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J Vineyards & Winery: Varietal Wines with a Spark

For the past twenty-seven years, J Vineyards and Winery has built a reputation on sparkling wines, but the current and future success is predicated on a vibrant still varietal wine program. J began producing small lots of Pinot Noir in 1994 and Chardonnay in 1997, but it wasn’t until the 2007 vintage that J was transformed into a serious producer of varietal wines. The transition began with veteran winemaker George Bursick, and has flourished more recently under the direction of respected winemaker Melissa Stackhouse, who refined her varietal winemaking skills while head winemaker at La Crema for seven years.

The transition was driven by the implementation of cutting-edge technological innovations for sub-soil mapping as new Russian River Valley vineyard lands were acquired and developed to upgrade and fine-tune vineyard sources. In addition, older, established estate vineyards, all of which are located in the Russian River Valley, were replanted with higher performing clones and rootstocks. Considering the success of J Cuvée sparkling wines, additional cool-climate vineyards in Sonoma County have become important sources of grapes for the varietal wine program. The popularity of the J California Pinot Gris program has led to the procurement of select fruit from Clarksburg and Monterey County to supplement the Sonoma County component.

J Vineyards and Winery is the only winery in California that offers such a broad portfolio of sought-after, premium wines. Its state-of-the-art facility houses, in essence, two wineries under one roof - J sparkling wine and J varietal wines. The winemaking team implements separate and distinct winemaking protocols and equipment for each program. The winery (and estate vineyards) achieved “Certified Sustainable” status by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance in 2012

Visit the beautifully appointed tasting room at 11447 Old Redwood Highway in Healdsburg for a range of tasting options. The website is www.jwine.com. The Pinot Gris, Vin Gris and Russian River Valley Pinot Noir are widely available in the retail market. The other wines are sold at the winery and to wine club members. The limited yields in Russian River Valley vineyards in 2011 prevented J from bottling vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs.

2012 J Vineyards California Pinot Gris

13.8% alc., pH 3.49, TA 0.58, 45,000 cases, $15, screwcap. Grapes sourced from Clarksburg, Russian River Valley, Lodi and Monterey. From an outstanding vintage, this wine was gently whole cluster pressed, fermented and cooled in stainless steel tanks to preserve freshness of fruit, and aged in stainless steel tanks. No malolactic fermentation. · Very pale golden yellow and clear in the glass. Bursting with aromas of tropical fruits, peach and orange peel with flavors of kiwi, lime, peach and honeycomb. Not a wimpy wine like so many Pinot Grigios, but rather showing good substance. Because it is crisp and refreshing, it can be enjoyed as a sipper when entertaining friends, but its acidity and complexity allow it to complement food rather than compete with it. An outstanding value widely available in the retail marketplace. Score: 89

2012 J Vineyards Estate Grown Russian River Valley Vin Gris

14.3% alc., pH 3.79, TA 0.50, 2,500 cases, $20, screwcap. Made by the French saignée method. After a cold soak, 10% of the juice was bled from open top fermenters. The drained juice was fermented and cooled in stainless steel tanks and aged in chilled stainless steel tanks. No malolactic fermentation. · Light pink coral color and clear in the glass. Aromas of strawberries, cherries, watermelon and white stone fruit echoed in the flavors. A hint of dried herbs on the finish adds interest. A delicate, even angelic wine, that is bracing and easy to drink. Score: 87

2010 J Vineyards Estate Grown Russian River Valley Pinot Meunier

14.2% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.52, 120cases, $45. Sold at the winery and to club members. As a sparkling wine producer, it is not surprising that J has 3 acres of Pinot Meunier planted in Nicole’s Vineyard. Normally blended into the Cuvée 20, in 2010 a special varietal version for produced for limited release. 100% de-stemmed, fermented in Italian “Prospero” stainless steel tanks that allowed the seeds that fall to the bottom of the tank to be swept out. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Perfumed with aromas of dark red cherries and berries, spice, potpourri and oak. Middleweight flavors of dark berry fruits with an earthy bent. Soft in the mouth with a slightly rugged personality and noticeable oak in the background. An appealing wine for its individuality. A good alternative to Pinot Noir from Pinot Noir’s tom boy sister. Score: 89

2011 J Vineyards Estate Grown Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., pH 3.82, TA 0.56, 7,000 cases, $37. From a cool, challenging vintage with limited yields. A blend from multiple sites in the Russian River Valley (Nicole’s, Robert Thomas and Nonny’s vineyards). Clones 113, 115, 777, 667 and 2A. 100% destemmed, fermented in 3-10 ton fermenters, then drained into tight-grain French oak barrels for 9 months (30% new). · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy aromas of cherries, peat, forest floor and sandalwood. Somewhat light but flavorful offering flavors of cherries, sage and cola with complimentary oak in the background. An easy drinker with suave tannins, a silky mouthfeel and a soft cherry themed finish. Score: 88

2011 J Vineyards Estate Grown Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.69, TA 0.57, 625 cases, $55. From an eclectic mix of estate grown fruit including Robert Thomas Vineyard. Clones 777 and Pommard. 100% destemmed, whole berry fermentation in open top fermenters. Aged 12 months in 40% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. I loved the nose on this wine which was bursting with aromas of blue and black berries and deep red roses. Fully ripe flavors of dark cherries, blueberries and black currants with an appealing conifer note. The fruit is quite showy on the mid palate and it finishes with good intensity. Tannins and acidity are in their place. Score: 91

2011 J Vineyards Estate Grown Barrel 17 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.71, TA 0.52, 400 cases, $75. A winemaker selection to honor founder Judy Jordan’s estate vineyards, sourced exclusively from two Westside Road vineyards, Robert Thomas and Bow Tie. Clones 113, 115, 777, 667 and 2A. 100% de-stemmed, whole berry fermentation in open top fermenters, aged 12 months in 60% new French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose has plenty of Pinot character, offering the intense scent of Bing cherries, accented by briar, grilled mushrooms and oak. Very soft and seamless on the palate exhibiting layers of vivid black cherry and black raspberry fruit that finish with uncommon length. Very plush and velvety with unifying oak. Not as expressive now as it will be, yet this wine’s potential is obvious. Score: 94

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