Pale yellow-gold hue with very active bubbles. Appealing scents of Golden Delicious apple, white peach and brioche. Foamy flavors of peach and apple. Hints of almond and nutmeg in the juicy close.
J Vineyards, NV Brut Rosé
Russian River Valley
Pale copper hue with very tiny bubbles. Enticing scents of red raspberry and white peach. Creamy acidity and juicy flavors of Red Delicious apple and wild cherry. Apple-driven close made opulent by hints of brioche and honey.
Judy Jordan (Founder and President) started J Vineyards & Winery in 1986 in order to craft varietal and sparkling wines. She graduated from Stanford with a degree in Earth Sciences/Geology, and worked in Geophysics in Colorado before returning to work at her family's winery. The J Brut Rose is NV (Non-Vintage) meaning it is a blend of grapes harvested in more than one specific year. This is mainly done for consistency in the wine, but to also maintain sales even in bad years.
This wine is created in the traditional method of Champagne, or Mêthode Champenoise, however the wine is obviously not made in the Champagne region, so cannot be called a "true" Champagne. All grapes for the J Brut Rosé are hand-harvested. J supports farming practices that are environmentally sensitive, economically viable and socially responsible by minimal use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers in our vineyards. The J Visitor Center staff collect wine corks for ReCork America and recycles them at one of the participating retailers in Sonoma. Corks are 100% biodegradable and are converted into flooring, building insulation, automotive gaskets, soil conditioner and sports equipment.
The grapes for this Brut Rosé were selected from J’s Estate Vineyards in the Russian River Valley. The Russian River Valley appellation is located approximately 70 miles northeast of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and less than 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The region's unique topography includes hillsides, benchland and valley floor, providing an exceptionally diverse range of soils. There are actually more soil types unique to the Russian River Valley than in all of France!
The climate of the Russian River Valley make it ideal for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay due to its rich soils, and the cool coastal climate prolonging the grape growing season. The unique soils with its deep gravel deposits, ensure good drainage and extensive root development. This results in vines which get a little stressed out (which is a good thing) which then send their energy to the grapes for concentrated varietal character. Chardonnay is the region's most widely planted wine grape, while Pinot Noir makes up one-third of the AVA's plantings and is increasing faster than any other grape variety. The Russian River Valley is home to more than 50 wineries and 200 winegrowers, and has been an AVA since 1983.
For more on J Winery, visit jwine.com (the best looking winery website I've seen in a while).
I had to check the bottle twice on this one, since it's the first time I've had this wine. Very subtle color for a Rosé, I was expecting more of the "electric pink" kind of color. The J Brut Rosé has just a very light pink hue. The key to this wine is subtlety. Beautifully delicate on the nose. Fresh aromas of peach and strawberry with faint toasty notes. Citrus flavors come through a little more on the palate, hints of tropical fruit, raspberry, red apple, a really elegant wine. Persistent finish, not too dry. If I'm drinking sparkling, I've always skewed more towards Rosés (I proposed to my wife with one), and I truly love the J Brut Rosé. It isn't over the top. It's one of the best sparklers I've tasted coming out of CA.
I've always been a big fan of Lobster Bisque, so give this one a try from the J Winery Website. It's their recommended food pairing specifically for J Brut Rosé. The Price $38.99.
The use of single letters as brand identifiers on wines is not new, with Chateau Y, the sumptuous dry wine of the Sauternes producer Chateau Yquem being one notable example. So, in 1986, when Judy Jordan, daughter of Jordan Winery’s founder, decided to produce high-end sparkling wine in Sonoma County, her decision was to brand the bottles with a large stylish yellow "J," easily recognizable on the green bottles. Use of the single letter was noticeably distinct from the "bank note" labels of Jordan Winery still wines, but the decision also stirred speculation of whether the single letter was J for Jordan or J for Judy.
Initially J Vineyard & Winery, which moved into the former facilities of Piper Sonoma outside Healdsburg, produced only a brut-style Sonoma County sparkling wine by the classic Champagne method. It wasn’t until the early years of this decade that J made two major changes: the first was to add a line of Pinot Noirs, following the pattern of Champagne houses that make small quantities of still Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the same grapes used to make their sparkling wines. The second move was to hire veteran winemaker George Bursick to oversee the production of J’s wines and to work with Hollis Price, assistant winemaker in charge of sparkling wine.
J Sparkling Wines and Dosage Profiles With the holidays upon us, many wine buying decisions include sparkling wines while other thoughts turn to which wine to have with the traditional holiday meal. Choosing a sparkling wine usually comes down to price and style. The style of a sparkling wine is based not only on the grapes used, but also a technique in sparkling wine production known as dosage. At J, the decision on dosage levels is carefully considered because the finished wine must be compatible with one or more applications that are commonly enjoyed during the holidays -- toasting the holidays and celebrating the holiday meal. Equally important is the objective of maintaining a consistent house style to avoid consumer confusion.
The amount of dosage is calculated by the quality and character of the base wine and the house style. By definition, dosage is the final step in the process where a mixture of wine (sometimes brandy) and sugar syrup is added to adjust the sweetness of the finished wine. Sparkling wines are naturally high in acidity, so a dose of sweetness is often needed to soften their sharp edge. The levels of dosage vary, with Brut ranging from .6 to 1.5% residual sweetness and Extra Dry ranging from 1.2 to 2%.
Recently Hollis Price and George Bursick demonstrated the technique of dosage and how J Vineyards handles this critical step, using the J Cuvee 1999 Brut as the base wine. “With dosage you get a free last look at the wine, so the important decision is to determine what we can do with the wine after disgorging,” explained Price. She believes that all wine coming from aging in the bottle, or en tirage, deserves a full look to determine the amount of dosage to be added. “Where is the sugar/acid balance?” Price adds.
Price lined up a row of glasses with the 1999 Brut and increasing levels of sweetness in the dosage. The first wine was sans dosage, and delivered a palate wakening jolt with warm toasty notes, ripe fruit and a dry tart finish. Increasing levels of dosage followed, starting at 1.1% sweetness to a maximum of 1.4% sweet dosage. A few tenths of a percent doesn’t sound like much, but the impression, as the dosage grew sweeter, was significant. At the top end, 1.4% tasted rich and textured, noticeably different than the sample dosed at 1.1%, but too sweet for my taste.
My preference was for the sample with a dosage of 1.2% for its creamy smoothness and ripe green apple character. The exercise was a reminder that a Brut sparkling wine usually tops out at 1.5% residual sweetness and that style (a.k.a. dosage level) is important in selecting a Champagne or sparkling wine. It also points out that sparkling wine labels tell the consumer the general style -- Brut, Extra Dry -- but not how dry or sweet a Brut is (or that Extra Dry is sweeter than Brut) since the range, based on producer preference, is from near dry at .6% to noticeably sweet at 1.5%.
Price also wanted to show that the type of dosage used can make a difference in the texture and flavor profile of the finished sparkling wine. In the 1999 Brut, the base wine is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but Price formulated a dosage using just Chardonnay and another one using brandy in place of still wine. The differences were striking. The 1.25% Chardonnay dosage was noticeably sweet, with ripe apple aromatics and flavors, while the 1.1% brandy dosage had more texture and didn’t taste as sweet; I wondered if this was deceiving because the sweet fruit of the Chardonnay might have presented a kind of gustatory trompe l‘oell. I liked both samples, but thought the brandy dosage smoothed the rough edges of the sweet dosage. J Brut is finished at 1.2% sweetness while the J Cuvee 20 is sweeter at 1.5% residual sweetness.
What I took away from this somewhat esoteric exercise is that, as a consumer, care is important when selecting a Champagne or sparkling wine. Learn all you can about the wine before purchasing bubbly to assure a more pleasurable experience, either by talk to your local merchant or going onto websites such as J’s.
J Pinot Noirs Sparkling wine, as good as is, doesn’t fit with all wine and food combinations. I’ve tried sparkling wine with red meat, but prefer a red wine like Pinot Noir (a personal favorite), especially with holiday meals. George Bursick, winemaker at J Vineyards has been making a string of impressive Pinot Noirs under the J Vineyards label. Before joining J, Bursick was the long-time winemaker for Ferrari-Carano, where he was better known for a line of red wines that didn’t include Pinot Noir. “Actually Pinot Noir closely resembles Sangiovese that I worked with for 20 years,” explains Bursick. “The fermentation techniques that I experimented with leading up to the creation of Ferrai-Carano’s “Siena” have made for an easy transition to Pinot Noir.”
Since the start of the Pinot project at J in 2007, Bursick has produced over 100 Pinot Noir lots, each representing a unique outcome from a range of variables and over 15 separate vineyard sites. The variables include soil type, grape exposure, clone/rootstock and a whole host of things that affect the character of the finished wine. In the winery, Bursick is experimenting with another long list of variables including the discovery of three yeast strains that were delivered to the United States in the 1940s but were never used. “I’m tracking and creating all these variables to find the ‘gems’ hidden within a particular vineyard, and I definitely anticipate additional wines in our Pinot Noir line.”
Good Pinot Noir ain’t cheap, and the J Vineyards pinots reflect that reality. Prices for the quartet of 2007 J Pinots range from $35 for the Russian River Valley to $70 for the Sonoma Coast. The Russian River Valley Pinots are packed with bright fruit flavors, medium intensity, good texture and length, while the Sonoma Coast Pinot shows an intriguing earthiness backed by berry and mocha notes. All four of the Pinot Noirs are finished at 14.3% alcohol, suggesting a strong coincidence, a feat of stellar winemaking, or both.
J Wine Company — Ideally situated in Sonoma County's Russian River district, J sources exceptional chardonnay and pinot noir for its elegant and riveting bubblies. The winery found another gear when winemaker George Bursick (formerly of Ferrari-Carano) came on board a couple of years ago and buttoned down the sparkling program. The non-vintage Cuvee 20 ($20) and Brut Rose ($35) are among the finest of their type, but the late-disgorged wines (the 1997 and 1998 are both $95) are exceptional and rare. The 2001 extended tirage brut is a steal at $50. Rating: 90-95.