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2015 BEST Sparkling Wine: J Vineyards & Winery

Author: Tim Carl
May, 2015 Issue

These wines require precision winemaking and a whole lot of patience through each vintage.” —Scott Anderson

Gaining notoriety even once for making sparkling wines of distinction is a rare feat that few achieve, but winning Best Sparkling Wine five years in a row puts J Vineyards & Winery in a class by itself. This accomplishment indicates both high quality and consistency—two sought-after elements in any business, but especially in winemaking.
Hired as a lab assistant in 2005, Scott Anderson quickly rose through the winery to his current role as winemaker at J Vineyards & Winery. Prior to joining the wine industry, Anderson earned a degree in engineering at California State University at San Luis Obispo, where he also played shortstop. (Following college, Scott played for the Colorado Rockies minor league team until 2004.)
I’m a bit of a perfectionist, which is why I love making Pinot Noir and sparkling wines,” says Anderson. “ These wines require precision winemaking and a whole lot of patience through each vintage. I enjoy the challenge each year and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
Judy Jordan founded J Vineyards and Winery in 1986. The original focus was on sparkling wines, but, since 1994, the winery has also made still wines, including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Pinot Meunier, Vin Gris, Pinotage, Ratafia (a dessert wine) and pear liqueur.
Part of what makes J sparkling wines so delicious is that many labor-intensive processes are employed, from start to finish. When the grapes are brought in at harvest, custom-made French Coquard presses gently squeeze them to ensure the juice contains only the most delicate and nuanced fruit elements. For the sparkling wine, J follows mêthode champenoise, also known as méthode traditionnelle. This lengthy process begins by initially fermenting the juice slowly in stainless steel tanks. Once the wine is bottled, it rests in contact with yeast lees, en tirage,so it becomes supple and creamy. During this phase of the winesdevelopment, secondary fermentation also occurs, which creates bubbles and additional complex flavors. The entire process may take as many as two to three years. Then, each bottle goes through riddling and disgorging (trapping sediment near the mouth of the bottle and then freezing it to release the sediment). Finally, each finished wine is aged an additional six to 12 months before being ready for sale.
In March 2015, J Vineyards and Winery was sold to E. & J.  Gallo, and Lon Gallagher, a brand manager, says the winery expects to continue on with the tradition of making exquisite sparkling wine. These are very special wines,he says.
The new owners of J Vineyards and Winery are committed to maintaining the legacy that’s been established over the years, according to Gallagher, and the many J fans hope so, but as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesos pointed out back in 500 B.C.: Everything is in flux and the only thing consistent is change itself. This is nowhere more apparent than in the world of wine, where each bottle changes and evolves, often producing interesting—and sometimes even spectacular—results that can be observed and savored over time.



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