Hoboken, Hudson County, New Jersey 07030
Reviewed by: Jennifer Giglio
A favorite pastime of mine is wine shopping. Albeit most find this an unnecessary activity, but I think selecting that prized bottle is the stuff rituals are made of. Initially, my boyfriend found my "behavior" to be exciting attention as strange or odd. I mull about in wine shops, inspect bottles, jot notes, inquire about the wine staff's "top picks" while discussing menu options. It was then that Sean developed wine patience; if you can't beat them, get them to stop….join them! In fact, we were scoping the local Hoboken wine scene, when we first encountered Justin
Justin is a vineyard located in Paso Robles, California. It is mid-way between San Francisco and Los Angeles with the Pacific Ocean 20 miles away. There is a large disparity between day and evening temperatures. Summer days can reach 100, while nightfall brings much cooler breezes. Becoming familiar with the Justin family of products: ISOSCELES, OBTUSE, JUSTIFICATION recall the days of studying for a high school geometry examination or the greatly anticipated SAT verbal section. I urge you to continue to suppress these traumatic experiences and focus on the quality that graces these varietals. All thanks to a most impressive wine-master, Jeff Branco.
Despite being in the middle of the 2001 bottling time, Jeff immediately accepted the interview with Hobokeni.com. Quite a score for our readership, as Jeff & Justin Vineyards continue to win awards from the likes of Robert Parker, The Wine Spectator, and the London International Wines and Spirit Competition. Speaking of this last competition, the 1994 ISOSCELES won Best Blended Red Wine Worldwide. Well, they certainly beat out a lot of people!
Up close and personal with Jeff was fun and though a trail of accolades follow him, he's a super down to earth person. Jeff has been the chief wine maker at Justin Vineyards since January 1999. Since then he has produced award wining wines every year. For the full flavor of just how many prestigious awards this fairly young vineyards has one, visit www.justinewine.com. Was it serendipity that began Jeff's career?
It certainly seemed to play it's own part...
Q: Jeff, being the third American to receive an M.S. in Enology (the study of wine) from the University of Bordeaux is quite an accomplishment. What led you to Bordeaux?
A: I was working for a computer company in England, at the time. Wine always held an interest me, so I enrolled in several basic wine courses. Not knowing how much experience one needed, I made the quick decision to try my hand at marketing wine. It was after I moved to Bordeaux when I truly recognized the need for more industry experience. A professor suggested that my wine education should take the "traditional French route"; this prompted my application and later acceptance to the University of Bordeaux.
Q: Only one of three Americans, what is that like?
A: It is a very competitive system. There are 1,000 applicants, of whom 70 are accepted, and only 40 pass. I was lucky that I spoke conversational French, eliminating the language barrier. But having a background in electronic and mechanical engineering, made wine vocabulary and science challenging at first.
Q: I understand that Justin's ISOSCELES and JUSTIFICATION are two different styles of Bordeaux blends, can you explain?
A: Our IOSOCELES is a Left Bank Blend that resembles wines grown in the Medoc. The Medoc is a prestigious wine region located in the southwestern part of France near Bordeaux. This peninsula is famous for producing "first growths" or Premier Crus Classés. This region is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon.
Q: And how is that different than the right bank style?
A: Well, the right bank style refers to St-Emilion. Merlot and Cabernet Franc are the most abundantly planted grape here. This region is situated inland, unlike the Medoc. The soil is clay-like and contains limestone. It too produces Premier Grand Cru's, but only received that recognition long after.
Q: What is that special quality that sets Justin's wines apart?
A: I would say the limestone in the soil. It makes for bigger grapes, and a full, lush wine flavor.
Q: Having just won yet another award from the Wine Spectator for your 1999 Cabernet, which I noticed was sold out on the website, How does it feel?
A: It's pressure. You really begin to recognize how competitive the industry is. Your focus needs to stay on producing high quality wines.
And high quality, they are! Whether it's the Justin Zinfandel, the Justin Cabernet, or the Justin ISOSCELES, you'll pick a winner! Yet some varietals I really a rare find, like the JUSTIFICATION for example. This past weekend I traveled to Sherry Lehman in the City in search of JUSTIFICATION. It was a nice trip, but a fruitless expedition. Low and behold, on Mother's day, in Hoboken, on a reserve wine list, right under my nose, around the corner from my home.... I discovered the JUSTIFICATION... My mom however had other white wines ideas.
So, while "brunching" with mom and the family, I switched gears and by some miracle spotted the Justin 2000 Sauvignon Blanc. I quietly accepted fate, and ordered it. This white delight reinforced my belief that there is more to California white wines than the venerable Chardonnay. I found the Sauvignon Blanc to be medium body with matching medium acidity. In the mouth there are many flavors at work: melon, grapefruit, vanilla, pear and a distinctive smoke flavor. I later discovered that this smoke flavor was probably boxwood. The wine looks as splendid in the glass as it tastes in your mouth.
Take the opportunity to sample the Cabernet, Zinfandel and ISOSCELES (blend). Here are my thoughts on each: 1999 Cabernet: Deep cherry color with black currants in the forefront. behind the scences taste cedar, vanilla, and toasted. Smooth in texture.
1999 Zinfandel is smooth on the palate. Introduced to big cherry taste which remains even after the finish. Similar to the Cabernet, the Zinfandel has vanilla and oak undertones.
1999 ISOSCELES: Blend of 63% cabernet and 19 of cabernet France and merlot. Most intense berry flavor of the ones mentioned. Concentrated fruit: strawberries, cherries, and blueberries. Very ripe and full bodied. Surprisingly elegant and velvety finish.