Jordan Wine Country Table - Vol. 14, 2019 - 18

NEWS
Tasting the Difference
Even though French barrels possess more tannin, American oak is
known for bringing more aggressive aromas of dill and coconut to
red wines; French oak is considered more subtle, imparting spice
aromas and a silky texture. French oak's tannin profile harnesses
the sterner nature of the fruit tannins found in richer, broadshouldered
cabernet fruit-just the opposite of what one would
expect. The tannins from the French oak have a strong attraction
to the fruit tannins-there's a natural affinity between the two.
The result in the glass? The wine tastes softer and richer in
the mouth and is longer in the finish-attributes found in top
Bordeaux and California's best cabernets.
American oak played a vital role in Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon for
decades, masking the herbaceous character in the wine-a result
of the challenging soil types found at many estate vineyard blocks.
Once those blocks were removed from Jordan winemaking and
new grower vineyards that abound in blackberry and cassis fruit
were added, there was nothing to cover up.
" Once we stopped including grapes from the valley floor in
our blends, " Davis said, " we found that the American oak was
overpowering the beautiful dark fruit in the young wines while
French oak elevated the fruit. "
American Oak's Roots in California Wine
Winery founders Tom and Sally Jordan envisioned a silky
cabernet sauvignon that would pay equal homage to Jordan's
inspiration and origin: a 50-50 blend of French and American
oak barrels for aging. Tom Jordan believed, as did other
California winemaking pioneers, that while Bordeaux-like wines
were the goal, their versions should make use of U.S.-made
barrels, as both a point of differentiation from France and a show
of patriotic pride.
Another major factor in this decision was the Jordans' a-ha
moment with a Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, which
inspired them to become vintners. Beaulieu Vineyard's Georges
de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Rutherford
in Napa Valley-aged in American oak at the time-changed the
Jordans' minds about the potential for quality cabernet sauvignon
in California in the late 1960s. French-born owner Georges de
Latour used French oak barrels when he began the reserve
program in 1936. It became an iconic wine, sought by collectors
and winemakers alike. When World War II stalled the importation
of French barrels, he switched to American oak, and demand for
the wine continued unabated.
In 1938, de Latour recruited Russian-born enologist André
Tchelistcheff to make the BV Cabernets, aged largely in
American oak. It was Tchelistcheff who recommended Rob
Davis for the Jordan winemaking job and who mentored
Davis until André's death in 1994, at age 92.
" André shaped Tom Jordan's perception of American oak, "
Davis recalled. " Otherwise, we probably would have used
all French because Tom loved Lafite, but Tom also loved the
BV Private Reserves from 1938 through 1972. "
The decision was right for the times. Ridge Vineyards in the
Santa Cruz Mountains found great success aging its cabernets
in American oak. As Ridge winemaker Paul Draper said, " When
we started making wine in 1969, we were California chauvinists.
We didn't want to make a California Burgundy or California
Bordeaux. We liked the wines we made with American oak. "
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It was the same at Jordan in the early days.
" You have to remember that in 1974, there were about 300
wineries in California and now there are nearly 5,000, " Davis
explained. " Everything was market-driven back then, with 80
percent of wine sales in white wines. Cabernet sauvignon was
a minor player. "
So while Tom Jordan was ahead of the curve in focusing on red
Bordeaux varieties in Alexander Valley, Tchelistcheff told Davis:
" If you want to make better cabernet, you need better terroir. "
There are special sites in Alexander Valley with the terroir
of which Tchelistcheff spoke: vineyards with ideal soils,
exposures, row orientations, drainage, rootstocks and clones.
Jordan's valley floor vineyard, purchased in 1972, was not one
of them. Tom Jordan had little science or data at hand when
he established the estate in the early 1970s. In the years after,
science-based viticultural knowledge has increased tenfold,
with wine grapes now planted under precise conditions.
Letting the Fruit Lead
Jordan has kept pace with this viticultural evolution, selling
the original valley floor property and replanting Jordan
Estate blocks to get the most out of the site. Yet cabernet
sauvignon complexity really took off when John Jordan took
over ownership. John listened to Davis' reasons for purchasing
grapes from Alexander Valley benchlands and hillsides as
supplements to the Jordan Estate fruit. Jordan understood
that wine depth and nuance could be enhanced with the
inclusion of non-estate grapes.
After a decade of research, trials and refinement of fruit
sources, the 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon displays a
new level of balance and refinement. The silky, black fruits in
the 2015 Jordan are elevated and framed by the French oak
tannins. Because 2015 was a cooler vintage that lent itself to
Bordeaux-style wines, the transition to all French oak seemed
even more natural.

Jordan Wine Country Table - Vol. 14, 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Jordan Wine Country Table - Vol. 14, 2019

Table of Contents
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