October 15, 2010 | by Brent Young

We’ve nearly completed a comprehensive soil mapping study of every Jordan estate vineyard block. What does that mean? We’re rediscovering our dirt to continue elevating grape quality.

When I started working at Jordan in 2008, I asked Winemaker Rob Davis how I could work in the vineyards to help him achieve his winemaking goals. He explained how he would like to see our vineyards have more uniform quality and consistency of fruit. Rob makes winemaking decisions by taste–and for decades, he’d walk down a vineyard row and find a handful of vines with clusters that didn’t have the flavor profile he desired–the flavors he could taste in grapes sometimes a foot away. I wanted to provide him a window to the soil that would help us understand how our estate grapes in a single block could taste so dramatically different.

He was very open to suggestions and the latest technology available, so we embarked on soil mapping in 2009. Essentially, we are reclassifying our vineyard blocks by soil type, texture and water-holding capacity. We enlisted a soil scientist, Bryan Rahn of Coastal Viticultural Consultants, to assist us in this ever-evolving discovery of our soil diversity: six hillside and three valley floor soil profiles can be found on the estate. Soil pits have been dug and resistivity analyses completed. It’s been eye opening to see that a single vineyard block we farmed a certain way 10 years ago actually could be farmed as three individual blocks. It’s been equally exciting to use the study findings to become better precision farmers and assist the winemaking team with their goals. Vineyard rows are now micro-farmed according to differences in soil type and texture. Irrigation, cover crops, leaf thinning and other farming practices change within a single acre and even within a single row. The 30 vineyard blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot on the estate will be further divided into roughly 90 blocks before the end of the year.

This vine-by-vine farming approach allows us to fully optimize the multicolored quilt of soils on which our grapevines are planted. These precision farming practices help the vines adapt so that uniformity of flavors occur in the grapes even though their soils are so different. Our fruit must deliver consistent bright fruit, silky tannins and a long, lingering memory that John and Rob desire in Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon. With soil mapping and precision farming, we can taste the results with every new vintage.

Watch our related video on farming from an airplane.

Also, the chart used in the video to determine soil type is a Munsell chart.