Located at the northern end of Sonoma County, Alexander Valley is a long, narrow winegrowing region defined by the Russian River winding up its west side and Mayacamas Mountains lining its eastern borders. Veteran vintners group the region's vineyard terrain into four categories: valley floor, first bench, second bench and hillside. While Alexander Valley's warm, inland locale is most suitable to Bordeaux grapes, its gentle benchland slopes, or "cotes" as they're called in France, are visually more reminiscent of Burgundy. Quality Cabernet Sauvignon grapes thrive from the benchlands to the rolling hillsides and mountain ridges, thanks to the valley's inland locale and its diverse array of soils rich in calcium, gravel, sand and clay.
Grand cru classé wines of Bordeaux were built around a rigorous classification system, and we believe new-world winemaking that honors our old-world peers should be no different. Sonoma County may be nascent in its quest to identify the premier vineyard slopes of our regions, but Jordan is committed to leading this effort in earnest, honoring our peers in Bordeaux.
Valley Floor Vineyards
Similar to France, the more common, "village" level wines are grown in the lower elevation "valley floor" areas of Alexander Valley. Valley floor vineyards are situated on low-lying parcels south of Geyserville and west of the river, the latter of which has sculpted the soils into sandy, alluvial loams with higher levels of clay and excessive nutrients. These soil types promote high vigor, which is undesirable for crafting cru-quality wines. The first estate vineyards of Jordan were planted in these areas before experience, technology and tenacity steered us to the benchlands and hillsides.
From the river banks, Alexander Valley's landscape gradually rises east into subtle benchland slopes, where soil profiles change to a dark, gravelly, sandy loam, balanced in nutrients and organic matter—the result of mountain soils gradually eroding downhill over millennia to deposit layers of rich soils in the benchlands. These soils, primarily Yolo and Cortina, are well-drained due to their sloping elevation and minimal amount of clay; they also possess the ideal calcium-magnesium ratio required for high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon. Cortina's added gravel texture helps create wines with rich tannins and purity of varietal character. The valley's first bench snakes along the west side of Highway 128 with its gentle slopes barely noticeable as it rolls into the second bench. These two benchlands create long, lingering swaths of vineyard slopes with soil expressions similar to Saint-Julien in Bordeaux: soils that elicit soft tannins and intense aroma in Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Our winemaker considers 80% of the vineyard parcels in the valley's benchlands to be of premier-cru quality, the majority of which are clustered in the middle of the valley at the base of the mountains—the heart of Jordan's Cabernet Sauvignon program. But the quality comes not from the slope of the vineyard, but directly from the soil's depth and composition.
The dramatic eastern hillsides abutting the Mayacamas Mountain Range possess an exquisite profile of soil that drains extremely well and shares a favorable composition that optimizes mature flavors for Cabernet Sauvignon. In these areas, Bordeaux variety grapes achieve a higher quality of tannin and intense blackberry fruit. Varying in height from 300 to 800 feet above sea level, these vineyards receive slightly more sunshine because the fog line burns off quicker at higher elevations, but their stressed soil conditions on the slopes extends the maturation a week to two weeks longer than the benchlands and valley floor.
With these diverse terroirs, the winemaking team can assemble a quilt work of fruit dimensions—a mosaic of mature tannins that supply intense blackberry aroma and layers of tannin, giving broad flavors to the wine's palate and contributing to a long finish. Read more