Before we get to the wine of the week, let’s talk about the word of the week. Often cheerfully misused to describe a welcome abundance of wonderful things, “plethora” is better used to mean a not necessarily useful overabundance. Let’s use “plethora” in a sentence: “In wine aisles today, shoppers are faced with a plethora of choices in Chardonnay, much of it pretty bland stuff.”
But bland may be best for summer Chardonnay—it’s going to be served too cold anyway, straight from the ice tub it shares with the beer, right? In spite of it all, I found one wine in this week’s Chardonnay lineup that got my attention. I’ll call it wine of the week: Jordan 2014 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($32).
Previously in “Swirl,” I’ve found Jordan Chardonnay to be frankly smoky, oaky, but sizzling with lemon-like acidity—and a pretty good pairing with meatless Thanksgiving fare and other food. The 2014 does not lack for lumber or lemon, and just hints at grilled bread, butter and flaky pastry under only slightly toasty, woody notes. But the lemon here is Meyer, not Eureka, a small distinction that grows larger on the long, tangy and rich finish.
Many a Chardonnay that’s only seen 30 percent malolactic fermentation—the bacterial process that creates rich, buttery flavor in Chardonnay—retains a fresh, apple juice flavor. Appealing as that may sound, it’s often flat and uninspiring to my tastes. Not so with this edition of Jordan Chardonnay. The bit of baked apple flavor it does have is awash in bright Meyer lemon all the way down the long but palate-awakening finish.
The Jordan style is no accident, of course, as I learned in a conversation last year with winemaker Rob Davis. Fresh out of winemaking school at UC Davis when he was hired by the Jordans in 1976, Davis was taken under wing by legendary wine consultant André Tchelistcheff. Traveling through France every year with Tchelistcheff, or carrying what he calls the “André card” of introduction, Davis met with winemakers and developed a palate for European wines.
When he tasted his first white Burgundy (which is almost always made from 100 percent Chardonnay), Davis said to himself, “Holy smokes, where’s the acid coming from in this?” While California Chardonnay had attracted attention by the late 1970s, the style was fat and oaky, not lean and acidic. “And the question was,” says Davis, “which one did I like better? As successful as the Chardonnays were—and they were doing very well—my palate was more in Burgundy.”