Friday, December 01, 2017

Jordan Wine Estate celebrates a Silver 25th anniversary with a memorable tasting and a celebration dinner at Jardine

When, in 1993, two young married people Gary and Kathy Jordan, qualified in wine, geology and economics, took on the first harvest of a large but fairly undeveloped Stellenbosch wine farm started by Gary’s father Ted, the future looked a little uncertain. Twenty-five years later, they have turned it into a huge success. When you hear about the ups and downs of that journey, you can but admire and respect their hard work. Gary and Kathy Jordan have always had a passion for what they do and a plan, first for making excellent wine and then for a future that has included many successful steps along the way. We were invited to celebrate the anniversary with them and sample some of the older, more mature Jordan wines over an excellent dinner and learn more of their journey. It was a really great celebration.
They very kindly sent buses to collect the guests from several venues in town, so we didn't have to drink and drive. Our driver got a little lost, so we arrived a bit late but just in time to join the tasting of vintage wines in the cellar and listen while they took us back in history to where they have been, grown and where they are going. As Gary says, "Politics are the only unknown", we live in a great country with a bright future. Their family founded the Jordan shoe company in Wellington in 1896 and originally called it the Wellington Boot factory! Both his great, great grandfather and great grandfather were Mayors in Wellington. Father Ted Jordan bought the farm in 1985 and began planting vines and trees. The first harvest in 1993 produced 108 tons and the cellar was completed. "The Luck of the Jordans", Ted says. They didn't have a lab; they used the farm's kitchen. And Gary had a major health scare at the time, which meant that Kathy had to do much of the harvest, but they got through. They have mentored many local and overseas winemakers over the years who have trained with them or come to help with harvests
Welcomed by Gary and Young Winemaker of the Year Wade Roger-Lund with a glass of the MCC Blanc de Blanc Chardonnay which won Wade the title
Lots of familiar trade, media and wine people were invited
The new Jordan Sauvignon Blanc is called Cold Fact after a track from Sugar Man's LP
A place at the tasting for Alan Mullins with Dave Hughes next to him
The team: Sjaak Nelson, Gary, Kathy, Wade and, in the background, Jacques Steyn CWM, now CEO of Jordan
Happy to toast us with a glass of the 1995 Chardonnay, still full of golden fruit, with just a little mellow maturity, nice elegance and soft wood notes. Lovely crisp acids at the fore, then cooked apples and some wood roundness at the end
The wines are poured, let the tasting commence
They took us through some Jordan history first with a few slides
The momentous day when a mining claim was found attached to their mostly unused back gate. It had been put there on behalf of one of our nefarious politicians. It took Gary many months away from the farm to fight this for Jordan and then to help other farms in the Cape and in Mpumalanga to reject the spurious claims on farms which did not have anything worth mining. It would have destroyed the vineyards. And from this came three award winning wines: the Outlier Sauvignon Blanc, the Prospector Shiraz and The Long Fuse Cabernet Sauvignon
In 2009 they opened High Timber restaurant on the Thames in the City of London. It is still going and still a success. It was originally an abandoned warehouse which they renovated. It is a venue at which people can drink top South African wines and eat good food. Top Chef George Jardine opened his restaurant on Jordan in 2009 and is still one of our top chefs. And four years ago, they opened The Bakery. They have turned the former workers’ accommodation into luxury accommodation for visitors who want to stay in the winelands. They bought houses off the farm for their staff and gave them the title deeds. They have also given them driving licences and a pick up to bring the staff to the farm each day. Recently, they started Nine Yards Travel agency which offers expert advice on where to stay and what to see in the winelands region, luxury accommodation in tranquil surroundings, reliable transport, and day tours for inbound winemakers and tourists. Kathy has also started the Women in Wine initiative which Jancis Robinson promoted
And then the future; they have recently bought a property in Kent, Southern England called Mouse Hill, dating from the 14th Century. There is a 14th Century Oast house for hops and they are planting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines and will wait for global warming to kick in. The soils are cretaceous limestone, perfect for Bubbly. On the Stellenbosch farm, vineyards are being replaced; they say it is time to go back in and put some money into the vineyards and look at vines more suited to dry conditions with our changing weather patterns here
Time to start tasting. Two Barrel Fermented Chardonnays from 2007. One on cork which was shy on the nose with lemon and limes and length on the palate; wood showed more as the wine opened up. The other, under screw cap, had a very good Chardonnay nose with nice rich fruit and freshness and many people preferred this to the corked version. Then the Nine Yards 2010 Chardonnay which has beautiful minerality and wood on the nose, layers of flavour and excitement; this is how all South African Chardonnays should be. The 2015 Nine Yards has smoke, buttery golden intenseness, initially shyer, then fruit and wood appear and rise to the surface. The wood on the end adds structure. Apples limes, rich melon and cape gooseberry on the palate with a long finish
Then it was time for the five red wines. The 1993 Cabernet from a 5 litre bottle had balsamic notes first then, when swirled, spicy cassis and cherries hits you on the chin; Umami, salty character with a bit of liquorice wood on the long end. The 1995 Cabernet was from a magnum. Umami nose, very sophisticated French in style. Dark wood, dark cherries and berries with some cassis leaves. Very satisfying, with a little Ribena on the end. The 2001 Cobblers Hill is similar on the nose to the 95 Cabernet, with Bovril hints and French in style. Such superb fruit on the palate; almost a Rumtopf melange of fruit, not clouded by any other flavours, but rich fruit. The wood is there supporting and there is some salty liquorice. The Cobblers Hill 2010 is a cassis driven wine with incense French oak. Sweet fruit, silky and velvety with some cassis leaves and fruit acid on the end with some chalky tannins. Still has time to go. The Cape Winemakers Guild wine Sophia 2013 is a different barrel selection of Cabernet, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Incense wood, minerality liquorice, rhubarb, cassis berries and leaves. An interesting wine with much future potential. Cassis strengthens as you taste, a really, really great expression of a Cabernet, Merlot and Cab Franc blend
 And then it was time to walk to the restaurant for dinner. An early evening view of the Stellenbosch mountains over the dam and the valley beyond
Seated at round tables. it was very gemütlich
We began with the delicious bread selection which came with aioli and tapenade

The chefs were just finishing off plates of the starter
The menu
 We began with the 2012 Nine Yards Chardonnay, full of ripe pears and pine nuts on the nose, lime and pears on the palate. a very attractive wine to go with food.. 
The 2013 compared very well, both went superbly with the starter
The starter of Asparagus and Mushrooms, a combination that worked unexpectedly well. The plate had a base of mushroom  purée topped with al dente fresh green asparagus spears, torn buffalo mozzarella, grilled shitake mushrooms, a sweet onion  purée and topped with hot rocket sprouts and crisp nutty crumbs
CEO Jacques Steyn told us a funny story of the night Gary came back late from a function and found Kathy sleeping with all their border collies on the bed. "Where am I supposed to sleep?" he asked. "Don't make me choose" said Kathy.. they are rather fond of their dogs. He told us Gary is now chief cook and bottle washer on the farm and he also has an 8 year vineyard replanting project. There is always introspection and reflection at anniversaries. Now they have their first MCC which has already won winemaker Wade Roger-Lund this year's Young Winemaker of the Year award. The commercial release of Sophia (previously reserved for the CWG Auction) is happening. They contribute to over 100 wine households in the Cape Winelands. Sjaak has been with the farm since 1999 and his byword is consistency. The younger generation knows where the farm is going. There is passion and enthusiasm in the Jordan brand . Every team member is valued for their contribution. Terroir is so important to the Jordan brand, the spirit of Gary and Kathy's mentorship helps to grow the consistency and quality
The red wine for the main course was the Cobbler’s Hill 2009 Incense wood and dark red and black berries on the nose and palate with some freshness on the end
The main course of rare Springbok loin which had been hung for a while. It had a grassy flavour. On a lovely smooth celeriac purée with red wine poached pears, hazelnut butter, baby turnip and some meat jus. And then there was the kale, which we wish chefs would leave to the cattle. It is not worth eating, hard, glassy and difficult to chew and digest. It did not spoil the good dish, we simply pushed it aside. Healthy it may be but nice it is not. Spinach is so much better
Jacques chatting to Michael Fridjhon and John Platter. John and Erica came from Durban especially for the party
And then there were those duck fat chips! Oh and some lettuce. But it was all about the chips. And damn it, we had to share. There were no fisticuffs at our table, although there might have been a bit of pinching ....
Our fellow travellers and table companions. Alison and Athol Rice from Hout Bay celebrating getting their tweet out
A happy and smiling Dave Hughes enjoying the evening
Next came the cheese course with a selection of local cheeses from the restaurants' cheese room, served with preserved green figs
Sjaak Nelson and Yegas Naidoo with a beautifully dusty 5 litre bottle of 2013 Cobbler’s Hill
Not easy to pour from a bottle this big
Gary with their local wine distributor John Collins and Carrie Adams from Norman Goodfellows in Johannesburg
Enjoying the evening were Winnie Bowman CWM, Journalist Greg Landman and Yegas Naidoo of Miles for Style
Dessert was served with Jordan Mellifera Natural Sweet 2013. An Assiette of summer peach, grilled peaches, peach jelly, vanilla microwave sponge and a white chocolate ice cream with crumbs
And then it was time to say resounding thank you and good night to all and catch our bus back to Cape Town. We so enjoyed the celebration and hope we’ll be around for the next one in a few years time!
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2017
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