a great vintage across the region. After a cold, wet spring, warm weather prevailed. Despite two previous years of drought, the crop in Alexander Valley was bountiful and of exceptionally high quality. Though 1978 was a classic year for cabernet, four decades is a long time for red wine to live. As expected, the 1978 Jordan Cabernet is beyond peak maturity. It presents shy notes of leather, tobacco and cedar with hints of cherry, spice and dust. While this wine still displays the charms of an old, classic Bordeaux-style red, Rob Davis prefers the 1979 for its aging merit.

1979 Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

1979 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

1979 yielded a smaller crop than 1978 and the wine was more concentrated, but less opulent. In its youth, the 1979 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon was considered a great wine for its fruit and finesse—assertive in fruit expression, yet well-rounded in bouquet. Decades later, the wine is desperately holding on to what is left of the once perfectly balanced components of acidity, fruit, alcohol and tannins. It has a lovely aged Bordeaux quality (leather, cherry, herbal tea, plums), and a still-lively palate with soft, silky tannins. While wines bottled in 750mL are past their peak, larger formats should be opened now.

1980 jordan cabernet

1980 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine’s fine tannins, firm acidity and rich cherry fruit characters have made it one of Jordan’s longest-lived vintages. The 1980 growing season was long and cool, and the grapes enjoyed extended hang time that resulted in incredibly intense flavors. The vintage was also marked by huge tannins, so the softer Merlot fruit was essential in finding a harmonious balance. The 1980 vintage still flaunts ruby-red color and texture, and tastes 15 years younger than it is. Some delicate red fruits and spices still linger on the soft palate, where the acid and tannins live on. The 750mL, 3L and 6L formats should be enjoyed now. Magnums are at their peak.

1985 jordan cabernet

1985 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

Rob Davis regards 1985 as the best vintage of the 1980s—a decade that included very few good years. Gorgeous weather in Alexander Valley produced ripe, rich and fleshy cabernets with superb balance. A nice, even growing season led to tremendous harmony both in the vineyards and the grapes. Though still a beauty on many levels, the 1985 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon is finally showing its age. Bottles stored under the best conditions show mature flavors of dried red fruit, leather and earth with hints of caramel. The 750mL is past its peak, and magnums, 3L and 6L formats should be uncorked now.

1990 jordan cabernet

1990 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

This was one of several excellent vintages in the 1990s, including 1990-1992, 1994, and especially 1995 and 1997. The combination of ideal weather and healthy, maturing grapevines produced a remarkable wine that was big and lush, yet balanced. Aside from a slightly reduced crop due to spring rain, 1990 was an ideal growing season. The wine is still lively, with dried cherry and plum aromas in the foreground, backed by forest floor, eucalyptus, tobacco and tea. The finish is long, silky, complex and complete. All bottle formats are drinking beautifully and ready to enjoy.

1991 Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

1991 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

Considered a classic vintage due to the growing conditions, 1991 presented no weather extremes. A late harvest allowed great depth of fruit and complex tannins to develop in Jordan’s Alexander Valley estate vineyards, from which this wine was exclusively made. The wine still offers notes of dried herbs, cassis and plum, with supple tannins and moderate acidity. Drink the 750mL and 1.5L now, as they are just past peak maturity. The 3L and 6L should also be opened now, but will hold for a couple more years.

1992 Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

1992 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

Considered an opulent vintage, this wine benefited from ideal, warm weather during the growing season. The 1992 harvest was early and warm, with very little rain. The grapes in Jordan’s valley floor estate vineyards ripened quickly, offering layers of red and black fruit flavors. Aromas of black cherry, plum, nutmeg, and a hint of fennel are rounded out by perfumed cassis with a bouquet of French oak. Drink the 750mL and 1.5L now, while at peak maturity. The 3L and 6L are also excellent now, and should be decanted 20 to 30 minutes before drinking.

1994 Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

1994 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

The long, cool harvest season allowed this cabernet to fully develop its varietal character through extended hang time. A long harvest occurred due to cold nights late in the growing season, which prolonged ripening and allowed the fruit to reach optimal sugar levels. Acidity in the juice was low due to the extra time on the vine, but it increased due to the tannic acid in the skins by the time the wine was pressed. The 1994 Jordan Cabernet is just past its peak but still beautifully rounded and balanced with aromas of red cherry, light black fruits and sweet floral notes. Magnums, 3L and 6L formats should be enjoyed now.

1995 Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

1995 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

At the time of release, this Bordeaux-like wine reminded Rob Davis of the hands of a surgeon—strong and well-coordinated, yet delicate. A long harvest due to cold nights late in the growing season prolonged ripening and fruit concentration perfectly complemented the rich, supple tannins achieved by the long hang time. The 1995 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon still displays great balance between its persistent tannin structure and seemingly youthful acidity. Blackberry, cherry and cassis dominate the nose and are amply confirmed on the palate with the addition of cedar and a hint of anise. Drink 750mL bottles now (decant 15 minutes before enjoying). Larger formats are approaching peak drinkability.

1997 jordan cabernet

1997 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine’s Sonoma County designation reflects the broader grape sourcing used during the replanting of Jordan’s estate vineyard after phylloxera devastated Northern California vineyards. 1997 was a generous vintage that provided a bounty of stunning fruit—intensely aromatic and layered with lush, dense flavors. Harvest began a month early with grapes picked at a frantic pace. The fruit was intensely aromatic, layered with blackberry, chocolate and cassis. At full maturity, the 1997 Jordan Cabernet presents flavors of black cherry, strawberry, herbs and cedar. With ripe and supple tannins, the wine is at its peak in 750mL and 1.5L. 3L and 6L bottles can hold for three to five more years.

1999 jordan cabernet

1999 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

1999 marked the first harvest from Jordan’s estate hillside vineyards. Overall cluster weights were 40% lower than normal due to tiny, intensely flavored berries. Continuing to showcase a great structure and polished tannins, the wine is rich and silky on the palate, with concentrated aromas of black cherry, blackberry and cassis. Layers of dark fruit flavors are integrated with smooth tannins and an attractive freshness for its age. Fresh and bright out of the bottle—a real Jordan powerhouse—the 1999 is now at its peak. Drink 750mL bottles now through 2021, 1.5L now through 2025, 3L through 2030 and 6L through 2035.

2002 Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

2002 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

Arguably this decade’s greatest vintage, 2002 marks Jordan’s return to the Alexander Valley appellation after replanting its estate vineyard due to phylloxera. The vintage was characterized by fruit uniformity due to an excellent growing season tempered by a lack of extreme heat or rain. Overall, it was a wonderful season which produced a layered, textured cabernet sauvignon. The 2002 still tastes quite young, displaying aromas of red cherries, dried herbs and a hint of white pepper. The palate is silky and round, exuding layers of black cherry and blackberry flavors seamlessly integrated with smooth tannins. Dried cherry and jasmine tea flavors linger on the finish. Drink 750mL bottles now through 2022. Enjoy or cellar magnums through 2030.

2007 jordan cabernet

2007 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2007 vintage was a winemaker’s dream. A smaller crop yielded more concentrated flavors in the grapes, and moderate temperatures allowed the fruit to mature slowly, resulting in one of Jordan’s top vintages of the decade. Temperate conditions allowed the winery to pick pristine grapes over a six-week period, ensuring optimal maturity. The 2007 wine exudes beautiful, dense  blackberry and cassis aromas that echo through the mid-palate. A lush mouthfeel of well integrated, silky tannins and balanced acidity is accented by notes of vanilla and cedar. Drink 750mL bottles now or cellar through 2027. Larger formats can hold from 2035 to 2056.

2009 jordan cabernet

2009 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

Rob Davis was ecstatic about this vintage, which combined an excellent Alexander Valley growing season with Jordan’s new direction for fruit sourcing. Enticing aromas of blackberry, cassis, oak spices and cedar carry through a textured, silky palate with smooth tannins from French oak aging. The 2009 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon is still showing some youthful acidity and dark fruit after years of age. Enjoy 750mL bottles through 2028, 1.5L bottles through 2034 and 3L bottles through 2042.

2012 jordan cabernet

2012 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

2012 was truly a phenomenal growing season, resulting in one of the most complex Jordan Cabernet Sauvignons to date. The vintage validated Jordan’s decision to elevate the black-fruit intensity in the wines without abandoning the house style, culminating in an incredibly complex, balanced wine. The 2012 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon has concentrated aromas of blackberries and black cherries with an inviting hint of cedar. Its silky palate is plush yet poised, boasting a beautiful balance of black fruit and fine tannin structure. The finish is lively, lingering and laced with ripe dark fruits. The wine tastes incredible in magnum now and will continue to reward collectors for decades.

2013 jordan cabernet

2013 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

One of the warmest, driest and earliest growing seasons on record, 2013 had moderate weather throughout summer, allowing the grapes to develop intense, concentrated flavors with lots of structure. Exceptionally rich and complex, the wine has intense aromas of cassis, black currants, blackberries and ripe cherries with a lovely floral note. The palate is rich and seductive, with concentrated flavors of blackberries and cassis, interwoven with fine tannins from new French oak barrels. Its masculine structure is harnessed by a balance of acidity and dark fruits with a long, cassis-laced finish. This is a highly collectible vintage to be enjoyed now or cellared through 2032.

2014 jordan cabernet

2014 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

The third in a string of exceptional vintages, the 2014 is an opulent yet elegant wine that captures the essence of Alexander Valley. This balanced, Bordeaux-style wine’s perfume of blackberries and black cherries mingles with subtle oak notes. The palate has a velvety richness that coats the mouth in concentrated flavors of blackberries and cassis, laced with fine tannins from seamlessly integrated, new French oak. Enticing flavors of chocolate, violets and dark fruits linger on the long finish. Enjoy now or cellar through 2033.

 

 

Jordan Estate Rewards Loyalty Program News

At Jordan, we’re always looking for ways to evolve the Jordan Estate Rewards loyalty program and offer new experiences for our members. This year, we’re made some exciting changes to winery lodging rewards, private tastings and private meals. Read on to learn more about what’s new in 2019.

Jordan winery dining room table settings wineries with restaurants
The Jordan dining room before remodel.

The New Jordan Dining Room Debuts in February

This winter, the Jordan Winery dining room underwent its first remodel since the mid-1990s. Working with our culinary team, San Francisco-based designer Geoffrey De Sousa has reimagined the space with the help of master artisans from Sonoma County to London. Our sold-out Valentine’s Dinner on February 9 will be the first opportunity for members to experience the dining room. Reservation requests are now being accepted for other private tastings, lunches and dinners.

wine tasting with food pairing at Jordan, Jordan Winery loyalty program dining room table
Six private food and wine pairing experiences are offered to members.

Private Tables Tasting Experiences Offered in Jordan Dining Room

To share our newly remodeled dining room with guests, Jordan Winery has reimagined our private tasting experiences for Jordan Estate Rewards members and created what we call Private Tables. Getting access to Private Tables is quite easy. Spend $500 on any combination of Jordan wines, tasting fees, event tickets, olive oil or other merchandise, and you become a Silver member. Silver members get access to Private Tables for three different tastings experiences: Champagne & Caviar Tasting, Charcuterie & Wine Tasting and Wine Tasting with Hors d’Oeuvres. Gold and Platinum members of Jordan’s loyalty program can book their own private table for all these wine tasting experiences, two different lunches or a formal dinner. Membership is free and automatic when you join the winery’s mailing list. Learn more about Jordan Estate Rewards on our website.

Jordan Chardonnay chilling in Jordan Winery suite - wineries with lodging
A bottle of Jordan Chardonnay welcomes overnight guests.

New Off-Season Pricing for Jordan Winery Lodging Rewards

The ultimate way to experience Sonoma County wine country is waking up at a vineyard, and Jordan Winery is making overnight stays in our luxurious lodging more accessible to Jordan Estate Rewards members. We’ve revamped our point levels for overnight stay rewards in 2019, offering Gold and Platinum members off-season pricing on lodging rewards for nine months out of the year–and with the same lower rate for both weekdays and weekends. Off-Season Overnight Stays (November-July) for winery lodging begin at $150 per night plus 5,000 points, and Harvest Overnight Stays (August-September-October) begin at $150 per night plus 10,000 points. To learn more, visit Overnight Stays on our website.

All rewards include points and a redemption fee. Prices and points listed are per person and subject to change.

View our What To Do in Healdsburg blog post to learn what else is new at Jordan this year.

Who Drank the Most Cabernet and Chardonnay in 2018? A Jordan Winery Chart of U.S. Wine Consumption

In what has become an annual tradition, we compiled a report of U.S. wine consumption for Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in 2018. How did your home state do? Did you move up or down in the rankings compared to 2016 and 2017? For the first time since we began this end-of-year summary, some big shifts occurred in the top rankings for Cabernet. Let’s just say it’s time for Texans to pop a few more corks in 2019. Chardonnay did not see too much of a change at the top of the rankings from previous years, but Oklahoma posted the biggest gains. Observations on which states had the most significant changes are included in each ranking list, so be sure to see if your home state made a big move.

Figures included are based on total cases sold January 1-November 30, 2018 (December numbers won’t be available until mid-January). Thank you for drinking Jordan and making it a great year. Raising a glass to 2019!

Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Map: Who Drank the Most by State 2018

Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon U.S. Wine Consumption by State 2018

Observations on changes from 2017 to 2018: New York ousted Texas for the number 2 ranking! Virginia jumped seven spots, Massachusetts and Nevada traded places in the top 10 and Nebraska moved up four spots on the list. Arizona also inched up two spots, while Hawaii and Wisconsin moved down four spots.

  1. California

  2. New York

  3. Texas

  4. New Jersey

  5. Florida

  6. Illinois

  7. Nevada

  8. Massachusetts

  9. Colorado

  10. Georgia

  11. Arizona

  12. Connecticut

  13. Virginia

  14. North Carolina

  15. Ohio

  16. Louisiana

  17. Missouri

  18. Tennessee

  19. Hawaii

  20. Michigan

  21. Minnesota

  22. South Carolina

  23. District of Columbia

  24. Oregon

  25. Indiana

  26. Pennsylvania

  27. Utah

  28. Maryland

  29. Arkansas

  30. Wisconsin

  31. Washington

  32. Alabama

  33. Rhode Island

  34. Mississippi

  35. Kansas

  36. Wyoming

  37. Kentucky

  38. Idaho

  39. New Mexico

  40. Oklahoma

  41. Nebraska

  42. Montana

  43. North Dakota

  44. Iowa

  45. Delaware

  46. West Virginia

  47. Alaska

  48. New Hampshire

  49. Maine

  50. Vermont

  51. South Dakota

Jordan Chardonnay Map: Who Drank the Most by State 2018

Jordan Chardonnay U.S. Wine Consumption by State 2018

Observations on changes from 2017 to 2018: Oklahoma was the bigger winner, jumping seven spots, but both Connecticut and Alabama gained an impressive five, and Washington state climbed four spots. Nevada and Illinois traded spots in the top 10. Chardonnay lovers in New Hampshire and Nebraska need to start drinking–your states both slipped four spots in the ranking.

  1. California

  2. Texas

  3. Florida

  4. New York

  5. New Jersey

  6. Massachusetts

  7. Nevada

  8. Colorado

  9. Illinois

  10. Georgia

  11. Arizona

  12. Connecticut

  13. Louisiana

  14. Hawaii

  15. Virginia

  16. North Carolina

  17. Missouri

  18. Minnesota

  19. Michigan

  20. South Carolina

  21. District of Columbia

  22. Alabama

  23. Ohio

  24. Washington

  25. Rhode Island

  26. Tennessee

  27. Oregon

  28. Utah

  29. Oklahoma

  30. Maryland

  31. Indiana

  32. Arkansas

  33. Mississippi

  34. New Mexico

  35. Wisconsin

  36. Pennsylvania

  37. Kentucky

  38. Wyoming

  39. Kansas

  40. Delaware

  41. Iowa

  42. Idaho

  43. Montana

  44. New Hampshire

  45. Nebraska

  46. Maine

  47. Alaska

  48. South Dakota

  49. North Dakota

  50. Vermont

  51. West Virginia

Jordan Uncorked Video #21: 2014 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Holiday Cookie Pairings

Cookies and cabernet. That certainly isn’t the food and wine pairing that has sommeliers singing all the way to the cellar. But in the spirit of the holidays, our winemakers decided to uncork a bottle of the 2014 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon and taste it with some favorite Christmas cookies. In this month’s episode of Jordan Uncorked, the question is not when to drink this vintage (it will live for decades). We want to see how this food-friendly red wine stands up to sugary desserts, which usually mute the wine’s flavors and accentuate the alcohol.

We also have a few questions for you. What do you think of Assistant Winemaker John Duckett as Kris Kringle and Associate Winemaker Maggie Kruse as Sugarplum Mary? Would you drink Jordan Cabernet with cookies? And most importantly, which vintages would you like our winemakers to uncork in the new year? Comment with your requests.

Happy Holidays!

Subscribe to our blog or YouTube channel for a monthly taste of “Jordan Uncorked.”

Charity Spotlight: The John Jordan Foundation Teachers’ Wishes Program

With constant budget cuts to public education, teachers increasingly find themselves wanting more than their paltry budgets can afford. In some classes, these educators wish for books. In others, the needs are more basic: pens, paper, maybe an overhead projector so students can follow a lesson.

Since 2012, the John Jordan Foundation (JJF) has sought to bridge some of these gaps with the Teachers’ Wishes initiative. The goal of the campaign is simple: To make wishes for certain teachers come true. Every September, teachers can submit applications to receive funding for one wish. In seven years, the foundation has funded a total of 725 grants.

The Teachers’ Wishes program set a new record in 2018. The foundation received 243 applications and distributed 120 fully funded grants. The remaining 123 teachers each received $20 gift cards to Office Depot. That means every applicant received funding of some kind. Though there have been years with more applications, 2018 was the largest number of wishes JJF fulfilled since the program’s inception.

All told, the applicant pool represented 106 schools across 30 districts in Sonoma County. According to Lisa Wittke Schaffner, executive director of the foundation, the breadth and depth of the application pool was a reminder that teachers are committed to doing their best. “Each year, Teacher’s Wishes reminds me of the creativity and desire of educators to provide an interactive and interesting environment for their students,” she said.

A handful of applications were particularly inspiring. Like the one from Santa Rosa City Schools, in which a teacher requested money to purchase more books to help students prepare for the ACT, SAT, and Advanced Placement exams, as well as books to help students write college essays. Or the application from a teacher in Sebastopol, who said her school’s campus is poorly landscaped and requested money to buy some trees.

“This grant program allows teachers to have a new teaching tool and purchase project supplies to get the kids excited about learning,” Wittke Schaffner said.

The Teachers’ Wishes program is an annual program, which means teachers can submit new applications to fund additional wishes as soon as September 2019. At a time when budgets are shrinking across public education, it’s great to be able to make some teachers’ wishes come true.

A significant portion of the proceeds from Jordan Winery fund the foundation, which works to fight the negative effects of poverty. Learn more at www.johnjordanfoundation.org.