BERGER: Cabernet family Tom and Sally Jordan mark a milestone
Published: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 12:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 12:06 p.m.
John Jordan, president of the Jordan Winery in Sonoma County's verdant hills, celebrates his 40th birthday on May 25.
Tom and Sally Jordan, founders of the winery bearing their name, on May 25 will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the purchase of their first vineyard, a valley floor cabernet property north of Healdsburg.
“That was quite a day,” reminisced Sally recently, referring back to that day in Denver when Tom cradled the newly born John, then flew to Sonoma County to sign escrow papers putting him in the California wine business.
The Jordan story is one of a passion for a style of wine that today might be seen as out of step with the mainstream. But it's a style that has worked so well that Jordan cabernet sauvignon long ago became one of the nation's most visible wines in high-end restaurants.
That style of wine comes mainly from the late Andre Tchelistcheff, America's greatest winemaker, who was hired by Tom in the early 1970s to oversee the first steps on the road to making a great, balanced cabernet aimed at improving the taste of dinner.
At the time, Tom said he liked Bordeaux and believed California could make a wine as great as the French.
Today, it is a style of wine that may be viewed as out of step with those who score wine on a numerical scale. Indeed, Jordan cabernets typically aren't reviewed by those who use numbers, partly because the only winemaker Jordan has ever had prefers to have his wines paired with food.
Rob Davis, hand-picked by Tchelistcheff out of enology school in 1976, was there for the making of the first wine, and he was still there last week as Jordan released its 36th consecutive great cabernet, the 2008, which may be Davis' best yet.
By a curious coincidence, it is one of the last wines Davis will ever make that has fruit from the original vineyard. Just weeks ago, the Jordans sold that original valley floor vineyard as a quest by both Davis and Tchelistcheff, fully backed by John Jordan, got formal approval.
And that was to seek cabernet sauvignon grapes from hillside vineyards.
In the late 1980s, I walked the Jordan vineyard with Tchelistcheff. He quietly said it wasn't the greatest of vineyard properties, and that Jordan should look to the hills.
Davis began that investigation more than 25 years ago, and ever since has explored more
Davis is a brilliantwinemaker who constantly praises Tchelistcheff, who died 18 years ago at 92, for the greatness of Jordan cabs. Now, he says, the move that Tchelistcheff pushed for is nearly complete.
And despite high praise for darker, denser, more alcoholic cabernets, the 2008 Jordan Cabernet echoes the greatest of Tchelistcheff's wines of the past with their undeniable balance best seen with food.
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Dan Berger lives in Sonoma County, where he publishes “Vintage Experiences,” a weekly wine newsletter. Write to him at email@example.com.
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