At least for the moment, we may be crawling out of the financial crisis, so the nation’s birthday calls for cautious celebration, best accomplished with wines made in the U.S.A.
Tom Jordan founded his winery, now run by his son, in 1972 in Sonoma with the goal of producing world-class Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. They still produce just these two wines. They’ve avoided the temptation of using their reputation to market low-cost, industrial wines or engage in very high priced single vineyard bottlings. Like a traditional Bordeaux Château, they know what they want to do, and they do it very well indeed.
This doesn’t mean, however, that their wines are locked in a ‘70s time-warp. Even though Rob Davis has been a winemaker since the first vintage, his Chardonnay has evolved considerably over the years, in part adjusting to changing tastes in the food it’s designed to accompany. His recent refinements in technique have made the wine a restaurant favorite. The resulting Jordan 2007 Russian River Chardonnay is a wine with a clean fruit front, a citrus and slightly mineral finish, all held together with a nicely balanced flavor of oak. A more contemporary wine than the buttery ripe Chards of yesteryear!
The French Champagne House, Taittinger, set up its Californian venture, Domaine Carneros, in the late ‘80s. In an unusual move for a French company, they recruited a Californian, Eileen Crane, as their founding winemaker. When interviewed a few years ago, she emphasized that she had always had complete freedom to develop the wines she wanted to make, without being encouraged towards a “house style.”
Her Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour, named for the 18th century marquise and favorite mistress of Louis XV, has a delicate pink color and an almost floral aroma. It’s smooth on the palate, has an enticing blend of fruit flavors and a clean finish that’s dry without a hint of astringency. Anyone wondering if it’s worth the extra cost might open a bottle alongside the (very drinkable) Gruet Rosé to see that the complexity and elegance of the Domaine Carneros puts it in a different league.
The Paris tasting in ’76 that placed Californian wine on the global map (recreated in the movie “Bottle Shock”) included the Monte Bello Cabernet from Ridge Vineyards. The French response was that in 30 years, only the French wines would shine. When the blind tasting was repeated in 2005, the Ridge Cabernet emerged as the undisputed winner, way ahead of its Bordeaux rivals. All this led to an impressive recent celebration of the winery’s 50th anniversary and the 40th for their winemaker, Paul Draper.
Ridge is also renowned for its Zinfandels, where it pioneered both single vineyard bottlings and the blending of other grapes to enhance the wine. The Ridge 2007 Zinfandel York Creek contains 22 percent Petite Sirah that, combined with the wine being relatively low in alcohol (for a Zin), makes it very easy to drink. The dark fruit aroma of a typical Zinfandel carries through to a more complex initial flavor, ending in a smooth finish with the oak and tannins in a perfect balance. What better way to celebrate our Nation’s Birthday!
Where to Find Them (Distributors in parenthesis): the Jordan Chardonnay (Southern) is $26-36 at Belfair Wine and Spirits, Bill’s Liquor Store, Redfish, Reilly’s, and Rollers; it’s on the list at Aqua, Alexander’s, British Open Pub, Charlie’s l’Étoile Verte, CQ’s, Claude and Uli’s, Eastern Chinese, Flavor’s, Frankie Bone’s, Le Bistro Mediterranean, Old Fort Pub, Santa Fe Café, Seagrass Grill, Waterfront Café, andWise Guy’s.
The Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé (RNDC) is $40-41 at Bill’s and Rollers; it’s on the list at Eat and HHPrime.
The Ridge York Creek Zinfandel (Southern) is $28-30 at Island Wine and Spirits, and Rollers. Other Ridge Zinfandels (also worth exploring) are at: A Wine and Spirit Shop, Belfair Wine and Spirits, and Bill’s Liquor Store; they are on the list at Aqua, Charlie’s, Frankie Bones, Old Fort Pub, and Sunset Grill.
Correction: in June, Grassroots was listed incorrectly as the distributor of Brutacao Primitivo; it should have been Grapevine.