Since I last visited Jordan Wine Estate in May 2009 a lot has happened in the vineyard. The restaurant, which opened six months later, is one of the ten best restaurants in the Cape region, it is possible to stay overnight at the vineyard, and there are more wines / product lines and many other projects.
Kathy Jordan recently visited Stockholm and we talked about the development of the vineyard which she shares with her husband, Gary, whose parents originally bought 146 ha in 1982. Gary is a geologist and Kathy is an economist. They immediately began to replant the vineyard. While the vines grew both studied oenology at UC Davis. They waited until 1993 before they released their first wine.
The cooler south-facing slopes were planted with riesling and chenin blanc, while the equally cool east-facing slopes got chardonnay. The relatively warmer north- and west-facing slopes growing red varieties such as Syrah and Bordeaux grapes. Kathy and Gary have definitely had a plan all along and have developed wines characterized by cool climate, elegance and balance.
The wines we tasted were from the Jordan Estate and Reserve series and have some clever names:
The Real McCoy Riesling 2014
~16 euro (this and subsequent prices are estimates based on Swedish retail prices)
There is a grape in South Africa that was formerly known as Riesling, but that proved to be the southern French variety crouchen blanc. It is now sometimes called Paarl Riesling and usually used as raw material for brandy. Riesling was previously called either Rhine Riesling or Weisser Riesling in South Africa. Kathy and Gary have led a successful campaign to call riesling simply riesling and that makes this Riesling of course… The Real McCoy!
The aroma is a little shy, but elegant and grape typical. A balanced and fine riesling, without the steely acid one can usually find in the Rheingau versions and with nice fruit, still in its youth.
Inspector Péringuey Chenin Blanc 2014
Inspector Péringuey led the fight against phylloxera in South Africa during the late 1800s and oversaw the importation of American rootstocks, which were then grafted with different grape varieties. The wine was named to honour his importance to the wine industry.
The grapes grow in a soil of granite which is half a million years old. Again, a balanced wine that was gently oaked, and even had a small portion of unoaked wine added; elegant tones of oak, pear and quince with a fresh acidity. Stirring of the lees in the barrel is made by rolling the barrels to avoid excessive oxidation that may happen when opening them to stir in the conventional manner with a stick (batonnage).
Unoaked Chardonnay 2014
Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2013
Nine Yards Chardonnay 2013
Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2010
Nine Yards come from American English, where it is used meaning “all the way” ie, the wine comes from specially selected barrels from selected vineyards and embody the best chardonnay they feel they can produce.
The unoaked wine has a nose of citrus and yellow apples and is in the style of an elegant unoaked cool-climate chardonnay. Almost the same wine, fermented in barrels, aged in 50% new oak is almost medium-bodied and also very Burgundy like. Both wines are good examples of what oak ageing does to a wine from the same vineyard and from the same winemaker.
Nine Yards is a luxuriant and generous chardonnay which is undoubtedly a challenge for many Burgundy wines costing at least double or triple, a high-quality wine.
The fourth wine in the flight is a good illustration of the ageing potential in Jordan’s chardonnays: The colour has become golden, the wine is smooth and mature, but still balanced and not quite medium-bodied with sweet buttery tones.
The Prospector Syrah 2010
The Prospector got its name from a social media storm that tried to prevent exploration for metals in the vineyards where there had previously been a tin mine. The brouhaha that was created prevented exploration and the syrah vines that grow there are still in place.
The wine starts its journey in the glass as a New World shiraz but quickly moves towards aromas and relative lightness in a cool climate syrah. A balanced, albeit understated wine that is very delicious.
Cobblers Hill 2010
The first generation of Jordans were shoemakers (cobbler) from England and the memory of them is preserved in the name of the hill where the grapes grow.
The wine consists of 55% cabernet sauvignon, 33% merlot and 12% cabernet franc in the 2010 version. Later editions may vary 5-15% of each grape variety and may contain a percentage of newly planted Petit Verdot. The wines are aged separately for about a year in new barrels and are then blended and goes back into the same barrels. After bottling they keep cuvée at least one year in bottle before it is released.
A more than medium-bodied wine with a complex character that can be stand up to the best Bordeaux blends from South Africa and to many from France. Clear and vibrant blackcurrant, tobacco and green pepper tones blended with integrated tannins in a solid body with a long and fine aftertaste.
Kathy and Gary’s son managed to pierce a hornet’s nest during the work with the first vintage and was badly stung by many bees. However, the adventure ended happily for the then three-year-old boy. The Latin name for the local bee is Apis mellifera Capensis and thus the wine got the name Mellifera.
A sweet dessert wine made from 100% riesling. It feels much more voluptuous than what the barely 100 g/l of residual sugar would suggest. A delicate wine with ripe apricot notes and sweet floral notes, balanced by a crisp acidity and a long finish.
Jordan from South Africa is not part of the family Jordan who runs a vineyard in the Alexander Valley in California, so then it will not go well to sell wines under their own Jordan name in the US without being sued? Probably not, but Kathy and Greg has chosen a very creative solution. They use exactly the same label but have replaced the “Jordan” name with “Jardin” and the potential problem is solved.
Kathy also told me of some social projects that they have started. The best tip for visitors to the winery is this: Bring with you old clothes that you have outgrown or grown tired of. They not only gratefully accept them but also pay with wine for the clothes!
More on Jordan here jordanwines.com.
Mikael Karlin writes för BKWine Magazine on wine tastings and wine events in Sweden.
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