Jordan Wine Country Table - Vol. 17, 2022 - 14

optimistic outlook for the future of our estate
vineyard. The existing vines never had a chance,
and the time had arrived to begin the process
of preparing to give the vineyards a second
chance-one where any risks or failures were
mitigated by resources.
ANOTHER INSECT STRIKES
Years later, a disease called Red Blotch began
spreading, becoming very noticeable around
2008 throughout Napa and Sonoma vineyards.
It's a virus that's been around for quite some
time, first identified in 2011, and it seemed
manageable. Red Blotch is recognizable by the
fiery-red leaves seen on a grapevine around
harvest season. (Beautiful to visitors, tragic to
growers.) Researchers weren't able to determine
the cause until 2016, when the three-cornered
alfalfa hopper was identified as the likely culprit in
spreading the disease. There are still debates about
how severe it is, and it's something that many
growers and winemakers have always believed
they can work around. Because Red Blotch
inhibits the grapevine's ability to reach optimal
sugar levels-critical to the proper conversion of
sugars to alcohol during fermentation-the only
remedy is to replant the entire vineyard.
A SECOND CHANCE
There's something very liberating about starting
over from scratch. The decision is rarely an
easy one, but once the blank canvas appears,
it's exciting to feel the future being rewritten.
After more than a decade of farming
the Jordan Estate, I'd learned a great deal about
the soils, the giant rocks below the surface and the
quirks of each vineyard block-the spots where
grapevines thrived and the places where plants
never seemed happy. Vineyard development
practices had also changed dramatically since the
estate hillsides were first planted 20 years before.
New advancements in preparing a vineyard site
to achieve planting success were available
to Jordan for the first time. I used all that we
had learned, as well as soil reports and the latest
technologies to create a six-year plan for replanting
the entire Jordan Estate. We approached the
replant with three key areas of focus: renewing
and replenishing the soils, prepping the vineyard
rows so that grapevine roots could spread deeply
into the ground and using the best plant materials
for the future. Rootstocks, clones, row direction,
irrigation zones, trellising and plant density would
also change.
RETHINKING THE MIX
During the first planting of Jordan Estate,
we focused primarily on growing cabernet
sauvignon with some merlot and petit verdot.
(There was a little cabernet franc, but its lackluster
performance led to it being grafted over to petit
verdot.) Over time, the demand for Alexander
Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has increased so much
that growers are ripping out merlot during their
own replants and choosing to replace it with
cabernet sauvignon. Merlot is a more fickle
grape, more prone to shatter during the critical
bloom season of the vines, when the flowers are
transitioning to grape set. Merlot also commands
less money per ton, so it's a gamble that growers
just aren't willing to make. On the other hand,
cabernet sauvignon flowers later, is less prone
to shatter and also enjoys the increased demand
from Napa Valley winemakers to blend the
silky Alexander Valley grapes into their bottles.
Cabernet sauvignon is a better bet in every aspect.
That's an issue for Jordan because merlot
is the most important blending grape for Jordan
Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot has rich fruit and
soft, supple tannins that Maggie Kruse, our
head winemaker, believes is central to capturing
Jordan's smooth house style every vintage.
With the replant, Jordan Estate is now divided
into four geographical areas, each mostly planted
to a specific grape. Two merlot vineyard blocks
will be added in the coolest parts of the ranch
between 2021 and spring 2022. Located on the
hillside above our " merlot bowl, " petit verdot
may be replanted as a secondary blending grape
following a two year fallow period.
The final piece to the replant puzzle was
clonal selection. During the planting boom in
the mid-1990s the selections were very limited.
There are a number of different clones to choose
from, and we were able to travel to a remote
14 THE CELEBRATIONS ISSUE

Jordan Wine Country Table - Vol. 17, 2022

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