Jordan Wine Country Table - Vol. 17, 2022 - 13

WINE
THE FIRST BUG STRIKES
Before digging into why the plants were failing us,
it's important to understand the historic events
around their first planting. The first major mass
replant of vineyards in Wine Country occurred
between the 1980s to late 1990s, when a pesky
insect called phylloxera spread rapidly through
Napa and Sonoma vineyards, fatally infecting
them. Jordan's original estate vineyard, located
in the Alexander Valley about 1.5 miles from the
winery, was a victim of phylloxera-which led
to the pivotal decision to plant vineyards on the
hillsides of Jordan Estate, the roughly 1,200-acre
ranch surrounding our winery, for the first time.
A RUSH TO PLANT
The urgency to plant new vineyards-either on
existing sites or new plots of ground-was intense.
Only one block planted to St. George rootstock
in 1974 remained while the rest of the blocks
were replanted. Phylloxera-resistant rootstocks,
new clones of traditional grapes and the latest
fads in vineyard planting were being pushed.
Due to plant nurseries' supply chain woes,
vineyard managers took risks with the materials
that were in stock and ready to ship.
Both the replant of the Jordan original valley
floor vineyard and the first planting of the
Jordan Estate hillsides occurred using industry
standards of 1996. Vines were planted at wide
spacings, and spur pruned bilateral training and
tight vertical shoot positioning were among some
of the popular practices. The vineyard manager
at the time also decided to experiment with
plant bags that seemed like a wonderful solution
for keeping the fragile young plants safe when
planting-the baby grapevines' root balls were
covered in a protective wrapper that reportedly
would naturally decompose into the soil over time.
The grapevines seemed happy for the first few
years, and when I was hired to be the viticulturist
at Jordan in 2008, our former winemaker Rob
Davis challenged me with trying to elevate the
taste of the estate grapes to the levels he loved
from our nearby growers. He'd become gradually
disappointed with the estate grapes as the vines
began to mature past the four-to-six-year mark.
I had no idea what was happening below the
surface, so we spent several years adopting new
technologies available to better understand the
soil's mineral composition, parent material,
water-holding capacity and beyond. Several
of our experiments to adapt the farming to the
different soil types and water-holding capacities
occurred, including grafting some grapevines
to other varieties, and while some blocks improved
in quality to a level deemed worthy of the Jordan
master blend, several did not. We also removed
vines from areas that the science showed would
never grow (See " Soil Mapping " in Vol. 6).
One experiment was to investigate rooting
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT
Manuel Lemus inspects a young
grapevine before planting;
a newly planted UberVine;
Jordan's viticulture team
planting new merlot grapevines
in an estate vineyard block.
patterns in different soil types. High pressure
water was used to hydro mine soil, exposing
a significant find. We discovered that many
of the ailing vines were J-rooted-the roots grew
a few inches down and then immediately spread
to the left or right, making the shape of a J.
We also found the remnants of those circa-1996
protective wrappers still around many of the vines'
roots, inhibiting their ability to grow freely. After
years of believing that the magnesium-heavy
serpentine rocks found in the Alexander Valley
region's soils were to blame for the waning quality
of the estate grapevines, I had an even more
WINECOUNTRYTABLE.COM 13
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Jordan Wine Country Table - Vol. 17, 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Jordan Wine Country Table - Vol. 17, 2022

Table of Contents
Jordan Wine Country Table - Vol. 17, 2022 - Cover1
Jordan Wine Country Table - Vol. 17, 2022 - Cover2
Jordan Wine Country Table - Vol. 17, 2022 - 1
Jordan Wine Country Table - Vol. 17, 2022 - Table of Contents
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