Published on September 18th, 2011 | by Greg0
J Vineyards: Pinot and Chardonnay
Russian River Valley produces some of the favorite wines amongst the staff here. And while we've looked at a few cabernets and varietals like Rousanne and Grenache recently,we haven't tried a whole lot of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. So, today, we bring you the 2008 vintages from J Vineyards, a Healdsburg winery that is celebrating their 25th anniversary and was recently awarded 'Best Tasting Room in the West' by Sunset Magazine. We spoke with J and tried some of their wines at the Sonoma in the City event held a couple of months ago and they were kind enough to send us a couple of bottles so that we could share them with the rest of the team.
The J Chardonnay offers an immediately appealing bouquet and lovely color- just a bit of mineral and light on the butter notes. Though not as accessible as, say, a Riesling, this is a Chardonnay for naysayers- one that even those more partial to red wine can enjoy. Custom yeast strains from Burgundy were added post-press, and one interesting note is that free-run and press fraction juices were fermented separately. At 6000 cases, this isn't a small batch production, but was clearly handled with care- all wine was 100% barrel-fermented in 40% new French oak. Balanced on the tongue, the surprisingly fruity flavors linger- expect to taste bright citrus and a sweeter front than expected. We paired it with some creamier cheeses. At $28, it's also an excellent bargain for a chardonnay that is drinkable now but should ripen nicely for a few years.
The J Pinot Noir also impressed, though a bit less on first glance. Most of the staff felt it was a bit lacking immediately after opening. But we used a fancy technique- letting some time pass- and what felt a little bull-headed smoothed out to an excellent wine, and a pretty solid example of a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. There is chocolate here, and coffee, and one taster mentioned "roasted cactus". The oak was more subtle than some pinots, and the fruit more restrained- still berry but with more grass and spice. As always, California Pinots stand strong with spicy foods or even creamier dishes, bringing out some of the umami flavors in meats and sauces. On balance, we liked this J a lot, and with the classy labeling and bottle, felt it would make an excellent gift to a discerning wine lover. At $35, it's not a bargain wine, but worth the price.