It’s an exciting time for wine enthusiasts. The wealth of online sources for information, enlightenment and enjoyment is unprecedented. That brings me to our blogroll. There are so many wonderful wine, food and travel bloggers out there we want to promote with recommended links to some of the best wine blogs. We’re new to the blog world and plan to expand and refresh our list as soon as possible. Once we get into a groove with our regular video posts, we’ll turn to evolving the blogroll. Until then, we welcome you to send us recommended blog links we should include in the future.
My friends and colleagues know I have three passions in life: running the winery, flying airplanes and bass fishing.
Every January, I get to partake in one of the less-exciting aspects of being a pilot and operating a business jet: FlightSafety International training at the Long Beach Learning Center. FlightSafety is the world’s leading aviation training company, and all operators of transport-category aircraft are required to take annual tests with simulators and other training devices to ensure proficiency and, of course, passenger safety.
Here’s a quick mino flip video from my FlightSafety training last week.
While growing up in Alexander Valley, I never thought my career would involve overseeing the day-to-day operations of my family’s winery. An unexpected conversation with my dad during a family vacation in 2005 changed my career path.
Over the last six days, our region has been blanketed with rain. Because the grapevines are currently dormant — and Sonoma County has experienced drought for four consecutive years — we welcome this heavy winter rainfall. While we’re pleased by these last series of storms, we continue respecting and responding to the need for water conservation throughout our community (meticulously monitoring vine growth during the growing season, using supplemental irrigation ONLY when necessary and recycling water for agricultural use).
A few statistics released today:
– Lake Mendocino (really important water releases for fall Russian River chinook salmon runs) is at 69% capacity as of 1/21/2010. It was previously around 38% in late 2009.
– Lake Sonoma (really important water releases for Dry Creek Steelhead and salmon run to the fish hatchery at Warm Springs Dam) is at 90% capacity as of 1/21/2010. In late 2009, capacity was around 74%. (Lake Sonoma is also the primary source of domestic water for the 600,000 customers from Windsor to San Rafael.)
These rainstorms have also refilled Jordan’s irrigation lake and continue to replenish our soils, which need ample water supply in early spring when the grapevines come to life. For the few vineyards that require supplemental irrigation, we can conserve water and irrigate later in the year, thanks to the winter rains.
Our last year of normal or above average rainfall was 2005-2006 (rain years are measured July 1-June 30), and we’re optimistic about the beginning of our 2009-2010 rainy season:
– 2006-2007 rain totals = 27.57”
– 2007-2008 rain total = 28.57”
– 2008-2009 rain total = 27.83”
– 7/1/2009 to 1/20/2010 = 19.46”
We’ve included two videos, which were recorded today at the Jordan Estate’s lower lake and upper lake. Unfortunately twitvid’s embed player no longer works with our blog, so only video links could be provided.
In the Jordan estate garden, we focus on growing heirloom varieties and other fruits and vegetables that demand meticulous care. Our white asparagus arrived two months early this year (see winter garden post), so Sous Chef Manuel Reyes rushed out to the garden on Friday to bury all the asparagus spears in the ground. Why doesn’t white asparagus have color? White asparagus comes from the process of etiolation, which is the deprivation of light. Dirt is mounded around each emerging stalk, depriving it of sunshine. The plant cannot produce chlorophyll without light, thus there is no green color to the stalk. White asparagus is typically milder in flavor and more tender than its green counterpart.
Click here to view my Hanger Steak and Asparagus Salad recipe.
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.