Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Vine Guy; The magic of J Vineyards
By: Scott Greenberg The Vine GuyAugust 20, 2009

I recently looked up "delicious," "stylish" and "elegant" in the dictionary and I was shocked to discover that none of these words begins with the letter "J". Now I know that technically they don't begin with the letter "J," but I just thought that since all of the wines that I have sampled from J Vineyards were delicious, stylish and elegant, the winery must be named for one of these adjectives. But, obviously, I was wrong.

It turns out that J Vineyards & Winery was started in 1986 by Judy Jordan -- note, both her first and last names begin with the elusive letter -- in the cool-climate Russian River Valley, located just outside of Healdsburg, Calif. Judy, founder and president, is a second-generation vintner whose family is involved with the Jordan Winery. She knew from a very young age that she wanted to strike out on her own and develop her own style by starting her own winery. But it would take a little time to get there.

After graduating from Stanford University -- where she was a star tennis player -- with a degree in Earth sciences and geology, Judy worked for a geophysics corporation in Denver before returning to work at Jordan Winery. Working in the family business allowed Judy to expand her knowledge in various aspects of the business, including vineyard management, marketing, soil analysis and geology, where her training as a geologist paid off. Eventually, Judy spread her wings and brought all of her experiences together to form J Vineyards.

Ten years after founding the winery, Judy purchased the former Piper Sonoma winemaking facility in Healdsburg, in the heart of the Russian River Valley. Today, J Vineyards & Winery owns 10 estate vineyards totaling 257 planted acres in the Russian River Valley. These vineyards provide fruit ranging from benchland vineyards on the cool western edge of the appellation to hillside vineyards of volcanic soil in the northeastern part of the valley. Given her background, Judy pays careful attention to each vineyard, including soil composition and mineral content. This diversity allows the winemaking team to take advantage of the many different subplots so they can vinify and blend wines to maximize flavor, balance and structure.

And since 2006, George Bursick has led the winemaking team. George has implemented several significant changes to improve the winemaking and vinification processes at the winery. His goal is to create wines with supple mouthfeel that display the unique characteristics of each vineyard. George has added a deft hand at crafting quality Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and, of course, the highly regarded line of sparkling wines including the Vintage Brut and Non-Vintage Brut as well as the Non-Vintage Brut Rosé. His mission to create wines that are delicious, elegant and stylish is well on its way. Retail prices are approximate.

2008 J Vineyards Pinot Gris, Russian River Valley, Calif. ($16)
Made from a blend of fruit from several Russian River Valley vineyards, this Pinot Gris exhibits complex flavors of nectarine, white peach and green melon. A hint of honeysuckle and tropical fruit is accented by the abundant acidity and provides a long, clean finish.

2007 J Vineyards Viognier, Hoot Owl Vineyard, Alexander Valley, Calif. ($30)
I am partial to Rhone varietals, and this lovely white wine is why. It displays rich aromas of citrus blossom, pineapple and acacia flowers. The palate features flavors of pear, hazelnut and citrus up front and a touch of honey and vanilla on the lovely, lush finish.

2006 J Vineyards Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Calif. ($28)
Not your average California Chardonnay, this version features beautiful scents of nectarine, peach and toasted almond on the fragrant bouquet. In the mouth, the wine feels rich, with creamy flavors of peach, pear and toasty vanilla. Hints of baking spices on the weighty finish add beautiful depth.

2007 J Vineyards Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Calif. ($35)
A pretty wine that expresses delicate scents of cherry, violets and dark blueberry that lead to layered fruit of cherry, raspberry and wild strawberry on the sumptuous frame. Additional notes of cocoa and orange rind round out the firm but supple finish.

Non-Vintage J Vineyards Cuvée 20 Brut, Russian River Valley, Calif. ($20)
This sparkling wine is a great way to start any party, with a bouquet full of toasted brioche, green apple and lemon scents. Tight, compact bubbles carry flavors of ripe apple, citrus and roasted almonds across the entire palate. Great acidity adds a crisp finish.

2002 J Vineyards Vintage Brut, Russian River Valley, Calif. ($50)
A luxurious wine featuring aromas of Gala apple, ripe pear and yeasty notes on the nose that lead into rich flavors of creamy stone fruits on the palate. Hints of cloves and toasted nuts expand in layers on the long, lush finish in perfect harmony with the bright acidity and tiny bubbles.

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