There’s no way to sugarcoat it: 2020 was one of the most challenging vintages we’ve ever experienced. Between the wildfires, smoke and COVID-19 safety guidelines, stress levels were at an all-time high for winemakers throughout the West Coast. Yet despite the season’s difficulties, Sonoma winemakers produced great 2020 chardonnay—expressive in its youth, with freshness and acidity. Here are four factors that allowed Jordan to craft beautiful chardonnay in a vintage that put the team to the test.
2020 Russian River Valley Chardonnay Vintage
The Growing Season Progressed Beautifully
The vineyards awoke from winter dormancy in mid-to-late March, and bud break happened right on time. The vines enjoyed a warm, sunny spring, with no real threat of frost. While some light rainfall interrupted flowering, reducing the chardonnay crop, fruit set was even. A warm summer brought only two significant heat spikes, and the vines looked healthy and balanced, with little-to-no sunburn. Apart from the challenges presented by COVID-19 precautions, most of the 2020 growing season ran smoothly.
Jordan’s Chardonnay Vineyards were Far from Smoke and Fire
When thousands of lightning strikes ignited wildfires across California on August 17, the Walbridge Fire—which burned in a remote, forested area west of Healdsburg—was far enough away from our Russian River Valley grower vineyards that smoke drift was not a significant issue. The fire also burned slowly, lacking the winds it needed to quickly spread flames and smoke.
Everyone Pulled Together to Help
When pandemic travel restrictions canceled harvest intern programs, cutting off an essential seasonal workforce at the winery, Jordan’s entire team stepped up to help. Sales department employees quickly pivoted to help plant grapevines on the estate during the summer, then learned to pump the must or crushed grapes into presses or tanks at harvest. Maintenance employees learned to operate the hopper while the winemaking team received grapes. Jordan’s staff worked together as a small team, while following protocols to keep everyone safe from COVID-19.
Winemakers Tested (and Tested Again) to Ensure Clean Fruit
As soon as fire evacuation orders were lifted for Russian River Valley, allowing access to Jordan’s grower vineyards, the winemaking team began testing for smoke impacts. Trusting their expert palates to tell them what they needed to know, they sampled grapes in each block and found that the freshness and acidity of the juice were intact. Winemakers also performed “micro-ferments” in five-gallon buckets for each block, and not a trace of smoke was found.