Jordan Winery and Vineyards, located in Sonoma County's Alexander Valley just north of Healdsburg, is a vast 1,200 acre property, boasting not just 112 acres of vineyards but a cattle ranch, vegetable and flower garden, olive tree groves and a lake that's a habitat for all sorts of fish and birds. But visitors to the winery rarely get a glimpse of this sprawling estate.
"We never wanted to be a belly up to the bar wine bar," says John Jordan, CEO of the winery his parents founded in 1972. In fact, John was born in Denver on the same day Tom and Sally Jordan closed on the property for their first vineyard, May 25, 1972. The estate property was bought in 1974. Today, this land is also home for John, with his house overlooking the vineyards and lake. For him to invite visitors to tour his backyard, the experience had to be special.
The Estate Tour & Tasting, launched last fall, and is in full swing this summer, showcasing what Jordan has to offer - small bites created to pair with Jordan's Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, tasted alfresco at stops long a three hour tour. I was invited to participate with a group of journalists in April. I've been on many winery tour experiences and I have to say this one is the most impressive, in terms of what you see, what you learn and the presentation of the food and wine pairings.
A custom Mercedes Benz Sprinter mini bus, outfitted with leather seats, carries visitors on a smooth ride along the hilly terrain. There are four stops along the way, led by Claire Smith, who shares information about the estate, the wines, and stories about the Jordans. It's an insider's view into the Sonoma wine country lifestyle, which, when you get down to it, is all about farming and agriculture.
After a brief tour throughout the winery's tank room (tanks which have been there since the winery was built in 1976) our first stop demonstrates that connection to farming. We see the cattle grazing pasture, meet rescue donkeys Goose and Maverick (a reference to John Jordan's days in the naval reserve and Top Gun), see the chicken coop, and gardens full of flowers, fruit trees, vegetables and herbs. It's fun stop, where you can nibble on tender baby asparagus or fava bean blossoms.
The next stop is at Seven Oaks, where there's a deck with views of the lake, brimming with egrets, herons, ducks and geese. Here, the first pairing, with Chardonnay. The presentation is clever and fun -- a small oval boxes hold little bites, all prepared by Jordan executive chef Todd Knoll. For this pairing, it's vegan - vegetables, fruit and herbs.
"I am pouring the 2012 Chardonnay first because of the brightness of the acidity," says Claire. The second wine is the 2009 Chard, so we can compare the differences of an aged wine with the food pairings. We have a vegetable escabeche, lightly pickled and a great match with the 2012 Chard. There's also a little dish with a fresh fruit nigiri, a take on sushi. The sushi rice has vanilla bean in it which works really well with the Chardonnay. The rice is topped with thin slices of plum, asian pear and satsuma.
On to the next stop, a chance to get out and walk in the vineyard while Claire explains the differences in soils and growth rates of the vines. Then it's on to the culmination of the tour, at Vista Point, the highest elevation hill on the estate at about 700 feet. The 360 degree views from here are amazing.
For our last tasting we walk into a pavilion to find a table setting for each of us with a bento box full of bites to be paired with two vintages of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002 and 2010.
We munch on a dried fig, poached pear, a trio of cheeses, and taste the fruity and buttery Jordan estate extra virgin olive oil. There's Sonoma lamb in a cute little enamel pot, cooked sous vide with vegetables and herbs. It's fun to see how the different flavors and textures of the wines work with each bite. I have to say they are pretty spot on pairings.
We could stay at Vista Point all day. The pavilion has all glass walls that open up to the outside on beautiful warm days like today. But the tour is set for three hours, and the Jordan team strives to keep it within that timeframe. Otherwise who would leave?
The Estate Tour and Tasting is $120, I think a fair price considering what you get to see and experience. If you belong to Jordan's Estate Rewards program you can redeem points for the Estate Tour and Tasting.
Tours are offered Thursday through Monday, from mid-April to mid-November, with a maximum of 12 people.
John Jordan is a firm believer in visiting Jordan, if not for the estate tour, for a tasting at the winery, to understand what Jordan is all about. "We try to give the wines a sense of place, not just geographically in Sonoma but in the context of food," he says. "It's so much fun to share the property."