Jordan Diary

Monday, March 5, 2007

Wednesday 28th February 2007

Today we went The Whole Nine Yards!

Over the years, one particular south-facing block of chardonnay has always out-performed all the others at Jordan. The geology of the soil is different and although this vineyard, like many of our other vineyards, is also situated on 600 million year old granite, there is a geological fault running right through it with white quartzite pebbles demarcating the break from one Chardonnay vineyard to the next.

The Jordan Chardonnay has always been rated one of the top South African chardonnays, yet Kathy and I knew that we could do better. From 2002 we decided to do a separate chardonnay bottling from this extraordinary single vineyard site. The day afterwards, I was invited to do a tasting at one of Richard Branson’s game lodges, so took along a bottle of this as yet unnamed wine with me. During the tasting, I explained to all the guests that it was made from our best block of Chardonnay at Jordan and spent a longer time in 100% new French oak than our usual Jordan Chardonnay. Before I could say any more, one of the guests piped up that it sounded like we went ‘the whole nine yards’ to make this wine!

“The Whole Nine Yards” I said to myself –“that sounds like a very apt name for this special wine”, so when Kathy met me at Cape Town airport the next day, I told her the story, expecting her to be excited. “Huh”, she snorted – “I’d much rather have made the wine with Bruce Willis” she said, laughing. (In case you didn't know, Bruce Willis had starred in the movie called The Whole Nine Yards!)

Months passed by before I could get my own back: we had just received 5 stars in the John Platter guide, and one evening I found myself at the top end of Cape Town, pouring our Jordan wines at the opening of an exclusive new boutique hotel. A group of very beautiful, young tour operators walked in. One particular beauty caught my eye – she obviously didn’t know me from a bar of soap, and yet had obviously heard about the Nine Yards, as she stuck out her glass, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Oh you must be the guy with the Nine Inches!”

All I could do was chuckle, and tell her that my Nine Yards was a lot bigger!

Tuesday 27th February 2007

Today in 1860, the corkscrew was patented by M.L Byrn! How life has changed since then. At Jordan we offer customers the choice of either cork or screw cap (Stelvin) closures, although more and more customers are now asking for Stelvin.

I’ll never forget the time when Andre van Rensburg and I happened to be visiting a wine shop in Pretoria at the same time, just as a customer was complaining about the fact that the bottle he had opened the night before was missing a cork. As much as Mandy tried to explain that the bottle was sealed with a screw cap, so he was protesting that the wine only had a capsule, no cork. Of course Andre and I looked at each other with intrigue and simultaneously asked the customer what type of cork-screw he had used, as we wanted one with that same foil cutter!

Today we harvested from 8 different vineyard blocks of chardonnay and merlot, in most cases finishing a section of a vineyard that had been deliberately left to ripen further, thus concentrating the flavours.

Monday 26th February 2007

Today was a serious Chardonnay day! On Friday the barrels arrived to replace those that had been bobbing around the English Channel just over a month ago – just in time for our Nine Yards Chardonnay vineyard, which is due to be harvested tomorrow. Talk about cutting it fine!

Kathy collected our two Mauritian sales reps, Belinda and Kristel from the airport – they should have arrived on Friday already, but tropical cyclone Gamede had grounded all flights to and from Mauritius for a few days. They will be spending a few days with us to learn a bit more about the winemaking process, and also to understand what makes Jordan so different to other wine cellars. By the end of harvesting activities for the day, we had brought in just over 500 tonnes of the 2007 vintage into the cellar. The photograph above is of Kristel (R) and Belinda (L) with the mist just starting to cover the vineyards in the background. On the right they are shown here helping to harvest the Merlot!

Saturday 24th - Sunday 25th February 2007

Yet again we didn’t harvest over the weekend, and as we started the 5th week of the 2007 vintage, I knew that this would be the most difficult. One of my tasks for the weekend was to finalise our Jordan trip to Europe coinciding with the London Wine Trade Fair in May. Sjaak, Juanita, Rachel, Kathy and I will be visiting customers in Holland, Belgium, Ireland and the UK, including presenting Jordan master classes, customer visits and dinners and a new vintage launch in London. Advance planning is the key to every successful venture! We don’t always get it right, but this time managed to rent two furnished apartments just off Trafalgar Square. While online, and as a treat at the end of what would have been a hard week at the Trade Fair, I also managed to get us all some great seats for the 24th May to see “Simply Red” performing in the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Friday 23rd February 2007

Ted wore two jackets and a balaclava for the first part of the morning as he was harvesting the last Sauvignon Blanc vineyard of the 2007 vintage. By the time I arrived back at the shed to collect the hand harvest team, the air was still cool and thick with mist. False Bay and Table Mountain were hidden for a while as the team harvested our oldest chardonnay vineyard, still in great condition after 22 years. As the mist lifted we were treated to perfect 360 degree views of the Cape Peninsula. The photograph below (left) shows the view looking south towards False Bay and Hangklip. The one on the right is of some of our E-facing Chardonnay vineyards, with Ted and Sheelagh's house against the hill in the background, and in the distance one can see towards Simonstown and Cape Point at the other end of False Bay.

This photograph below of Ted on the harvesting machine is looking due west towards Cape Town and Table Mountain. Constantia is on the far left of the harvester, and the Durbanville wine region is on the far right!

Porcupines love Chardonnay! The day before, while walking through the vineyard we were now hand-harvesting, I could see a few neatly nibbled bunches down one of the rows. The porcupine dens are situated under some old Wild Olive trees, a few metres from the edge of the vineyard, and the scattering of quills was a dead giveaway to the porcupine dinner party the night before. “More Chardonnay please”, I could imagine them saying, rattling their quills in anticipation.

Thursday 22nd February 2007

In case she’s reading this, “Happy Birthday Drew Barrymore!”

It is hard to believe that we are into the 4th week of the 2007 vintage. Our vineyard sample analysis shows that only one block of Merlot is ready to harvest today and I realise that next week will be a nightmare, as our chardonnay, merlot and cabernet sauvignon will all be ripening together.

There is no point harvesting grapes that are not perfectly ripe, so the hand picking team is assigned general farm tasks. Ted only needs Joel to drive the tractor and trailer for the machine harvested Merlot, and two assistants to pick any grapes left at the vineyard poles. The on-board computer of the Pellenc harvester has automatic sensors that change the frequency and force of the shakers whenever a pole passes through the harvesting cage. This ensures that the hollow Teflon shakers aren’t damaged, as well as ensuring that no vineyard poles are broken during the harvesting process.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Wednesday 21st February 2007

I used to like the Elvis Costello song ‘Accidents will happen’ until I saw the look on Ludwich’s face! He was as white as a sheet as he realized what he had done. “I’ve opened the wrong valve and dumped a tonne of shiraz rosé into the waste drain below the compost trailer.”

What else could I do other than run for my camera? This happened just as guests were leaving Jordan after our second Harvest Lunch! There was no point in ranting and raving – nothing I could do would save the grapes! With one flick of a switch, Ludwich had ensured that he was the frontrunner for the ‘Stuff-up-of-the-Year’ floating trophy! (A few years ago we had a student wrap a 100mm hose around our press, destroying our thick stainless steel must line to the presses in the process. A heavy, flattened tee-piece now serves as a trophy.) This is one trophy that nobody wants to win!

The photo alongside shows Ludwich (left) with ‘the evidence’ as well as Clive and Denovan in the process of helping Ludwich clean up the mess.