Two weekends back, the Lady and I had the very fortunate experience of a tour, a tasting and an overnight stay at the breath-snatching estate of Jordan Vineyard & Winery (Twitter, WineLog) in Alexander Valley. Blessed with a perfect harvest weekend of weather, we we able to visit courtesy of Communications Director (and photographer/videographer extraordinaire) Lisa Mattson. After dropping off the Pug with the parents in Napa, we headed across the valleys in the brilliant morning sunshine. The weather really was tremendous that weekend, sunny, a few puffy clouds and about 80 degrees at its peak. I really had no idea what to expect for the next couple of days however, since the Jordan site didn’t really have a whole lot of information about the four suites or homes that were available for overnight visits.
Jordan Winery is a storied name in Alexander Valley, one of the best known areas for Cab in Sonoma County. Mr. Tom Jordan, a petroleum geologist, happened to make a significant amount of money in the 60’s and found the means to pursue another of his passions namely, fine French wines such as Bordeaux. He spent a few years searching the whole of NorCal to find the perfect conditions for his own new world chateau. in 1972 he found his ideal in the sleepy Alexander Valley, founding Jordan Vineyard on 275 acres with his wife Sally. This founders’ day was rather auspicious as their son John Jordan was born the same day, who’s now the CEO! Two years later the winery was founded on a new plot of 1300 acres, nearby. Not one to skimp on the details, Mr. Jordan hired the legend known as André Tchelistcheff as a consulting winemaker. He quickly recommended a young scrub fresh out of UC Davis, my alma mater, to begin as the head winemaker for the young winery. Then twenty-two year old Rob Davis has been the winemaker ever since, allowing Jordan the unusual luxury of all 34 years of their vintages to be contained within a single, jovial brain.
While the Lady and I stayed as trade guests, the winery is actually a rather secluded estate with some unusually cool parts to their wine club. One can only visit the winery by appointment, limited to a small number per day, up to a maximum of 12 guests per appointment. The wine club is very innovative and works by a points system, almost like a credit card. Jordan Estate Rewards (reward point levels are currently being re-evaluated and lowerd) points are granted with every purchase and once you save enough points, you can stay overnight at the estate, just like a trade guest. The rooms (and house!) are simply stunning…so much so that when Beth and I entered our suite, I let out an accidental “holy crap!” It was easily 600+ sq ft, with the most amazing bronze bathtub, for which I will be ever tortured to find and buy for the Lady. We were happy guests.
Claire Holloway was our host and tour guide for the day and we met her along with two other trade guests from Benny’s Chop House in Chicago. We got a great history lesson about the vineyard and winery underneath the slightly swaying trees, then headed off to the winery, all of which is contained within the original 5800 sq ft winery, built over 9 months back in 1976. Indeed, our rooms were attached to the side of that same building, which we could look up and see when we entered the barrel room. Harvest was in full swing, with Rob and assistant winemakers Ronald Du Preez and Maggie Kruse taking in the last of the Cabernet Sauvignon for the day from grower (and delivery man, apparently) Dick Dillworth. Dick had a great compliment for Rob, saying “one thing I like about Rob: he’s hands-on. That shows a good winemaker.” We saw just as much ourselves, especially during a very interesting and long chat with Rob while we relaxed on the expansive patio in the evening sunshine after the tour. He had all of the vineyard maps still in his pocket from his early morning visits, many hours previous. Despite this hands-on approach, all of the staff were more than happy to stop their activities and talk with us about their work and answer my copious questions. It was a very unique experience…we’re usually kept far away from the working winery during the craziness of harvest.
Following a barrel room tour (hello up there, room!), we headed back into the inner part of the winery for sit down tasting and amuse-bouche pairing, courtesy of estate Executive Chef, Todd Knoll. After examining the many finds in the sitting room, we headed through a secret door (seriously!) into the wine cellar to taste the vino. Jordan makes only a Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon each year, preferring the perfect the fruit and resulting wines continuously each year, rather than branch out with a number of different wines. We tasted the latest releases, the ’08 Russian River Valley Chardonnay and the ’06 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. In addition, we were able to try a back vintage just now coming into its own, the ’03 Alexander Valley Cab.
All of the wines displayed a very distinct house style of elegance, balance and restrained power. These were not huge California wines, but had more of an Old World beauty to them, yet still contained ample fruit to counter the fine tannin and juicy acidity and minerality that I tasted. The ’08 Chardonnay was particularly good, forcing me to slap a AwesomeWK badge on it and proclaim amazing. It was filled with great citrus fruit and acidity, slight cream and a very cool salty finish; I loved this wine. To my relief and excitement, these wines are also very reasonably priced for their quality: $29 for the Chard and $52 for the Cab, upon release.
The rest of the evening and night was filled with relaxation, good wine courtesy of our new friends from Chicago in the Jordan guest house and an outstanding meal in downtown Healdsburg at Barndiva (recommended by Jordan security wiz, Rob). The locavore menu there features a number of tasty and innovative dishes alongside some outstanding service. They’re wine list is very reasonable with pricing and featured quite a few tasty selections that I wish I’d had more time to explore. We enjoyed a very interesting sparkler from German house Solter (called a Sekt) and a not so memorable bottle of bubbly from Iron Horse Vineyard. Check out a video of our delicious peacefulness that evening, below!
A very big thank you must go out to Lisa, Claire, Rob, Todd and all of the wonderful staff at Jordan. Their hospitality was very generous and the tour was one of the best and most educational experiences that I’ve yet had a winery. All of the pictures and videos from our visit are found on my Flickr. The wines from that weekend have been tagged with “JordanEstate2010” so that you can list them in your own WineLog. Some of these wines even grabbed a vaunted WKBadge. Cheers!
Color: Medium gold, very clear
Nose: Great lemon zest, with an underlay of slightest brioche, slight salt and a more minor citrus to add complexity.
Palate: Zesty and yet very silky mouthfeel. A wonderful lasting finish, with some great minerality and more of that light salt. Extremely good.
Color: medium garnet, garnet edges
Nose: Juicy black cherry, fresh anise, cardamon, earth, wet, savory herbs. Wonderful complexity, along with slight new leather on the rim.
Palate: Medium full, with wonderful power-silk tannins, great acidity. Black and Bing cherry, alongside darkest chocolate. Anise here but more dried, raspberry and chocolate, dried blackberry, good long and smooth finish.
Color: Golden, with a very fine bead and robust mousse
Nose: Very raisined, with some slight brighter citrus trying to poke through, but the fruit tastes like it was picked way too late.
Palate: Very overripe, with middling acidity and dried lemon and white raisins. Unsure if this was actually a bad bottle, just tastes like very overripe fruit.