Just in time for the holidays, J Wines are coming to Canada. Back in my Sonoma County days, J Brut was my favorite California sparkling and the J tasting room was just 10 minutes away. I spent a lot of time there.
So when their PR Director, George Rose, invited me to a post-Sonoma in the City tasting of J wines at Coast Restaurant in downtown Vancouver, I couldn’t wait to find out what J’s newish winemaker George Burgess has been producing since he took over.
The local wine media was there when we arrived, gathered in a cozy upstairs room where George poured the J Cuvee 20 Brut, J Brut Rosé, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and the Russian River Pinot Noir.
The Brut is not the same vintage sparkling I used to know, Rose explained, but a non-vintage cuvee, made from the same vineyards, plus more recently acquired vineyards.
“Judy (owner Judy Jordan) was looking for a way to bring the price down, and going non-vintage was a way to do that.”
And I’m glad she did. I used to think, why fork it out for J’s vintage Brut when Roederer Anderson Valley Brut is fifteen dollars less?
The 2002 J Brut sells for $40 at the winery, but the non-vintage is only $22. Rose expects the J Cuvee 20 Brut to run $29 in BC, which puts it right in with Gloria Ferrer. Nice.
It’s been so long, I can’t tell you the difference between them, but the J Cuvee 20 Brut definitely has that crisp, fresh fruit liveliness with just a hint of toast that I remember. Really refreshing and totally food friendly.
Speaking of food, the way Coast did the appetizers vividly reminded me of the J winery.
Back in the late 1990s, J was the first tasting room in Sonoma County to pair food with each wine. Now everyone seems to do it. At the bar you could order the basic package of four wines and eight little bites, elegantly served on four Japanese plates. At Coast I tried to recreate this J set up, but there were too many appies and too few glasses. Yet, I was close.
The J Vineyards 2009 California Pinot Gris is still an amazing white wine with piquant notes of peach and lemon, and a creamy, satisfying mouthfeel. It will come in at around $22 here. J Pinot Gris paired beautifully with almost everything in Coast’s fish-heavy spread, beating out the Chardonnay and even the Brut in matchability. The sumptuous J 2008 Chardonnay shows lovely tropical fruit nicely balanced with a minimum of oak, and will be priced around $25.
J’s 2007 Russian River Pinot Noir is still excellent and super well balanced, spicy, fruity, and savory with just a touch of earthiness. In Canada, it will be priced in the mid $40 range, and so worth it.
If you ever get the J winery near Healdsburg, there are distinctive single vineyard pinot noirs to try, like the Nicole’s and Robert Thomas. Sit down in the Bubble Room and enjoy a flight of seven white, red, sparkling and dessert wines with food, like the 2006 Robert Thomas Vineyard Pinot Noir with “grilled ‘open space’ grass-fed beef striploin, tamari braised turnips and pickled ginger-enoki salad.”
J’s Bubble Room menu is guaranteed to turn any vegetarian into a carnivore.
So, welcome to BC, J Winery. I’ll be looking for you in wiser specialty stores in Vancouver.
J wines are available at: The Granville and 10th LRS, Coal Harbour LRS, Kits Wine Cellar, Dundarave,Village Taphouse, Liberty Point Grey
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