Judy Jordan grew up playing in Alexander Valley vineyards. Her father Tom Jordan founded Jordan Vineyard and Winery in northern Sonoma County in 1972. A geologist, Judy graduated from Stanford University before returning home to pursue her own winemaking career. When she was 25, Tom helped launch J Vineyards by giving her a wine press and a vineyard.
Beginning as Sonoma County’s first sparkling wine producer, Jordan spent nearly 30 years building the impressive J Vineyards portfolio before selling to the EJ Gallo Company in 2015. Although her mentors during those early years, were many, she regrets that none were female. In the 1980s, the wine industry was dominated by men.
Judy was 53 when she sold her winery to EJ Gallo and was in a financial position to sit back and enjoy the fruits of her labor. She credits a Winston Churchill quote as inspiration in forming her future: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Rooted in gratitude for all that the wine industry had given her, Judy formed WG Edge (Women Gaining an Edge) to advance the next generation of women in agriculture through a “village” of teachers, mentors and sponsors. In 2019, the initial group included many women of color; today the participants are gaining leadership development through Santa Rosa Junior College and various community mentors.
With a philanthropic spirit and keen business mind, Judy established Geodesy (G-Odyessy) wines and directs 100% of the profits to fund WG Edge. The business of Geodesy began with Judy and her team acquiring iconic vineyards like Sage Ridge in the Napa Valley and Oregon’s Chehalem Mountain and Eola Springs. In part, she chose Oregon in an effort to get out of her comfort zone. She now owns all three vineyards and produces enough fruit to source out to other winemakers.
Jordan has assembled a team that includes, among others, winemaker Megan Baccitich, who worked at Paul Hobbs for more than a decade, and vice president of winegrowing, Scott Zapotocky, a veteran of both Paul Hobbs and J Vineyards. With a broader goal and excellent terroir to work with, the Geodesy team set out to make, as their motto states, wines with purpose.
Sommelier and wine consultant Marika Vida-Arnold moderated a panel, via zoom.com, with Judy, Megan and Scott to taste the Geodesy releases. After all, it’s the wine that drives this entire project.
Using vines planted in 1972, Megan sees age as a factor in the salinity and bright acidity of the 2018 Geodesy Eola Springs Vineyard Chardonnay ($75). She explained that daytime temperatures remain higher in Oregon and the evenings don’t cool like the Russian River Valley. The result, in her words, are “sun-kissed phenolics.”
Drawing comparisons to Burgundy, the fruit is whole-cluster pressed, barrel fermented with full malolactic fermentation and aged 14 months on lees. In addition to the salinity, it is rich in texture, not overly fruity with balanced flavors that linger through the finish.
From vines planted in the late-1960s by Oregon wine legend Dick Erath, the 2018 Geodesy Pinot Noir Chehalem Mountain Vineyard ($80) comes from equal parts Calera, Mt. Eden and 667 clones that are harvested the same day, whole-cluster pressed and co- fermented in open top concrete fermenters.
Judy spoke of a natural tension in Oregon wines and a balanced acidity in this vintage with fleshy fruit flavors of cherry and spice throughout.
Despite steep, rugged terrain and an abundance of rattlesnakes, Megan referred to the elevated Sage Ridge Vineyard, located east of St. Helena in the Napa Valley, as the most dynamic site she has ever worked with. At J Vineyards, Judy worked with 26 different vineyards and described Sage Ridge as her all-time favorite. She also noted that, of the five Bordeaux varietals planted on the site, the local bears seem only to be interested in the malbec vines.
A cabernet sauvignon-dominant blend that pays homage to the site, the 2017 Geodesy Sage Ridge Vineyard Red Wine ($175), is aged 20 months in 100% French oak to produce red fruit and floral aromas, soft tannins and complex flavors indicative of a classic wine.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live and brought much physical, emotional and economic stress. As it comes to a close, we all need some inspiration. Geodesy provides an opportunity to give back, enjoy special wines and support the next generation of female leadership in agriculture.
Guest columnist Lyle W. Norton is a wine enthusiast and blogger in Santa Rosa who has written a wine column for 20 years. Visit his blog at www.lifebylyle.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.