June 3, 2024 | by Maggie Kruse

In a year rife with unprecedented challenges—from wildfires to smoke drift to COVID-19 safety guidelines—2020 was one of the most difficult vintages West Coast wineries have ever experienced. Yet against all odds, Sonoma winemakers were able to produce some great cabernet sauvignon wines in 2020.

Here are four factors that allowed Jordan to craft beautiful cabernet sauvignon in a vintage that pushed the team to its limits.

veraison on merlot grape cluster in vineyard. mix of green and purple berries on cluster.

Most of the Growing Season Progressed Beautifully

The vineyards awoke from their winter slumber 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. A warm summer brought only two significant heat spikes—including one over Labor Day—and the vines looked healthy and balanced, with little-to-no sunburn. Apart from the challenges presented by compliance with pandemic precautions, most of the 2020 growing season ran smoothly.

aerial of estate vineyards with trees, mountains and fog in the distance

Jordan’s Cabernet Vineyards Were Far from the Wallbridge 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 Jordan’s Alexander Valley vineyards that smoke drift was not a major issue. In addition, the thicker skins on cabernet sauvignon grapes make it harder for smoke to penetrate.

bin of grapes on ground while workers harvest grapes from vineyard

Grapes Were Picked Before Glass Smoke Could Reach Alexander Valley

When the Glass Fire broke out in neighboring Napa Valley during the peak of harvest, sending smoke straight toward Alexander Valley, the Jordan crew took quick action to bring in all of the remaining cabernet sauvignon in record time. To protect it until enough tank space could be freed up for pressing, they covered the grape gondolas with dry ice and stored them overnight in the winery’s vineyard shop—with the doors tightly shut to keep out any smoke.


A grey bucket of purple grapes being carried on a worker's head. He's wearing black gloves and has a red grape hook in one hand.

Everyone Pulled 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 learned to pump the must and crushed grapes into presses or tanks at harvest, and 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.