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The finest restaurants in the world welcome guests with a glass of Champagne, and Jordan Winery has fully embraced this tradition with the debut of the Jordan Cuvée by Champagne AR Lenoble in France.
Jordan has a history with sparkling wine dating back to the 1980s, and this new project celebrates the friendship between two family businesses separated by oceans but united in our commitment to independent ownership, wines of balance and quality without compromise.
The collaboration was born from the discovery of our shared business values and common winemaking philosophies at a time when Jordan’s connection to California sparkling wine came to a sudden end.
From the moment Jordan opened its doors in the late 1970s, dinner guests were always greeted with a glass of Champagne, keeping with the winery’s ethos as an homage to the elegant wines and gracious hospitality of France.
By the late 1980s, winery founder Tom Jordan and his daughter Judy embarked on a quest to make their own California sparkling wine, one that honored France’s historic wine. In 1987, they sent Winemaker Rob Davis to Champagne with his mentor, André Tchelistcheff, to learn the many differences in production between still and sparkling wine. Upon his return, he enlisted the skills of Claude Thibaut, who was raised in a Champagne winemaking family, to focus exclusively on making “J by Jordan” sparkling. They sought out Russian River Valley Chardonnay vineyards near the river planted to the gravelly, alluvial soils that were similar to that of Champagne, and produced the first vintage of J in 1987. Committed to authenticity, the Jordans brought the first French Coquard press to California in 1988, a model favored by the top traditionalist winemakers in Champagne, and installed it alongside the stainless steel tanks at Jordan. And, as with any project the Jordans undertake, no detail was spared in their efforts to ensure both the highest quality wine and an authentic tribute to Champagne.
Until 1993, J sparkling was produced at Jordan Winery in Alexander Valley, a relationship that exposed our winemaker to Chardonnay’s much greater Burgundian likeness when grown in the Russian River Valley. After seven years as roommates, it was clear that J by Jordan needed its own home for winemaking. Judy acquired a sparkling winemaking facility, purchased vineyards and took over full ownership. The “by Jordan” on J’s label was soon removed, as Judy grew J Vineyards & Winery into a successful producer of not only sparkling but also still wines in its own right. Jordan and J operated independently for almost two decades, but Jordan continued to serve J sparkling at winery receptions and winemaker dinners until Judy sold J Vineyards & Winery in 2015.
"Sparkling wine is a tradition we just couldn't let go," John Jordan says. Because the inspiration for Jordan wines has always been France, we have chosen to collaborate with one of the best family-grower Champagne houses in France who shares our values rather than return to sparkling winemaking. Here in Sonoma County, California, we remain committed to a meticulous focus on crafting a singular Cabernet Sauvignon and a singular Chardonnay.
One of the very rare producers in Champagne that has been consistently family owned throughout its entire history, the house of AR Lenoble was established in 1920 by Armand-Raphael Graser, who had moved from Alsace to Champagne during World War I.
Today, AR Lenoble is owned and operated by Anne and Antoine Malassagne, the great grandchildren of Monsieur Graser. The fourth generation to lead the house, the siblings took the reins from their father in the mid-1990s—Anne in 1993 at just 28 years old and her younger brother Antoine in 1996. Anne oversees the sales and marketing, while Antoine manages all viticulture and winemaking.
Like Jordan, AR Lenoble is recognized for its relentless focus on winemaking quality—limiting yields in the vineyards, practicing sustainable farming, blending more reserve wine in its non-vintage bottlings, using a smaller dosage and aging Champagne longer in it cellars. In the vineyards, yields are significantly lower than the industry average due to AR Lenoble’s focus on vine balance and adherence to certified sustainable farming practices. At the winery, AR Lenoble exclusively uses the first-press juice (from a Coquard press) to craft its wines, never the second pressing, known as taille. Antoine also chooses to blend more reserve wine into his non-vintage brut bottlings rather than produce more vintage Champagne in the best years, thus elevating quality of his flagship wines. While the legal minimum for aging in Champagne is 15 months, AR Lenoble never releases its wines until at least three years of aging on the lees in the cellars followed by three additional months of post-disgorgement aging. All of these steps help preserve the intense fruit character and complexity found in AR Lenoble Champagnes.
The Malassagne family owns 18 hectares of vineyards in some of the best regions of Champagne, including 10 hectares of Chardonnay in the grand cru village of Chouilly on the Côte des Blancs, six hectares of Pinot Noir in the premier cru village of Bisseuil between Mareuil-sur-Ay and Tours-sur-Marne and two hectares of Pinot Meunier in Damery. The House of AR Lenoble, where the winery, offices and historic, underground chalk cellars are located, is situated in the quaint village of Damery, minutes from Epernay. AR Lenoble is open by appointment only.
In the increasingly corporate world of wine, partnerships of this kind are unheard of. There are no financial investments or legal contracts—just two small businesses aligning as independents, helping each other in our respective areas of expertise.
The AR Lenoble-Jordan partnership started with an introduction by a mutual friend. During a vacation to Paris in 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 and grabbed his phone. 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.
“When Antoine and I met and started talking about our winemaking philosophies, we found so many more similarities than differences,” says 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.”
The Jordan Cuvée by Champagne AR Lenoble will be served at Jordan culinary events, the Champagne & Caviar Private Tasting, the seasonal Holiday Tour & Tasting and at select regional events. This is the first Champagne that AR Lenoble has ever produced for another company during its nearly 100 years in business.
AR Lenoble plans to serve Jordan wines to its guests in the future as well.