The mild winters of Alexander Valley mean our organic gardens continue to afford us a weekly bounty of vegetables to inspire dishes for our guests. In this video, I discuss what’s growing this month in our garden behind the winery, as well as the early ripening witnessed this season, which may be attributed to El Niño climate patterns.
Ever wondered how to prune a grapevine? While grapevines are dormant during winter, they still require a great deal of care. Pruning is the first step in nurturing these plants for the following season, and this critical work is completed during January and February (and even in December for some vineyards). Our Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot vines are cordon trained, and we leave only a two-bud spur per vine to grow grapes for the following season. Two buds allows for two shoots to grow per vine in spring, keeping our vines in balance. This technique dramatically reduces the number of grape clusters per vine, concentrating the fruit flavors our winemakers desire.
In this how to prune grapevines video, we discuss our approach to double-pruning the Jordan estate vines each season for increased efficiency and vine health. Learn more about what happens to the grapevines while they are enjoying their winter sleep.
One of the vital steps to crafting a great Chardonnay involves lees, residual yeast cells that remain in contact with the wine during fermentation and aging. The lees help give Chardonnay its round mouthfeel and mild tannins.
When fermentation and aging are complete, we rack our Chardonnay from the lees, leaving the yeast cells as a by-product. Racking wine helps clarify it, removing dead yeast cell sediment and aiding stabilization. In keeping with Jordan’s philosophy of reducing, reusing and recycling whenever possible, we give our lees to a distiller who specializes in extracting the alcohol left in lees for other commercial uses.
Racking wine typically takes place in our cellars mid-December through early January. Batonnage, or stirring of the lees, occurs before racking the wine. Watch batonnage in action.
In this blog and on our YouTube channel, we’ll be posting videos each year where I discuss the latest releases of Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Russian River Valley Chardonnay. Our 2006 Cabernet and 2008 Chardonnay will release in April 2010, so please check back for our video release tasting notes. Until then, we’ve created a short video about our current vintage, the 2005 Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
Each December, we create the barrel blend of the newborn vintage of Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon before the wine is moved to oak barrels for aging. Our cellar team still practices the old-world tradition of tallowing the doors of our oak casks to properly seal them. (Today, we use wax rather than animal fat, but the technique is still the same.) The 2009 Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, pictured in this wine education video of tallowing, will reside for three months in our 6,000-gallon oak casks (originally constructed in 1976), before moving to French (two-thirds) and American (one-third) oak barrels for an additional 12 months of aging.
Our estate olives were harvested in November and in early December 2009. We recorded a quick video, which includes an olive harvest report and scenes from the last day of harvest in December. Small bins are used to harvest our olives in the Italian brucatura tradition, a method where our estate workers pull each olive from its branch by hand.
Nearly 18 acres of olive trees are planted on the Jordan estate, nestled between our lake and rolling hills of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot vines. All four varieties of olives (Frantoio, Leccino and Pendolino of Italian origin and the Spanish Arbequina) are blended to create our vintage-dated extra virgin olive oil, which is released each spring and available for purchase directly from the winery.
This year, a new mobile mill for artisan olive oils—the first of its kind in Sonoma County—was used to mill our first extra virgin olive oil of the season right next to our organic garden.
Every growing season—and grape harvest—has its own distinct personality. Grapes can be precocious or take their own sweet time to mature. Harvests can range from hectic to calm and thrilling to frustrating. These grapes are our babies in many ways. It’s the birth of a new vintage we plan carefully and anticipate at the end of each summer, nurturing our vines throughout the growing season. Sonoma County is blessed with amazing weather—the long days of sunshine and the cool, foggy mornings and chilly nights grapevines love. Mother Nature rarely, however, lets a full year pass without reminding us who wears the pants in our relationship, from the risk of spring frost to the threat of rain at harvest. Because Jordan employs its vineyard crew full-time, we thoroughly prepare for—and quickly react to—any weather conditions so that pristine grapes are delivered to Rob Davis and the winemaking team back at the winery.
The 2009 harvest had its share of excitement, especially in October. In this video, we discuss the exceptional weather throughout the 2009 growing season and the thrilling end to a beautiful year in our Alexander Valley vineyards. Wine is a living, breathing gift from our vines, constantly evolving with time. We look forward to opening a bottle of our 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (releasing in 2013) to see how it grows with time—and to be transported back to the memory of harvesting those grapes.
What started out as John’s personal Halloween party has transformed into the most talked about event in town. In October 2009, 180 of our valued trade members came to the winery to celebrate Halloween. The theme was “Casablanca” and the winery was transformed into the classic 1940s movie. Guests were treated to pass hors d’oeuvres prepared by Chef Todd, signature 1940s cocktails, hand-rolled cigars, gambling tables and swing dancing. Here’s looking at you, kid!
As the year winds down and the holidays approach each year, harvest still seems fresh in the minds of the winemaking team at Jordan. But we have to shift gears. Creating our first blend of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon before it is transferred to oak barrels becomes our focus, and we call this our “barrel blend.” In order to achieve an elegant, French-inspired wine, Jordan blends different tanks of young wines before they are transferred to small French oak barrels to create the “barrel blend.” This includes all Bordeaux varieties that comprise Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon–cabernet sauvignon, of course, as well as merlot, petit verdot, malbec and even a splash of cabernet franc in some vintages.
How Jordan Wine Is Blended
Making the barrel blend decision ends with a quick tasting of myriad lots of fermenting juice from specific vineyards but the process really begins two months before in the vineyards.
At the onset of harvest in September, Winemaker Rob Davis and the winemaking team begin tasting the highly diverse lots of grapes that are sampled daily before they are harvested. This grape review is the most critical to the quality assessments of which grapes could make up the barrel blend. After the grapes are delivered to our fermenters, each tank is tasted twice a day throughout the fermentation. Following the fermentation, each tank is pressed individually, sensory notes are assessed and then paired up with other lots that are similar in quality. After a 3- to 4-week malolactic fermentation, the wines again are re-tasted and assessed for matching with other tanks that are “blend worthy” for our youngest vintage Jordan Cabernet.
At this point, we take samples from each tank to a white technical tasting room, lit only by dim red lights, and taste together, verbally comparing our sensory notes. Why the red light? Color more than any other component in red wine prejudices the palate when fruit aromas and flavors want to be prioritized. Cabernet rarely suffers from lack of color. So by reviewing the wines under red light, the variation of hues is mitigated, and we can focus more on the lovely notes of blackberry and cassis that are so important to the style of our wine.
Our barrel blend can be drawn from as many as 30 lots. The quality bar is set very high: the very best cabernet in the world. Grand cru classé wines are exceptional for this reason: rigorous selection. Either the lot makes the cut or it is set aside for further consideration at another time. Normally this means that the lot will be sold to the bulk wine market at a considerably less profit. With the top selection made, the next step is to blend the wines together in our upright, 6,000-gallon oak casks in preparation for going into small French oak barrels, primarily new oak with some used. If a tank has potential, but the young wine is not expressing itself fully, we give it a special designation–kind of like a second-string quarterback–and transfer the wine into barrels separately from the barrel blend.
After about 12 months aging in French oak, the Jordan barrel blend is reassessed. The winemaking team also checks our potential lots to see if the oak aging helped to elevate their game to the starter position. Only the top lots are assembled for the final master blend that goes into Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon during bottling season each summer.
Learn more about blending wine on our website.