The process and equipment necessary for making still wine and sparkling wine are quite different from each other. While they both begin as a still wine, sparkling wine then goes through a secondary fermentation process either in a tank (known as the Charmat method) or if done in the traditional method (also known as méthode champenoise, in Champagne France) it takes place in the bottle.
The traditional method requires a different kind of bottle plus a means of riddling the bottles (either by hand on a rack or with a gyropalate) in order to consolidate the spent yeast (lees) for removal and a different type of bottling process. Due to the extra equipment involved and the additional labor wineries in California tend to focus on either making still wine or sparkling wine.
While some wineries that focus on still wine may sell sparkling wine, more often than not they only make the still wine and then another winery puts it through the secondary fermentation and bottling process. Likewise, while many wineries that focus on sparkling wine will also bottle a small amount of still wine it tends to be more of an after-thought rather than any serious focus on high quality. All they are doing is bottling some of their still wine that would normally go through the secondary fermentation to make sparkling wine.
This is one of the things that sets J Vineyards & Winery apart from many others as they are dedicated to producing both high quality still and sparkling wine and they wear both hats very well.
The Winery and Vineyards
J Vineyards & Winery was founded by second generation vintner Judy Jordan who is following in the footsteps of her father, Tom Jordan, who established Jordon Winery & Vineyard in 1976 in Healdsburg, California.
But Judy didn’t immediately jump into the wine business with her family. Before starting her own wine career she graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Earth Sciences/Geology. She then worked in Geophysics at Western Geophysical Corporation in Denver, Colorado. With this experience she returned to the family business and put her knowledge in marketing, soils and geology into making wine.
Then in 1986 Judy founded J Vineyards & Winery and created hallmark wines such as her signature J Vintage Brut and J Late-Disgorged Vintage Brut. Then a decade later she purchased the former Piper Sonoma winemaking facility south of Healdsburg in the Russian River Valley. There she launched two single-vineyard Pinot Noirs named after her children, Nicole and Robert Thomas, and a Pinot Gris made from Cooper Vineyard.
Today J Vineyards & Winery has 9 sustainably farmed estate vineyards planted on over 200 acres with a wide variety of alluvial soils in the Russian River Valley. In 1999 the tasting room opened where guests can not only experience the wines but also enjoy food and wine pairing on the patio.
While visiting, I toured the winemaking facilities including the barrel room while tasting the following wines:
2013 Cooper’s Vineyard Pinot Gris
This is a clear white wine, pale straw in color with minor hint of green on the rim and low viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of lemon-lime, canned peaches, melon, under ripe banana and a hint of floral soap. On the palate it is dry but fruit forward with medium+ acid, medium body and a very long finish with lingering tropical notes. This wine sells for $30 per bottle.
2012 Bowtie Vineyard Chardonnay
This is a clear white wine, straw in color with moderate intensity and medium+ viscosity. On the nose it is clean with subtle aromas of peach, yellow apples, apricot, Crème brûlée, caramelized apples and a hint of creamed corn. It is dry with a medium+ acidity, it is full bodied with medium+ alcohol and a long finish. This is definitely a California-style Chardonnay and yet it is well balanced and not overly oaky or buttery. This wine sells for $45 per bottle.
2012 Russian River Pinot Noir
This is a clear ruby wine of moderate intensity with a hint of garnet at the rim and medium viscosity. On the nose it has subtle aromas of cranberries, black cherries, hints of smoke, bacon fat, cola, clove and spice. On the palate it is fruit forward with medium- tannins, medium+ acidity and a medium+ length finish. This wine has all the hallmarks of great Russian River Pinot Noir and it sells for $37 per bottle.
Brut Rosé Sparking Wine (NV)
This wine is made from 66% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, and 1% Pinot Meunier with a portion of the Pinot Noir being left on the skins to impart color. This is a clear salmon pink wine with very tiny bubbles and low viscosity. On the nose it has subtle aromas of ripe strawberries, cranberries, and kiwi fruit. On the palate it is dry and tart with medium+ acidity, it is light bodied and it has a moderate length finish. This wine sells for $38 per bottle.
Cuvee 20 Sparking Wine (NV)
This wine is a blend of 54% Chardonnay, 44% Pinot Noir, 2% Pinot Meunier. This is a clear white wine, pale straw in color with low concentration, tiny bubbles and low viscosity. On the nose it has subtle aromas of apple, pear, maraschino cherries and a hint of yeasty bread. On the palate it is has a touch of sweetness, it is very crisp with medium++ acidity, it is light bodied and it has a moderate length finish. This wine sells for $28 per bottle.
To visit or for more information:
J Vineyards and Winery
11447 Old Redwood Hwy
Healdsburg, CA 95448
 There are also those who simply inject carbonation like making soda pop, but the quality tends to be very low.