By Rick Riozza

Coachella & Stagecoach are upon us and there is nothing more refreshing for wine lovers in and out of our valley than a stellar sparkling wine! We’ve tried a few lately and found the quality bang for the buck is the sparkler we’re covering below.

If we wish to consider sparklers under $40, then one of the top bubbly wines to shine in flavor, feel, and festivity is our top pick at around $38 is the J Vineyards NV Cuvée 20 Brut. We’ll get to the tasty tasting notes in a bit, but let’s have a little fun figuring out what the “J” is all about.

You California Cabernet Sauvingon fans may already have an inkling as to the “J” that we’re referring to. If the name Jordan Vineyard & Winery quickly, or somewhat quickly, came to mind—you get to go to the head of the class.


And speaking of “class”, the famed Jordan Cab Sauv is acclaimed and classically cherished by wine enthusiasts because the wine is made in a European style that allows it to pair well with a broad range of foods. The winemaker has always emphasized the wine’s fruit and acidity rather than its alcohol and tannin. The winery’s own comments state: “Acidity plays two roles central to food pairing: cleansing of the palate and providing balance. Achieving elegance and balance in the bottle drives all that we do in our vineyards and cellar, so that every bottle of Jordan enhances the meal, not overwhelms it.”

A quick side story: For those of you expatriate Orange County folks who remember the famed Angelo’s & Vinci’s Ristorante in Fullerton, on North Harbor Boulevard, they had a stellar wine list that included a few excellent California Cabs (actually, they had a better Cal Cab selection than Italian—but you know how that goes). I know the place is still open, but I’ve not been there in ages.

Well, I had a friend who was a real estate seller and investor who had just found out he was going to be arrested by the Feds and would be doing a minimum of ten years in Federal Prison. He had accepted his fate; and, invited me to Angelo’s & Vinci to share a farewell drink with him. For a couple of hours or so, I consoled him while he ordered five bottles of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon. Sure, I had a couple/three glasses of wine with him, but he took down all of rest of the wine: Jordan was his favorite Cab.

Anyway—getting back to our story, Judy Jordan was only 25 when she leveraged the resources and knowledge of her dad, Jordan Winery founder Tom Jordan, to launch her own sparkling wine house, J Vineyards & Winery. A geology graduate and college tennis star out of Stanford, she settled on the Russian River Valley as her base.

“If I were talking to the 25-year-old who started this company and I remember enough about her, she was spicy and spunky,” Jordan recalled. “At that time I really believed that nothing could get in my way, and I was so passionate about sparkling wine and about geology and about Russian River.”

So the story of J Vineyards & Winery begins in 1986, when Judy Jordan followed her dream of starting a winery specializing in sparkling wine. As a Stanford University graduate in Earth Sciences/Geology, Judy understood the land. Her belief that soil enriches the flavors of the fruit of the vine and influenced her pursuit of unique terroir and “a sense of place” for growing wine grapes. This journey led her to Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, known for cool climate grape growing and a great diversity of soils-perfect for traditional method sparkling wines.

The attention paid to every row, vine and grape cluster results in the purest expression of terroir. Their vineyards have been “Certified Sustainable” through the California Winegrowers Alliance, a third-party environmental auditing partnership with the Wine Institute and several of our vineyards are taking steps towards Organic certification status.

Then around 2015 or so, the big news happened: E. & J. Gallo, the world’s largest wine company, purchased J Vineyards & Winery!

“Over the last 30 years, I have created and built J Vineyards & Winery from a small sparkling wine house to an iconic luxury brand producing not only sparkling wines but also award-winning Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris,” said founder Judy Jordan. “I am proud to announce that I have found the perfect fit to take this beautiful company to even greater heights. E. & J. Gallo is also privately owned and shares similar core values, as both companies are dedicated to a balance of quality, community, and financial sustainability. I look forward to my new chapter of building a mentorship platform as I honor and salute the outstanding new stewards of J Vineyards & Winery.”

The acquisition, included the Healdsburg winery and more than 300 acres spread over nine vineyards within the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley AVAs,

And now for your sparkling consideration, we heartily recommend the J Vineyards NV Cuvée 20 Brut. This delicate sparkler is the perfect spring sip on any occasion, with aromas of toasted almond and notes of apple, dried cranberry and ginger snap. A delicate dance of bubbles leads to a soft palate with flavors of lemon meringue pie as the wine’s creaminess is whisked away by a lively finish. Delish!

This is a lovely wine to gift and share. And do keep this bubbly in mind to enjoy at your Mother’s Day celebration. Cheers!