Thu 8 Apr 2010
Jordan cabernet sauvignons are habitually dismissed by critics and reviewers as “food wines” and “restaurant wines,” as if the primary reason for the existence of wine were not to drink with food and often at restaurants. While it’s true that Jordan cabernets don’t benefit from extended aging, beyond, say, five to six years, the way that “real” cabernets might, the wines have generally been very well-made and exhibit plenty of structure with the fruit to stand up to it. No, Jordan’s cabernets don’t rank with the best of California; they’re not in the league with Ridge Monte Bello, Caymus Special Selection or Joseph Phelps Insignia. That level of achievement was never, I think, the goal; for Jordan, elegance and accessibility trump power and longevity.
The winery was founded by Tom Jordan, a geologist who made a fortune in oil exploration, in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, close to the Russian River. As a signal of his intentions, he constructed a showplace facility to rival many a chateau in Bordeaux and brought on legendary winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff, who essentially invented the concept of cabernet sauvignon as a varietal wine in California, as consultant. The first vintage released was 1976. From that vintage to today, the winemaker has been Rob Davis. The winery is now operated by Tom Jordan’s son, John.
My first impression on sniffing the Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Alexander Valley, was “classic Leoville-Barton,” because the wine expresses that cedar, tobacco, lead pencil, black currant bouquet typical of the chateau that is one of the stars of Bordeaux’s commune of St.-Julien. In fact, not having tried a cabernet from Jordan in a vintage of the 21st Century, I was surprised at how much structure the wine showed. It’s a blend of 76 percent cabernet sauvignon, 19 percent merlot and 5 percent petit verdot, aged 12 months in a combination of French (64 percent) and American (36 percent) oak barrels. While the nose picks up beguiling notes of bell pepper, black olive and plum, one also detects a background of walnut shell and wheatmeal and shale-like minerality, qualities that persist on the palate and through the finish. This is, in other words, a wine that is not shy about wood and tannins, though the wood feels polished and burnished, and the tannins are sleek and fine-tuned. The wine unfurls slightly macerated and fleshy black fruit flavors that avoid the spicy aspect in favor of purity and intensity — there’s a careful balance between coolness and warmth — though as the moments pass the wine’s earthy and minerally character expands, with a final touch of foresty briers and brambles. Elegant and seamless, but with unexpected dimension. Drink now through 2014 or ’15, at home or at a restaurant; great with rosemary-crusted lamb chops. Excellent. About $52.
The 2006 version of this wine will be released in May.
A sample for review.