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J Vineyards & Winery Certified Sustainable by CSWA

J Vineyards & Winery has announced it has been certified sustainable in accordance with the California Sustainable Winegrowers Alliance (CSWA) program. That program, established in 2010, features 227 “best practices” with third-party verification. There are now 51 wineries and/or vineyards certified sustainable by CSWA. Included among them are wineries of all sizes, from the small, Santa Cruz Mountains producer Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards to family-owned Honig Vineyards & Winery of Napa Valley to mega-big E & J Gallo.

TearJ has been working toward certification since the inception of the program. "This has been my vision for J since its founding 25 years ago." said Judy Jordan, J Founder and President. "The business practices we have implemented over the past three years are keys to a healthier future."

"For the past two years, we've been diligently working on aligning J with CSWA's commitment to wine quality," said John Erbe, J Vineyards & Winery Viticulturalist. "Our estate vineyards have been planted utilizing the latest techniques in water conservation, wildlife habitat corridors, and soil erosion reduction."

According to J, their sustainability measures include:

  • Using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and cover-crop programs throughout the winery's ten estate vineyards to protect riparian habitats. IPM methods are also used to build soil tilth while attracting beneficial insects.
  • Replacing all inefficient incandescent lights throughout the winery with new, high-intensity, lower energy lighting.
  • Recycling all paper, corks, and glass used throughout the winery.
  • Reducing water used throughout the winegrowing and winemaking process.
  • The computerization of refrigeration compressors to reduce energy consumption, coupled with energy-efficient cooling towers.
  • Replacing existing water boilers with higher-efficiency heaters that work in stages.
  • Reducing the weight of sparkling and varietal wine bottles.
  • Low VOC paints throughout the winery.

Judy Jordan established J Vineyards and Winery in 1986 to make sparkling wine from Russian River Valley fruit. The first vintage, released in 1991, was the 1987 J Vintage Brut. In 1997 she purchased the winery facilities, south of Healdsburg, and 118 acres of vineyards from Piper Sonoma. J's winery and tasting room remain in that location. Prior to creating her wine business, Jordan had earned a geology degree from Stanford and worked briefly in that field. The daughter of Tom Jordan (founder of Jordan Vineyards in Alexander Valley), she had also grown up around and worked in the wine business. Today, J Vineyards and Winery holds 250 acres of vineyards and makes high-quality sparkling wines and still wines from grapes associated with Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Gris. {Pinot Gris used to be an accepted component of Champagne.]

The J Vineyards & Winery Visitor Center and Bubble Room is located at 11447 Old Redwood Highway, just south of Healdsburg.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. Photo courtesy of J Vineyards and Winery. All rights reserved.

Drink with Legends, Eat Like a President

President's Day is an odd holiday. Many Americans get the day off work, but there aren't any traditional celebrations or fireworks displays. It falls too soon after Thanksgiving and "The Holidays" for another big family reunion. Mid-February is too cold for barbecues or a day at the beach. There's no scrum at the Hallmark store with people trying to find the perfect card for their favorite... president. President's Day is officially Washington's Birthday, but Abe Lincoln's birthday is just over a week earlier, so George got merged. If it weren't for those desperate car dealership owners dressing up like Washington "to attract people," our founding father wouldn't get any love at all.

All of that being the case, you probably don't have big plans for February 21, 2011, President's Day. But I do. And you can join me as I hobnob with a Who's Who of wine and food. We'll drink great wine, taste foods that have been served at State Dinners and  dishes prepared by celebrity chefs. And we will honor the careers of five people who've had a huge impact not only on California wine, but the global wine business. Doesn't that sound a lot better than a night at home with a glass of whatever's still open in the fridge from Saturday night? Yes, I know that House and The Chicago Code are on. DVR.

The gala event takes place in St. Helena at the Greystone Campus of the Culinary Institute of America (aka CIA). If you've not been there before, it's worth the trip just to check out their facilities.

The occasion is the induction of five new members to the Vintners Hall of Fame. The new inductees are: Joel Peterson (Ravenswood), Dick Graff (Chalone), August Sebastiani (Sebastiani), Bob Trinchero (Sutter Home and Trinchero wineries) and Vernon Singleton (U.C. Davis). For more information about the inductees, see this article.

The featured guest of honor is former White House Chef and CIA graduate Walter Scheib.

Luminaries who have promised to attend include winemakers, vineyard owners, winery proprietors, writers, political leaders and scholars. Here's a partial list: John Aguirre, Gerald Asher, Andy Beckstoffer, Boots Brounstein, Darrell Corti, Randall Grahm, Violet Grigich, Hal Hufsmith, Agustin Huneeus, David Kent, Darioush Khaledi, Robin Lail, Dick Maher, Mike Martini, Carole Meredith, Margrit Mondavi, Gavin Newsome, Joel Peterson, Don Sebastiani, Don Sebastiani Jr., Vernon Singleton, Garen Staglin, Bob Steinhauer, Jack Stuart, Dorothy Tchelistcheff, Mike Thompson, Bob Trinchero, Andrew Waterhouse, Warren Winiarski, and Phil Woodward. There are no velvet ropes at this event. Say "hello," shake their hand, "buy" them a drink.

Festivities start at 4:00 p.m. PST. They include a celebratory reception, featuring wines served at White House dinners, the Vintners Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and a celebrity chef walk-around dinner in the CIA at Greystone’s teaching kitchens.

Proceeds provide scholarships for the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at the CIA at Greystone.

Tickets for the program are $175 ($100 tax-deductible) and may be purchased by visiting For more information on the 2011 Vintners Hall of Fame Induction celebration, please contact Cate Conniff-Dobrich, 707-967-2303 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

For more information on the Vintners Hall of Fame and to view the list of former inductees with their photos and biographies, please visit

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Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check outour comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. Some text from Balzac Communications, used with permission. All rights reserved

Free: Hospice du Rhone 2010 iPhone App Available

I'm really looking forward to Hospice du Rhone this year. it's coming up soon, April 29 - May 1, in Paso Robles. To help people like me, and you, get up to speed on everything that will go on there, the wineries involved, etc., the HdR organization has put out an iPhone app. This is the first event based iPhone app i've seen.

I downloaded it as soon as it hit the Apple App Store on Monday. There's a lot of cool stuff in there that could well be of use to you regardless of whether or not you go to the event. There's winery and varietal information, Rhone wine quizzes and more. And the price is right. Free!

Sonoma William posted an in-depth HdR 2010 iPhone app review at Simple Hedonisms if you want to learn more.

The Paso Robles AVA - Too Big to File

Tightly defined AVAs help both consumers and experts understand what to expect when opening a bottle of wine. You can categorize Carneros as moderately-cool climate and file the Mokelumne River AVA of Lodi under rich, ripe Zinfandel. But the Paso Robles AVA is too big to file. It’s the largest appellation in California that doesn’t itself contain any smaller AVAs. At roughly 614,000 square acres, it’s more than half the size of Rhode Island.

Being a huge AVA doesn’t necessarily have an impact on wine quality, nor does it make individual wines less distinctive. But the size makes it harder for consumers to know what they are going to get when they buy a bottle from that AVA. This is especially true with Paso Robles because there are substantial differences in climate, soil, terrain, farming practices and vineyard size between its various districts.

Vineyard altitudes go from from 700 feet to 2,000. Average annual rainfall ranges from eight inches to 45. (25 inches is the lower limit for viable “dry farming.”) Proximity to the Pacific Ocean and it’s cooling influences runs from less than 10 miles to almost 40. There are 45 different soils series in the AVA. There deep soils and thin, flat vineyards with mechanized viticulture and steep slopes hand-tended by the owners themselves.


Yesterday I wrote about the Mount Veeder AVA of Napa Valley. Its wide array of red varietal wines are united and identifiable by a similar tannic structure. The present Paso Robles AVA works for differentiating its wines from those of many others, such as Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Lodi, etc. However, in my view, it is too big for there to be a clear common thread between its wines, even for a single variety. That means that, unless the consumer knows the particular winery well, she won’t really know what to expect when opening a bottle of Paso Robles AVA wine.

The gamut of Paso Robles wines was brought home to me once again by yesterday’s Paso Robles Wine Country Grand Tasting Tour in San Francisco. 29 producers were on hand, each pouring at least four wines. There were high-volume wineries and low, critics' darlings and mass consumer favorites. Most every part of the AVA was represented in some fashion.

The wines were all well-made and, when made as a varietal, representative of their grape given the style and vineyard locations. But there was no umbrella under which you could put most of the red wines or most of the white, nothing that would describe their joint character in a way that is both consistent and uniquely identifiable. Ripe fruit and soft tannins would apply to the majority of reds but would also describe red wines from much of California.

Looking deeper though, diving into sub-regions, it was easy to associate differences consistent with geography. The Syrah-based wines of L’Aventure, Alta Colina and Eberle come from very different areas, three points on a large triangle. The wines are all quite good and also distinct from each other. But there were clear similarities in Cabernet-based wines from Justin and Halter Ranch, which are located near each other.

There’s also an epic difference between very high-volume productions, largely made possible by warm, irrigated and expansive vineyards on the east side, and the low-production wines of small, dry-farmed vineyards in the Templeton Gap. The differences aren’t based on geography alone. Intended price point and audience influence viticultural and winemaking decisions. However, the sub-region does limit the range of viable price points. Some areas can’t profitably produce an $8 red. Others are incapable of producing a Syrah that can fetch $85.

The TTB has been reviewing a petition for subdivision of the Paso Robles AVA since 2007. It would create 11 distinct and logical sub-AVAs. Three years older than the next-oldest petition still pending, adoption may finally be near. Steve Lohr of J. Lohr winery has been one of the leaders in the fight for this proposal. Yesterday he said he expects approval will come late this year.

Will so many AVAs be confusing? I don’t think so. A conjunctive labeling rule will require the overall Paso Robles AVA be listed on all wine labels along with whichever sub-AVA that may apply. Napa Valley has such a rule. It means casual consumers will be no worse off than before. For enthusiasts, it will be much easier to “know” 11 AVAs than the defining characteristics of wines from 185+ different Paso wineries, not to mention producers based elsewhere that buy Paso fruit.

My focus yesterday was on examining differences and similarities between the various wines and on talking to producers, not on scoring or detailed notes. Nor did I taste every wine. Therefore, I’m not offering any tasting notes here. However, the following wines were highlights and I highly recommend them.

2011 Adelaida Cellars Chardonnay HMR Estate Vineyard Paso Robles AVA, $40

2010 Alta Colina GSM Paso Robles AVA, $38

2010 Alta Colina Syrah Toasted Slope Paso Robles AVA, $38

2011 Eberle Winery Viognier, Mill Road Vineyard Paso Robles AVA, $23

2009 Eberle Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Paso Robles AVA, $34

2010 J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon Hilltop Vineyard Paso Robles AVA, $35

2009 J. Lohr Cuvée POM Paso Robles AVA (Merlot-centric blend), $50

2010 Justin Justification Paso Robles AVA, $45

2010 Justin Isoceles Paso Robles AVA, $62

2010 L’Aventure Optimus Paso Robles AVA (Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot), $45

2010 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc Paso Robles AVA, $40

2010 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Paso Robles AVA, $55

2008 Vina Robles Syrée Paso Robles AVA (Syrah, Petite Sirah), $39


Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

U.S. Wine Consumption Increases for 17th Consecutive Year

According to the 2011 Wine Handbook, U.S. wine consumption continues to increase. Total consumption in 2010 was 303.1 million 9-liter (112 bottle) cases, up 2.1% over 2009. Total wine spending was $26.9 billion dollars in 2010. Domestic wineries benefitted disproportionately with a 3% increase. While purchases of imported wine dropped 0.9%, purchases of Australian wines here dropped precipitously, 12.5%.

The publicly released analysis related to this particular publication, created by the Beverage Information Group, isn’t very insightful. They say that “As the US economy slowly recovers, the wine industry is regaining its momentum to mark the 17th consecutive year of case gains.  This positive direction is directly attributed to the improving economy and the resulting increase in consumer confidence.” But, if growth in wine sales has continued for 17 consecutive years, then that trend cannot be attributed to improvements in the economy relative to the crisis of 2008-2009. And if their reference was solely to the increase in momentum, rather than the overall increase, then there must have been more significant thoughts they could have shared. While a shift from near flat to 2% growth is massive on a year-on-year percentage increase basis, the actual dollar and unit growth was not hugely significant.

If you have interest in the full report, which does include detailed information about sales, consumer preferences, ad spending and regional breakdowns, the 2011 Wine Handbook is available for $815 from Beverage Information Group.

Disclaimer: Neither I nor NorCalWine are compensated in any way for sales of the 2011 Wine Handbook.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.