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The Pleasure of Refinement
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
May 19, 2009
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Jordan, Alexander Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($55):  I am a longtime fan of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon.  Sometimes, people have been surprised to hear me say that.  This wine is not one of the new, cutting-edge, powerful Cabernets or Cab blends that excite critics and collectors.  It has been around forever (since 1976, anyway) and it never seems to vary much in style.  In today's bombastic milieu, it speaks the language of restraint and moderation.  But that is precisely what I love about it.

Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon is a perennial top-seller in restaurants.  Wine & Spirits magazine's 20th Annual Restaurant Poll lists Jordan as the third most popular wine brand in U.S. restaurants, and in fact the winery has been a fixture at the top of that survey's lists for as long as I can remember.  Jordan Chardonnay ranks an impressive seventh among Chardonnays in the current poll, but Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon is the real star, ranking second among Cabernets in its popularity among polled restaurateurs.  I suspect that the wine is so successful not just because of its brand recognition, but even more so because its restraint makes it extremely friendly with food.

This wine has a lovely, penetrating fragrance that suggests classical Left Bank Bordeaux scents of lead pencil, cedar, vanilla from oak and cassis-like fruit notes.  In the mouth it is dry and not quite full-bodied, with gentle, fine-grained tannins and moderately intense flavors that echo the wine's aromas.  The wine's texture is velvety and well-knit, but with a light hand, smooth as silk but for the mild grip of tannin on the tongue in the back of your mouth.  The flavors continue long into the wine's finish.

'Concentration' is an ambiguous word in today's wine-tasting lexicon.  Often, critics use it to describe a wine that is dense in color and flavor and that projects power.  This wine has concentration of a different sort.  It is not saturated in color or tannin, and it is not powerful or dense.  But its flavors spring from a core within the wine and are precise and focused.  It is one indication of the wine's quality.

The 2005 Jordan Cab contains 76 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot.  Although winemaker Rob Davis describes the grape's tannins in 2005 as 'stern,' and although the wine spent 20 months aging in oak barrels, the wine's tannins are very refined.  Davis credits this fact to French oak, which accounted for 65% of the barrels used with the 2005 Cab, the balance being American oak.  (Approximately one-third of the barrels were new, one third were one year old and one-third two-years-old.)  'We used to age 50-50 in French and American,' he explained, but he finds the French oak superior for 'rounding out the edges of the wine.'

This wine is so accommodating on the table that you really don't have to be very concerned what you serve it with.  It can complement rich fish, grilled foods of all sorts, stews and steaks, fresh cheeses and aged cheeses.  For one ideal pairing, I suggest a simple grilled paillard of veal or chicken topped with arugula and tomatoes.  Enjoy the wine this very night or age it five to ten years.

92 Points