Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stephen Eliot of Connoisseurs' Guide to CA Wine Highly Recommends J Pear Liqueur!

Made from a base of twice-distilled alambic pear eau de vie that was given ten years of aging in 90 gallon French oak barrels then cut with rainwater to 30% alcohol and lightly sweetened, the liqueur is neither so sugary as to be cloying nor as hot as unadulterated eau de vies are wont to be. It is a lovely, carefully crafted, after-the-meal sipper that captures the absolute essence of fresh pears with deft touches of caramel and vanilla adding notes of quiet complexity. It is altogether delicious drunk neat, but its use as a flavoring agent in sauces and mixed drinks strikes me as being limitless. The winery’s website, in fact, offers several cocktail recipes created by winery Executive Chef Mark Caldwell to show off the liqueur, and among them is an intriguing version of eggnog that is now on my list of things to do this holiday season.

Greg O’Flynn, Owner & Sommelier of California Wine Merchant reveals J Cuvee 20 Brut NV as a Holiday Pick!

Sommelier Favorites
The area’s biggest names in wine reveal their holiday picks

You probably wouldn’t blink at the thought of hiring an architect to create the home of your dreams or listening to your personal trainer for the best tips to get in shape, but when it comes to buying wine the recommendations of sommeliers seem to start and end inside the restaurant walls.

Drinking a nice bottle at home is just as important as finding just the right vineyard’s vintage on a fine dining list, which is why we’ve asked a few of the area’s most well-respected sommeliers and wine directors, with roots in Marin, to tell us their top picks for wines for every budget.

Kentfield’s Greg O’Flynn has owned the lively California Wine Merchant in San Francisco for over two decades. The wine bar and shop has a large by-the-glass list that changes weekly and walls filled with cult wines from producers like Maya, Harlan and Dalla Valle as well as a large selection of bottles with prices that won’t wipe out your kid’s college fund.

Sparkling: J Vineyards Cuvée 20 Brut This J nonvintage brut gracefully opens up with crisp lemon peel, honeysuckle and delicate yeast aromas. Upon entry, these notes follow through to a mix of Fuji apple and grapefruit interlaced with toast, caramel and almond flavors on the palate.

Double The Pleasure - Sonoma’s J Vineyards produces table and sparkling wines of equal merit!

Winter 2010/2011
by Eleanor and Ray Heald

Double The Pleasure
Sonoma’s J Vineyards produces table and sparkling wines of equal merit.

In each life there comes time for a new challenge. Do we get bored? Do we say, ‘been there, done that?’ Do we experience a mid-life crisis or an epiphany? Judy Jordan, Founder and President of J Vineyards & Winery, has been making world class California sparkling wines for nearly a quarter century. She says that her success has exceeded her wildest dreams, but she needs a new challenge.

Jordan is launching a new J Vineyards varietal wine program of cool-climate, site-specific, Russian River Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. She is creating a two-houses-under-one-roof concept by using the same two grape varieties to make both sparkling and still wines and achieve first-rate quality with both. To guide the winery in its new direction, Jordan hired winemaker George Bursick who guided Ferrari-Carano for 22 years.

“George and I are longtime friends,” Jordan explains, “and it is great to finally be working together. He did such an amazing job at Ferrari-Carano that it is a real thrill to have him here, taking his career to another level. This project is really a new beginning for both of us.” According to Bursick, “J Vineyards will never abandon the sparkling wine business, but Jordan is passionate about making great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley.” Although the same grape varieties are used for making still and sparkling wines, Bursick employs radically different pruning, viticultural techniques and vineyard sites for the still wine program. “I was charged with making the best wines possible. Judy said go out and get the finest grapes that you need. If we aren’t growing them, let’s sell those vineyards and buy vineyards that will, and we have done that.”

Jordan recently purchased three vineyards on well-drained hillside and bench sites in the Russian River Valley, dedicated exclusively to making varietal wines. This acquisition followed the sale of three sparkling wine vineyards and confirms J Vineyards’ goal to produce the finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Each vineyard is mapped for soil composition, mineral content and moisture level and subdivided into various blocks, which are harvested and fermented separately.

J Vineyards grows 13 Pinot Noir clones. Bursick explains that lower numbered Dijon clones 113, 115 and 117 are sparkling wine clones with large clusters and big berries that give a lot of juice without much color. The higher numbered clones such as 667, 777 and 828 are artisan Pinot Noir clones that produce fruit with very small berries, significant color and big flavor for still wine. “Grapes for sparkling and still wines are different, not even related.”

Thinking outside the box
“When I came to work at J Vineyards & Winery,” Bursick admits, “I knew this would be a very serious, yet exciting, project with direct comparisons to France.” Bursick and Jordan have spent considerable time visiting major producers in Burgundy, but their “two-house” concept is not possible in France. “I knew,” says Jordan, “that we needed to create something new, bright, fresh and exciting or we would be just another also-ran. I think that is why we are receiving such an enthusiastic reception, because we are shocking. We have broken the mold. We are driving this whole thing to the extreme.” Bursick is taking California fruit and stretching it to a French-like wine style.

Bursick’s style includes impressive mouthfeel and supple textures and he is not opposed to trying something radically different to achieve those goals. Since Pinot Noir grape seeds can add bitterness and astringency to the wine, he removes the seeds during fermentation. Bitter seed tannins are alcohol soluble, so they need to be removed at the beginning of fermentation. During fermentation, grape skins float and seeds sink. To remove the seeds, Bursick purchased special tanks that sweep out the seeds. No seeds, no bitterness.

Bursick uses what he calls ‘wimpy yeasts’ to extend fermentation. After malolactic fermentation is complete, he uses a white wine technique called batonnage, where yeasts in the barrel are stirred, giving the texture he desires in the wine. He does this with over 120 lots of Pinot Noir. Then every barrel is tasted and hand selected for each wine program. His effort also focuses on the wine’s fruit character rather than oak. His rule of thumb is to use no more than 20 percent new oak when aging Pinot Noir, a practice used in Burgundy.

Sparkling wine
“I have no desire,” Bursick admits, “to change the basic style of J sparkling wines. After all, they have 20 years of success. Higher-end J sparkling wines have much smaller production, so that gives me latitude to have some fun. I’m using my still wine experience for the sparkling wines. This will not change the house style of J Cuvée 20, our mainstream product. It will always show apple and pear characters with a little white peach. But the higher-end sparkling wines will change because we have implemented oak oval tank fermentation, similar to Champagne Krug. We have secured malolactic strains from Champagne and are putting our high-end wines through malolactic fermentation to give them added richness and depth.”

According to George Rose, J Vineyards & Winery Public Relations Director, “The popular J Cuvée 20 will continue to be the driver on the sparkling wine side, and then consumers will have all of these neat small production late-disgorged, vintage Brut and Brut Rosé wines available through the wine club and in some retail markets. Sparkling wines are a tidy profit center for J, but it is not the growth segment of our production.”

Best of the Best from J
2008 Russian River Valley Pinot Gris, $16. Aromas of peach and lychee with mirrored flavors of melon and honeysuckle.

2007 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, $28. High-tone apple, pear and brioche aromas with rich, creamy palate impression.

2007 Russian River Valley “Nicole’s Vineyard” Pinot Noir, $50. Warm vineyard characteristics of black cherry, dark plums, chocolate and toasty oak in a generous rendition. Twenty-five lots are harvested and fermented separately to capture the vineyards’ flavor gems.

2007 Russian River Valley “Robert Thomas Vineyard” Pinot Noir, $50. Cool vineyard notes of bright cherry and full flavors with impressive depth and length.

2007 Russian River Valley “Nonny’s Vineyard” Pinot Noir, $50. Headlines black raspberry, cherry, currant, tobacco and chocolate with smoky notes and a full, rich palate impression.

2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, $50. Great balance is highlighted by a supple mouthfeel and great cherry berry and raspberry flavors with an extended finish. Outstanding.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

J 2002 Vintage Brut Paired with Dungeness Crab with Blood Orange and Tarragon on Endive!

Crab Season Starts Today!

Act now to take advantage of complimentary shipping on our newly released 2002 Vintage Brut!

 One of the greatest culinary pleasures for those of us lucky enough to live on the Pacific Coast is the start of the Dungeness Crab season. The commercial crabbing season traditionally begins November in northern California and by all accounts, this should be a bountiful year for the tasty crustaceans.

Whether you head down to the docks yourself or buy from your local store, we should soon have a plentiful supply of this delicacy. And regardless whether you prefer it plain on a salad, with clarified butter and lemon or in any number of delicious recipes (see below), there is one wine that always works with crab: J Sparkling Brut!

The 2002 J Brut has a bright, exotic nose with hints of pear and citrus followed by coconut, spice and yeasty aromas. The slight nutty and toasty notes lend a nice balance to the fruit. Delicate bubbles lift the complex flavors across your palate and lead into a long, lush finish.

We are also glad to note that Charles Olken of the Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine, the oldest review of California wine, recently awarded our 2002 Vintage Brut 95 points and three "puffs".

To celebrate the start of crab season, we are offering complimentary shipping on any purchase of four bottles or more of our 2002 Vintage Brut. Simply call us at 707-431-5479 or go to our web site and enter the coupon code 02VB4 at checkout to take advantage of this offer. For those of you who live nearby, we have added a "pick up at winery" shipping option to our web site. If you prefer to stop by and pick up your wine, we would love to share a glass with you at the winery.

Featured Recipe:
Dungeness Crab with Blood Orange and Tarragon on Endive

This is a fairly minimalist recipe that balances the sweetness of the crab meat with the zippy citrus notes of the blood orange and the earthiness of the endive.

1 cup Crab Meat
¼ cup Watermelon Radish, grated
2 teaspoons Blood Orange zest, blanched
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Blood Orange juice
2 teaspoons Tarragon, finely chopped
Pinch of salt
20 Endive spears
2 tablespoons Parsley, finely chopped for garnish

Combine all ingredients and serve on endive spears.
Sprinkle with chopped parley for garnish.
Serve with 2002 J Vintage Brut

Recipe Courtesy of J Executive Chef, Mark E. Caldwell

Monday, November 15, 2010

90 Points! - Wine Review OnLine for J Vineyards 2008 Russian River Valley Chardonnay

Winemaker George Bursick gave this Chardonnay a full-court treatment, including barrel fermentation, aging in Burgundy oak barrels and extended malolactic fermentation. The result is a delicately balanced wine with a brilliant light gold color and subtle scents of lemon rind and ripe nectarines. Brisk acidity supports the soft toasted oak and lemony flavors, while the wine finishes dry at 14.3% alcohol. I especially liked the texture and crisp acidity of this refreshing Chardonnay.

90 Points - Gerald D. Boyd, WRO 

Nov. 15, 2010

Good Taste with Tanji: "The Beautiful Bubble Room at J Winery, a Sonoma Tasting Treasure"

Tanji Patton of Good Taste with Tanji

A special treat if you’re interested in exploring good food and wine pairings is the Bubble Room at J Winery. You’ll pay about $60 pp for the experience, but keep in mind, there are five courses of well paired dishes with J’s wonderful wines.

J Vineyards is a beautiful winery with a fabulous patio that overlooks the picturesque Sonoma valley. J also has a wonderful selection of gift items in its tasting room.

The corn chowder on our trip was spectacular and a great match with their sparkling wine!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

J Rosé for Turkey Day - Get in on the Best Kept Secret in Wine!

J Rosé for Turkey Day!

Get in on the Best Kept Secret in Wine

Planning for the Thanksgiving Day feast is in full swing at most households. The food staples are well known and predictable: turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and the obligatory yet inexplicable cranberry sauce.

Many times the wine selections are just as predictable: Pinot and Chardonnay with the traditional bottle of sparkling to kick things off. These are all fine wines that we have served many times and the reason we created our popular Thanksgiving Assortment (see details below), but many of us at J have found a new favorite for our Thanksgiving Day table.

We have recently embraced rosé as our new go-to wine. We love the light and elegant nature of the wine, its refreshing acidity and delicate strawberry and cherry notes. It's a fine complement to fowl or ham, is refreshing enough to serve as an aperitif and can even be paired with those crazy cranberries.

So if you are looking for something a little different to put on the table this year, consider serving our Vin Gris, a dry rosé of Pinot Noir, that many of us here at the winery consider one of our unsung heroes.

The 2009 J Vin Gris is regularly priced at $20 for a 750 ml bottle but to encourage you to try this wonderful wine on your Thanksgiving Day table, we are offering you the opportunity to buy this wine at 25 % off or only $15 per 750 ml bottle. Just enter the coupon code: RTD25 at checkout.

Avoid the crowded shops and last minute stress by ordering direct from us and having your Thanksgiving wine delivered to your door. To place an order for the Vin Gris, just go to our web site at www.jwine.com, send us an email at info@jwine.com (do not respond to this mail), or call us at 707-431-5479. If you are planning on coming to winery soon, you can order now and pick it up then by choosing "will-call" as the shipping option.

Please note, customers on the East Coast must place their orders by Thursday, November 11, 2010 in order to receive their wine by Thanksgiving.

2009 J Vin Gris, Russian River Valley
The 2009 J Vineyards Vin Gris is a dry rosé that displays a light ruby color reminiscent of Scarlett Johansson’s lips in the movie “Lost in Translation.” Lively aromas of strawberry and blueberries leap from the glass. The nose segues into mouthwatering flavors of ripe summer berries, strawberry, and tart cherry pie. There’s a nice acidity on the palate and the flavors follow the nose. This well-balanced wine starts with a crisp fruitiness, followed by a plush mid-palate and then opens to a dry and extremely refreshing finish. The wine has a balanced acidity that brightens and cleanses the palate.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wine Spectator 88 & 89 Points: J Cuvee 20 Brut NV & J Brut Rose NV, Russian River Valley!

"Here’s a really enjoyable, balanced wine" - KCBS Food and Wine Editor Narsai David for J Vineyards 2008 RRV Chardonnay!

KCBS Food and Wine Editor Narsai David reviewed wines from Sonoma

The 2008 J Vineyards Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley is delicious even before you taste it.

“The aromas have such a perfect balance between the fruit and oak. The oak is just the subtlest touch. On the palate, that finesse continues. Mouth watering balance of citrus and lots of fruit with just the right amount of acid. Here’s a really enjoyable, balanced wine.”

Narsai David is the KCBS Food and Wine Editor. He has been a successful restaurateur, chef, TV host, and columnist in the Bay Area spanning four decades.

Monday, November 1, 2010

J Sparkles with Charles Olken of Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine!

Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
by Charles Olken

It seems that California makers of the bubbly take a step forward each and every year, and this newest crop of sparkling wines is no exception. When you add in the double incentives of equivalent Champagnes costing twice as much and being less fresh in the bargain and top that with the likelihood that you can find most of the non-vintaged Bruts, Blanc de Noirs and even Rosés at discounts during the Holiday Season, there is every reason to pay attention to this category. Perhaps the single most influential step in this scenario of increasing success is the move by several makers to cooler and cooler area grapes with longer hang times and higher natural acidities. But it is the areas of Blanc de Noirs and Rosé that California producers have their greatest natural advantage. If the idea of adding a bit of red wine to your top bubblies is to increase both richness and latter palate solidity, then California Pinot Noir with its tendencies to be fuller and richer than its peers in France has a big leg up. The success of lightly and moderately pink wines in this year’s tastings made that group the stars of the show (pun intended).