October 2, 2016 | by Lisa Mattson
The finest restaurants in the world welcome guests with a glass of Champagne, and California’s Jordan Vineyard & Winery is embracing this tradition for all of its culinary events with the Jordan Cuvée by Champagne AR Lenoble. Previewing this month at Jordan’s “Sunken Treasure” Halloween fête, this special bottling of AR Lenoble non-vintage brut celebrates the shared business values and common winemaking philosophies of both families. The Jordan Cuvée by AR Lenoble will be served at Jordan’s dinner parties, exclusive events, such as Christmas at Jordan, and Jordan Estate Rewards private meals beginning this fall and will be available for purchase direct from the winery in May 2017 as part of Spring at Jordan.[/dropcap]
Inspired by the elegant wines and gracious hospitality of France, Jordan has a history with sparkling wine dating back to 1986. During a Christmas vacation in Hawaii that year, winery founder Tom Jordan and his daughter, Judy, created the J by Jordan sparkling wine as a 50/50 partnership. Until 1993, J sparkling was produced at Jordan Winery in Alexander Valley, a relationship that exposed Jordan winemaker Rob Davis to Chardonnay’s much greater Burgundian likeness when grown in the Russian River Valley appellation. After moving J by Jordan sparkling to a permanent facility in Russian River Valley, Judy took over full ownership and grew J Vineyards & Winery into a successful producer of not only sparkling but also still wines. Jordan and J operated independently for almost two decades, but Jordan continued to serve J sparkling at winery receptions and winemaker dinners until a few years ago. Judy sold J Vineyards & Winery to E&J Gallo in 2015.
“Sparkling wine is a family tradition we just couldn’t let go of,” said John Jordan, second-generation vintner and proprietor of Jordan Vineyard & Winery, who took the reins from his father in 2005 at age 33. “Since the debut of Jordan’s inaugural 1976 vintage, Jordan has served fine red Bordeaux and white Burgundy during dinners and tastings for trade and press guests hosted at the winery. The best sparkling wines in the world come from Champagne. It makes more sense for us to collaborate with a French partner who shares our values rather than to get back into the Sonoma sparkling wine business.”
One of the very rare producers in Champagne that has been consistently family owned throughout its entire history, AR Lenoble was established in 1920 by Armand-Raphael Graser, who had moved from Alsace to the village of Damery in Champagne during World War I. Today, AR Lenoble is owned and operated by siblings Anne and Antoine Malassagne, the great grandchildren of Graser. The fourth-generation vintners took the reins from their father in the mid-1990s: Anne in 1993 at 28 years old, and her younger brother Antoine three years later in 1996. The family owns 18 hectares in some of the best parts of Champagne, including 10 hectares in the grand cru village of Chouilly on the Côte des Blancs and six hectares in the premier cru village of Bisseuil between Mareuil-sur-Ay and Tours-sur-Marne.
Jordan Cuvée by AR Lenoble is a non-vintage brut is produced in AR Lenoble’s cellars by Antoine Malassagne using grapes from his family’s vineyards and long-term growers. The blend is 30% grand cru chardonnay from Chouilly, 35% premier cru pinot noir from Bisseuil and 35% pinot meunier from Damery. The Jordan Cuvée is a special selection of the AR Lenoble Brut Intense that was packaged exclusively for Jordan. Twenty-five percent of the blend is reserve wines, and the base wine is from vintage 2012. This wine spent four years aging on the lees before it was released and has a dosage of 5g/l. AR Lenoble Jordan Cuvée Brut NV will retail for $49 and will only be sold direct from the winery. Consumers interested in learning about the inaugural release are encouraged to sign up for Jordan’s monthly e-newsletter.
“We believe small, independent businesses like ours are stronger if we stick together in an increasingly globalized world,” said Antoine Malassagne, winemaker and co-proprietor of AR Lenoble. “An ocean might separate us, but both Jordan and AR Lenoble are united by our commitment to remaining independent and focused on crafting wines of elegance without compromise. Neither one of us answers to anybody but ourselves, which is important in today’s wine business, whether you’re creating brilliant expressions of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in Sonoma County like John Jordan or making wines of character from Champagne like Anne and me.”
The AR Lenoble-Jordan partnership started with an introduction by a mutual friend. During a vacation in the winter of 2016, Davis visited his long-time friend, Tim Johnston, the founder of Juveniles Wine Bar in Paris, and told him about Jordan’s dream of finding a family in Champagne with which to collaborate on a special cuvée. Johnston, who interned at Jordan in 1980, said he knew just the person to call. Davis took a train to Champagne the next day and immediately felt a bond with the Malassagnes, learning of common values and philosophies, from independent ownership and focus on intensity of fruit and balance in the wines to extended bottle aging, sustainability and adaptive farming practices. This is the first time AR Lenoble has ever produced a bottling for another company during its nearly 100 years in the wine business.
“When Antoine and I met and started talking about our winemaking philosophies, we found so many more similarities than differences,” said Rob Davis, winemaker at Jordan since 1976. “We are trying to achieve the same thing: a wine that expresses a great purity and intensity of fruit, a liveliness and a freshness; a wine that lets the vineyard speak for itself.”
Jordan Halloween is an annual, by-invitation-only event hosted for 300 members of the wine trade, including sommeliers, restaurateurs, retailers, distributors and media. This year’s “Sunken Treasure” theme celebrates the search for a fictitious French buccaneer’s ship that sank on its way to America in the early 1700s, filled with bottles of prized Champagne.