Friday, August 13, 2010

Judy Jordan is blazing her own trail through J Vineyards & Winery in the Russian River Valley

Taking over a successful family business sounds like a cush job most people dream of…key word being “most!” Judy Jordan, daughter of Jordan Winery founder Tom Jordan, decided to take a different path, founding her own business, J Vineyards and Winery, in 1986. Her intention was to honor her family’s heritage and capture the essence of California’s Russian River Valley through the production of world class sparkling and single varietal wines.

Judy Jordan, J Founder & President

Approved as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1983, the highly acclaimed Russian River Valley is found along the Western side of Sonoma County before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. The region is blessed with long, steady growing seasons thanks to its proximity to the ocean and cooling effects created by a blanket of fog that blankets its vineyards in the morning hours. These conditions have allowed the Russian River to build a name for itself with the Burgundian varietals, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Presently the Russian River Valley has approximately 15,000 acres under vine, is home to about 150 wineries and over 200 growers. This competition has led to some stiff competition among Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producers, and J Vineyards has risen to the challenge.

For almost 25 years, J Vineyards had been focusing on producing their signature, sparkling wines. Recently, however, they’ve added a new collection to their varietal-series of wines, including an Alsatian specialty, Pinot Gris. I recently had the pleasure of receiving a sampling of these new releases.

2009 J Vineyards California Pinot Gris: This crisp, refreshing white is 100% Pinot Gris sourced primarily from the Russian River Valley. Whole grape clusters are gently pressed to minimize the extraction of harsh components from the skins and seeds. This wine had a delightfully citrusy nose and zesty lemon-lime on the palate with great acidity and tart, refreshing mineral finish. Fermented in stainless steel to preserve its fresh flavors and varietal character, this bottling is conveniently sealed with a Stelvin closure. This is the ideal wine to pair with oysters, grilled shrimp or a beautiful plateau de fruits de mer.

2007 J Vineyards Russian River Valley Chardonnay: This elegant expression of Russian River Valley Chard is 100% barrel-fermented and aged in 60-gallon Burgundian oak barrels (40% new). A six-month malolactic fermentation is then carried out, resulting in a creamy, rich, sur lie character. Enticing aromas of butterscotch, tropical fruit and toasted hazelnuts were followed by rich, complex layers of fruit, spice and minerality with a creamy mouthfeel and long, lingering finish. Pair this full bodied wine with decadent dishes such as Lobster Mac and Cheese dusted with freshly grated nutmeg and you are all set!

2007 J Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir: While the Russian River Valley is known for its fabulous Chardonnay, Pinot Noir is its hallmark! A variety of Pinot Noir clones were used to produce this wine in order to convey a comprehensive expression of Russian River Valley Pinot. Aged for 15 months in French oak barrels (30% new), this wine spends another six months in the bottle prior to release. In the glass, this wine was a classic, translucent ruby red color with alluring aromas of ripe cherries, violets and earth. On the palate, ripe black cherries, cassis and cocoa mingled with a sexy, earthy spice that was executed in an elegant, yet restrained style. Executive Chef for J Vineyards & Winery, Mark Caldwell, recommends pairing this delicious Pinot Noir with Wild Mushroom Duxelles or Seared Lamb Loin with Black Truffle Tapenade – I’d do what the man says!

Ranging in price from $16-$35, these new offerings from J Vineyards and Winery represent lovely expressions of Russian River Valley terroir. Better yet, these can be found at an approachable price, whereas much of their neighbor’s wines have seen their prices soar. This winery also subscribes to the philosophy that food and wine are meant to be enjoyed together (gotta love that).

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