J Vineyards & Winery Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2013

Nice ruby color with translucence; cherry, raspberry on light nose; cherry, cranberry, raspberry, plum on the palate.

Medium-full body; very, very smooth texture. Ripe, reserved fruit expressions; reserved oak, light tannin. Malolactic fermentation in French oak and bright acidity make this extraordinarily easy in the mouth, balanced, food friendly. Slight tartness on the finish, not a bad thing after the very smooth beginning. Smoothness and lightness on the palate dominates in this effort.

Judy Jordan—the daughter of Jordan Vineyard & Winery founder Tom Jordan—began J Vineyards & Winery in 1986 specializing in sparkling wine, but she then moved into pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris still wines.

This effort is labeled “Estate Grown,” meaning it comes from J Vineyards more than 300 acres—one of the largest holdings in the Russian River Valley—around Healdsburg, California. Vineyards include Robert Thomas, Nicole’s, Bow Tie, and Canfield. Each vineyard block’s press was kept separate until final blending.

In 2015, Gallo purchased Jordan’s operation because, Judy explained: “the winery kept getting bigger and bigger, and it was more and more pressure with operations, and I was getting further and further away from what I particularly love, which is geology, terroir and the vineyard–because I was running a big company.” So this is one of the last vintages grown under Jordan’s control. We will see how J performs in the future, but this is delightful now.

Judy also said she sold to Gallo because it is a family-owned business that shares her core values. Gallo knows how to run a big company (they are the largest family-owned wine operation in the world), and fortunately how to allow wineries that do things right—which is why they were attractive properties in the first place—to continue to do things right. Pray that’s what happens at J.

J Vineyards & Winery Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2013 is extraordinarily smooth, food-friendly expression of Russian River Valley pinot noir. $33-40

J Winery website

Other photos: Judy Jordan, J Winery entrance and vineyard