November 4, 2010 | by Rob Davis

It’s easy to generalize a vintage as classic or mediocre. Or as winemakers like to say, “challenging.” My definition of the 2010 vintage? Well, it was the best of times and the worst of times.

Defined by intense flavors, the range of fruit quality varied tremendously from appellation, block, varietal and time of harvest. Specific sites delivered unbelievable character whereas others–separated by less than a mile–are actually still hanging out there today, struggling for a modicum of mature flavor. The overall quality of 2010 cannot be painted in the broad strokes often employed by the media. The window of opportunity for greatness in 2010 might have been small, but we found it.

In my 35 years as winemaker at Jordan, I’ve never seen fruit quality this good. The flavors in our Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot are complex and intense, offering tannin content that is so beautifully balanced. The fruit we harvested from Alexander Valley may be the best grapes I have seen in my career. The late spring and generally cool summer resulted in much of the crop coming in at lower than usual sugar content; this year, it is Mother Nature rather than the winemaker who will fashion the wines to be lower in alcohol. It’s refreshing to see the pendulum swinging back our way, whether at the hand of the winemaker or Mother Nature.

A brief recap of harvest dates:

My 35th harvest began September 17, when we picked one lot of Russian River Valley Chardonnay grapes. Then we waited (impatiently) until September 29, when Russian River Valley’s harvest kicked into high gear after a weekend heat spike. Grapes arrived at the winery with our optimal sugar levels of 23.5-24.5 Brix. Our team worked diligently on the sorting table to remove any berries affected by the recent heat. I always purchase more grapes than we need to ensure only the top lots are bottled as Jordan Chardonnay, so we finished the year with our average tons harvested despite roughly 20 percent of grapes lost due to sunburn. The final selected grapes had intense fruit flavors and bright acids due to the long, cool growing season.

Harvest of our red grapes commenced October 4 with Jordan estate Merlot.  Again, grapes arrived with complex, fully developed tannins and fruit flavors at our optimal sugar levels of 23.5-24.5 Brix, which is ideal for our balanced house style. Estate Petit Verdot followed on October 11-12, before the Cabernet Sauvignon lots began arriving from our favorite growers in Alexander Valley.  Our final lot of Cabernet Sauvignon destined for Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon arrived at the crushpad just before the rain began to fall October 22. Our continued focus on sourcing fruit in ideal locations for Cabernet proved extremely valuable this year, as fruit maturation was reached well ahead of other vineyard locations.  Across the spectrum, fruit and tannin maturity was ideal for our style. Having all the fruit crushed and fermenting in our tanks before the big rain storm was very comforting. It was a race against the clock that pretty much coincided with the San Francisco Giants winning the National League Championship Series. As a life-long Giants’ fan, I couldn’t be happier with the outcome of 2010 on so many levels. What can I say?  2010 proved to be a “World” class year.  In the words of Mike Krukow, “epic joy.”