Alexander Valley may not be the first place you think of when you hear “California Cabernet Sauvignon.” Typically, one’s mind most naturally thinks of Napa Valley. However, today we are going to take a look at an exceptional winery in Alexander Valley, in Sonoma County.
Full disclosure – I found this bottle in a near empty case of wine that has moved with me through multiple states since buying. When I bought it, I had plans to use it for a food and wine dinner to launch The Somm Chef, that never happened (thanks to the world shutting down). Unfortunately, I forgot about it. One night I was looking for a bottle and thought I would check there and saw it! I was mortified because it had definitely not been stored properly for the age that it was – but more on that later!
Alexander Valley – Home of Jordan Winery
Sonoma neighbors Napa Valley, laying between the Pacific Ocean and Napa. Sonoma has areas that are much cooler due to cooling ocean breezes as well. Healdsburg, California is one of Sonoma’s main cities and houses many excellent AVA’s (American Vinicultural Appellations) and wineries, including our title winery, Jordan. The city is at the intersection of Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley. Each region has it’s own specialty. Russian River specializes in high quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – especially in the higher altitude and cooler regions. Dry Creek’s specialty is Zinfandel. Alexander best known for Cabernet Sauvignon.
Alexander Valley is one of Sonoma’s warmest AVA’s.
Sonoma County is much cooler than the inland areas of Napa. As a result, Alexander Valley becing the warmest region, makes it a great area for Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet needs a lot of heat and sunshine to grow and ripen properly. The hillside areas of Alexander Valley are great for Merlot. These areas have a bit more drainage (the soil isn’t quite so fertile) and less direct heat as the valley floor does. Very convenient considering that this 2008 Cabernet from Jordan Winery is 18% Merlot.
The hot, dry summers, early morning fog, and gravelly, well-draining soils lead to a slow and long ripening of the grapes – just the way cabernet growers like it. A majority of cabernet vines in Alexander Valley are planted at higher elevations (up to roughly 2,500 ft.) on the region’s benchlands, rolling hillsides, and Mayacamas mountain range. This means greater sun exposure, but also more stressful soil conditions, which are two major ingredients to producing a quality crop.Sonoma.com
First off – I love Jordan Winery. The products and the people behind the wines are incredible. My trade tasting at Jordan was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had! The Chef at Jordan is incredibly talented as well. In fact, it was after this tasting that I came up with my French Onion Soup Recipe. One of the items served during the tasting (my recipe is the poor man’s version, of course).
Furthermore, I believe Jordan to be an exceptional example of Alexander Valley Cabernet. In fact, Jordan may pull your mind away from Napa when you think “California Cab” and towards Alexander Valley.
Jordan sits on 1,200 coveted acres, but only 120 of them are dedicated to winemaking. Jordan is a certified sustainable vineyard that also “believe[s] that grapevines grow best when they’re surrounded by woodlands and reservoirs filled with birds—not a monoculture of vineyard after vineyard” (Jordan Winery Bio).
Now, I try to keep these wine reviews at an approachable level – both in terms of price and accessibility. I realize that this 2008 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon is currently almost $100. However – it’s worth it. Consequently, if you purchase a less-expensive, recent vintage and hold on to it your value will greatly increase. I believe the bottle was closer to $50 or $60 when I purchased it a few years back.
You may notice some of the sediment that’s almost “painted” on the side of my wine bottle in this photo. It was only this small area – sometimes you can see this all up and down and along all sides of a bottle. This can be a sign of an oxidizing wine. In short, the tannins (and color) of the wine is falling out and due to the alcoholic solution, it creates a bit of a “paint” along the inside of the bottle. If this occurs in great quantitates the wine would be bad. It was a chance of luck that I pulled the bottle and noticed it when I did!
How to Know When a Bottle is At/Just Past Its Prime
Thankfully, my 2008 Jordan had not gone bad – yet. However, I would say that it was at, or just getting past, its prime. How did I know?
There were still ripe, full, black fruits but they were fading to give way to more tertiary aromas and flavors. If a quality wine like this still has bright and vibrant fruit notes, along with great tannin and acidity it can likely age a little longer. Fruit is the first thing to drop off in a wine – and it gives way to earthy, smokey, or nutty flavors instead.
Storage Is Important!
On the Jordan website, they are still selling the 2008, and they recommend that you can store this bottle until at least 2025. Contrary to my experience with my bottle, I believe it’s possible for the wine to age a few more years. I think that my bottle was ready when it was because of how it was stored.
I do not have a wine fridge, and I’ve moved quite a bit – taking this special bottle with me. As a result, I’m sad to say that it’s been jostled around and hasn’t been in steady conditions. In the midst of all of that, I wasn’t storing the bottle on it’s side – it was right side up – which could have allowed the cork to dry up and slightly allowing some oxygen in. The cork came out full, but it was definitely dry and crumbly.
If you decide to age bottles – make sure you have a steady temperature to store them in, and make sure that you store bottles with real cork on their sides. The temperature of your storage ideally should be between 60-65 F.
Not storing the bottle properly led to my bottle living a shorter life. As I mentioned before – thankfully it was still a wonderful bottle. You can tell from the coloring of the wine that it still had a vivacious ruby coloring to it – despite being 13 years old!
We did decant this bottle but because of the cork/sediment issue as mentioned above – I didn’t want to allow too much more oxygen to it. So the decant was more of an experiment. I poured it into a decanter, and then small amounts into our glasses. I tasted right away and then vigorously swirled for about 20 seconds to see if the wine would open up at all. It did slightly, so we decided to let it decant for about 20 minutes and it was perfect. For well stored bottled I would recommend 30 at least.
Jordan Winery: Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
This wine is extra special because 2008 was a terrible vintage in terms of quantity of grapes. There was a spring frost that took most of the vintage and then fires causing smoke taint for many growers. Jordan had a meager fraction of what they would normally produce (already a tactfully limited amount of grapes per planted acre compared to “bargain” wineries). Despite that, the grapes they carefully decided to use ended up yielding a wine with finesse and grace.
Appearance: This wine is deep ruby with slight bricking around the rim.
Nose: This wine has medium intensity with notes of ripe black fruit such as currants, cherries, plums, and blackberry. There are also notes of red fruits such as ripe strawberry. Vanilla and spice are also noticed on the mid-palate – showing some new oak well integrated into this wine. In addition, there are notes of earth, leather, and mushroom.
Palate: This wine has a medium plus intensity with ripe blackberry and strawberry notes. The vanilla and baking spice also comes through nicely. The palate finishes with a hint of fresh mushroom, leather, and coffee. This wine has high alcohol, high tannin (but very velvety and smooth), medium plus acidity, full body, and a medium finish.
Assessment of Quality: This is an outstanding wine. Suitable to drink now, but not capable of further aging.
Food Pairing Suggestions: The savory mushroom and leather notes of this wine would go well with mushroom risotto or a buttery truffle pasta. This wine would also be excellent with a milder red meat, like filet mignon with a light pepper crust, or a roasted chicken dish with wild rice and cranberries.
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