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2014 BEST Sparkling Wine: J Vineyards & Winery

Author: Julie Fadda Powers
May, 2014 Issue

The winery produces seven types of sparkling wines (there are two more in the works), each with its own distinct characteristics.

It was 1986 when 25-year-old Judy Jordan set out to create a winery that specialized in sparkling wine. With a degree in earth sciences/geology from Stanford University, her knowledge of the land led her to Russian River Valley. Today, J Vineyards & Winery owns nine vineyards there, including the one surrounding its Visitor Center, which opened in 1999 and features a beautiful tasting bar, as well as the upstairs Legacy Lounge, which overlooks the working winery (and where you can do reserve tastings or even hold private events). Its bar, which was beautifully crafted by Sebastopol’s Bohemian Stoneworks, features backlit wine bottle glass. The Bubble Room is where pairing wines with food is the main attraction.
The winery produces seven types of sparkling wines (there are two more in the works), each with its own distinct characteristics. Its Vintage Brut was first made in 1987 and has been produced every year since. It also produces still wines (the first vintage was 1994), including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Pinot Meunier, Vin Gris and Pinotage, as well as two liqueurs: pear and ratafia (a blend of grapes and brandy).
If you visit the Bubble Room (highly recommended), you can choose a tasting where Executive Chef Erik Johnson expertly pairs bites with both sparkling and still wines. In the Legacy Lounge (Thursdays through Sundays; otherwise it takes place in the Bubble Room), you can taste through several wines paired with cheese and charcuterie, as well as treats like local honey, olives, spiced almonds and more. Johnson visits local farms twice monthly to purchase items for his regularly changing menu. He’ll also be creating dishes for J’s new Vine to Table Vineyard Dinners, which will take place monthly, each in a different J vineyard, from June to September. Winemaker Melissa Stackhouse will serve as the host, and all you have to do is enjoy yourself—and reserve early, since there are only 20 to 25 seats available for each.
All of J’s sparkling wines are made in traditional méthode Champenoise fashion. This involves two fermentations (one in the bottle), aging, disgorging and dosage (a mixture of sugar and reserve wine; the amount of which gives a wine its designation of Brut or Extra Brut; dosage trials, where you can learn all about it first-hand, will be held monthly May through August). Stackhouse joined the winery in 2011 and works closely with Jordan as well as Associate Winemaker Scott Anderson, who’s been with the winery since 2005. Their newest offering is J Cuvée XB (Extra Brut), which is very dry and bright with brioche, almond and citrus elements. It was the standout for me when I visited. “We left the wine in the cellar for one more year than we thought we would,” says Anderson. “The beautiful, round mouthfeel presented itself after three years on the yeast, while the acidity allows it to pair with many food and cheeses.”
For the BEST Of event, J will be pouring its most popular sparkling Cuvée 20 (this and its Brut Rosé are the highest sparkling production and the only two that are available outside the winery or via the wine club), which was first released in 2007, J’s 20th anniversary (thus the name). “A gracious thank you to those who voted for us,” says Anderson. “To be recognized many times this way is really an honor.”



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