In the alphabet soup of wines J gets an A

In the wine tasting world, if you have a wine that starts with the letter A, you have a distinct advantage. Tasters have a “clean” palate and are starting fresh.

J Vineyards starts and ends with one letter — “J” — and chances are, this Sonoma Russian River wine will taste clean, crisp and luscious on the palate, no matter where it is on the taster’s list.

The story of J Vineyards began in 1986 when Judy Jordan, at 25 years old, persevered in starting a winery specializing in sparkling wine.  After an exhaustive search for the right “terroir” for cool climate grape growing, she discovered the Russian River Valley, with soils perfect for Champagne method wines. After some years of proving herself in the wine world, Jordan branched out into three varietal wines:  Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, made from 10 vineyards now under the J banner with 254 acres planted, all in the Russian River Valley.

The mineral-based Alluvial soils found in this valley have been forming for millions of years so you can say that these wines are still in their baby years in geological terms.

Recently J Vineyards was featured at Twenty/20 in Carlsbad.

Devin Savano, Western Sales Manager, opened with the two signature Sparkling Wines, J Cuvee 20 Brut ($24) and J Brut Rose ($30).  Getting to the main courses, the 2012 J Chardonnay ($28) and 2012 J Pinot Noir ($35) enhanced the gourmet cuisine of panned seared scallop and spiced glazed duck. Savano was most excited about the first ever J Vineyards Blend.  “We have a new 2012 release “Misterra” ($50) that we produced that is really unusual, with 90 percent Pinot Noir, 6 percent Pinotage (from South Africa) and 4 percent Pinot Meunier (normally a sparkling wine component.) The additions to the Pinot Noir add depth and color.” To learn more, go to


Monte Xanic Leads the Charge of Mexican Wines

One hundred kilometers from the San Diego County border and 30 kilometers inland from the Mexican port city of Ensenada, lies the Valle de Guadalupe, providing 90 percent of the top wines in Mexico, producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot Malbec, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Chardonnay.

The premier winemaker in this valley is Monte Xanic (chaneek). The first question I asked co-owner Hans Backhoff when I met him at his display in a COSTCO store in San Diego was, what does Xanic mean?

“It means flower which blooms after the first rain,” he declared.  “You know our country for our premium beer and tequila, so why not premium wine? Right now, we are in five COSTCOs with our signature blend, the 2011 Gran Ricardo, a Bordeaux blend of 70 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 percent Merlot and 10 percent Petit Verdot.

It is a beautiful wine with 18 months in French Oak barrels” ($49.99).  The old style handsome wax seal fascinated me.  Backhoff commented that “it’s actually easy to open, you just drill down through the top with your opener.  Don’t try to peel the wax off, it’s too messy.”

This is a deep, dark colored intensive wine as Bordeauxs can be.  The fruit comes through as a cherry/berry flavor profile, with spice and oaky notes.

Since 1987, Monte Xanic has been producing high quality, premium wines.  It’s the benchmark of the Mexican wine industry and now it’s ready to make its mark in California and the rest of the wine world. See more at



Wine Bytes

Vigilucci’s Restaurants, in Carlsbad on Tuesdays and Coronado on Wednesdays, have created “Date Night” with two entrees and two glasses of wine for $39 per couple. Vigilucci’s newest location in Leucadia is scheduled to open later this month.

Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas will conduct a blind tasting March 21 from 6 to 8 p.m.  Cost is $20.  Information at (760) 479-2500.

Chandler’s in Carlsbad at the Hilton Oceanfront will be the location for a celebration of the best world-class wines from Lafite Rothschild, March 22 at 6 p.m. Cocktail reception, champagne toast and four-course wine dinner.  $150.  RSVP at (760) 479-2500.

Marina Kitchen in the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina is the location for the Sta.Rita Hills afternoon of wine tasting at 3 p.m., and a BBQ dinner at 5:30 p.m., March 30. Twenty member wineries will be on hand pouring their wines, featuring Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Tickets for the tasting are $20. Tickets to the 5:30 p.m. BBQ and wine tasting are $45. Combination tickets are $55. Purchase on line at —keyword sta.ritahills.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  His columns can be viewed at  He is one of the top wine commentators on the web. Reach him at



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