Wednesday wraparound: vintage 2011 and Jordan
There was a classic temperature spectrum yesterday in Napa Valley. At Pride winery, 2,200 feet up on Spring Mountain, it was 88 degrees on my dashboard thermometer when I left, around 1 p.m. At the Rutherford-Oakville line, about 20 minutes later, it was 100. This showed dramatically how true it is that the mountains are cooler than the valley floor on a hot summer day–although it’s true also that they’re warmer at night.
But wait, there’s more! That 100-degree reading lasted only for a few minutes. By the time I’d reached southern Oakville, it was 99, and it stayed in the high 90s all the way through Yountville and southward toward Napa city. This is just anecdotal, but in all the years I’ve driven Highway 29 I’ve been struck by how little the temperature cools down from Oakville to Yountville to Napa on a day such as yesterday. The conventional wisdom is, of course, that it does, but it never seems to on my dashboard thermometer. Sometimes it’s hotter.
Anyway, by Vallejo (which I guess you could call Carneros) it was 92. Those Bay breezes were kicking in. By the time I got to Emeryville, it was 77, around 2 p.m. But the temperature hit 93 yesterday at Oakland Airport, so, in the end, it was hot everywhere.
Just what the grapes needed! After all the talk about how cool the 2011 vintage has been, this multi-day heat event has vintners’ hearts fluttering. It’s been just warm enough to speed up the ripening process, but we haven’t got the kind of devastating heat wave we got, for instance, last year, when the last week of August blasted grapes. So the theory now is that the vintage, while light in crop, could be very high in quality. That is, if it doesn’t rain. A lot of the late-ripening grapes aren’t likely to be picked until October and some could go into November. As a matter of fact, at Pride yesterday, they were telling us how, on occasion, they’re still picking into December! But I don’t see that happening this year.
It’s not over until the fat winemaker crushes the last of the grapes, but 2011 could be a good one.
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I like Jordan, both as a concept and as wine. By “concept” I mean the idea that they want to make wine that’s a little lighter in style than a lot of the competition. I seldom give Jordan Cabernet the high scores that, say, I give to Stonestreet or Rodney Strong (to pick two other Alexander Valley Cabs), nor do I give the kind of high scores to Jordan’s Chardonnay I give to other Russian River Valley Chards, such as Lynmar or Marimar Torres.
But I would happily order a Jordan wine from a wine list in a great restaurant (and Jordan is on many great wine lists), because I’d know that the wine would be balanced and complex and not try to compete with the food. Now, before the anti-score crowd jumps on me, let me explain that a high-scoring wine is based on intensity, or hedonistic fascination, or organoleptic richness (there are different ways of expressing it). They are wines, tasted without food, that impress for sheer power. That means, by definition, that they may not be the best accompaniment with actual food. By way of analogy, it’s like seeing a fabulous designer dress at a runway show. You might appreciate how well it’s made, how gorgeous it is to look at, how rich the fabric and stitching, etc. At the same time, you’d never wear it (if you’re a woman), and, if you’re a man, you don’t know anybody who ever would or could wear it; which makes it impractical for realistic purposes. Still, you can appreciate that it’s a better dress than almost anything you actually see on the street.
That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t happily drink Marimar Chardonnay or Stonestreet Cabernet whenever I can at the table. But I would also be happy with Jordan.