by Kara Hugglestone
My curiosity was piqued when invited to experience Jordan Vineyard and Winery’s new three-hour Estate Tour. Jordan’s wines are exquisite and the grounds are beautiful to be sure, but three hours? I couldn’t help but wonder what we would do for all that time. I needn’t have worried, for it was so enjoyable I didn’t want it to end. It was one of the best wine tours I’ve experienced, which is a true accolade.
The day began with a continental breakfast on the patio outside the “Jordan Chateau.” While noshing and chatting with fellow tour members I admired the European architecture around us. Great Francophiles, the Jordans were inspired by their many trips to abroad to create their own tribute to great French wine making. It extends beyond the style of wine as Jordan is easily one of the most beautiful Sonoma vineyard-wineries. Gazing at the charming classical-styled vine-covered buildings, there is a feeling of being transported to French wine country.
John Jordan, the charismatic second-generation vintner and current CEO welcomed us. John’s roots with the winery run deep; his father signed the deed the same day John was born. The vintner is many-faceted, he is also an attorney, pilot, professor and speaks German and Russian. He shares his parents’ passion for philanthropy, fishing and animals in general which is reflected in the estate we were about to experience.
We were ushered into our awaiting Mercedes van and headed out to explore some of the 1,200 acre Jordan Estate. Driving by beguiling rows of vines we first visited some of the acutely adorable animal inhabitants of Jordan, two very friendly donkeys, which are joined by 22 cows and 11 Black Australorp chickens; a flock of sheep are rumored to be next.
Our next stop was the organic Chef’s Garden where we were greeted by Chef Todd Knoll. Todd overseas the Jordan culinary program which includes preparing tastes for daily tour and tasting guests, cooking meals for trade guests and special events, managing the estate garden, crafting Jordan Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil and directing the kitchen staff. Prior to joining Jordan Todd was with the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco, where he served under the direction of Executive Chef Jean-Pierre Dubray. Nearly an acre of vegetables, fruit trees and herbs provide him with fab pairings for Jordan’s Chardonnay and Cabernet.
Todd and his wife Nitsa, director of hospitality and events for Jordan, guided us around the garden. It was wonderful to see the natural fruit and vegetables where they grow and sample them in the field. Nitsa is also the talented floral designer behind Jordan’s gorgeous floral arrangements. She shared that the garden’s edible flowers are often used as garnishes for Todd’s creations. I adored the garden’s amazing dahlias, they were enormous and so beautiful. The hat girls in the group agreed they would make a fabulous fascinator.
Our next stop was the serene Seven Oaks. Named after the cluster of craggy blue oaks there, Seven Oaks is a special place indeed. It offers sweeping views of grapevines and olive orchards and is next the beautifully placid Jordan Lake.
There we settled in for our first tasting of the day. Jordan’s 2010 and 2011 Chardonnay was poured next to an oval box holding a culinary treat. Anticipation was high as I opened the box, revealing the beautifully presented Spiced Garden Escabeche with Gravenstein Apple Vinaigrette and Wild Fennel and Nigiri of Seasonal Fruit with Jordan Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sonoma Honey and Citrus. It was exquisite.
I loved how the Chards paired with the tasting bites. Far too many California Chardonnays would have overpowered the food, but these were a perfect complement. Jordan’s whites are subtle and elegant – in the Burgundian tradition – and such a pleasure to enjoy. Notes of crisp green apples danced on my tongue and the crisp acidity and minerality provided an ever elegant finish.
Savoring the Chard, I walked down to Jordan Lake and admired the natural beauty before me. I loved how the lake reflected the sky and clouds, bordered by the vines. It was one of those very special wine country moments, the sort of view that haunts you long after you have left.
The Jordans are avid anglers and the lake is stocked with bass; it was one of the reasons the spot was selected for the winery originally.
Next we were off to Creekside Landing where we learned about the grapevines annual lifecycle. It was exciting to get up close and personal with the grapes that make Jordan’s nectar. We compared some of the Merlot and Malbec grapes used in blending their Bordeaux style-Cabernet and tasted them off the vine.
Heading back to the van, we traveled up to the new Vista Point, a pavilion atop Jordan’s highest hilltop. It offers a stunning panorama of three mountain ranges and three wine regions. Admiring the stellar view, we were temped in with Jordan Cabernet.
Inside and seated at the table, we were treated to the scrumptious Miso-Glazed Sonoma Beef with Maitake Mushrooms and Braised Endive and a delectable selection of Sonoma County and European artisanal cheese as the 2002 and 2009 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley was poured for us.
As much as Jordan Chardonnay is modeled after Burgundy, their Cabernet is Bordeaux. I loved how classically styled it is, it’s so beautifully balanced. The notes of cherry, current and a hint of vanilla drawing me deeper and deeper into this fabulous wine. It was a perfect accompaniment to the bites.
After the tasting I circled the pavilion and admired the vista. It was wonderful to savor the remainder of the Cab and reflect on this special experience… Jordan is one of the few properties in Northern California Wine Country with more than 1,000 acres owned by a private individual – and more than three-quarters of it devoted to natural habitat. How fabulous that they decided to open the estate for tour. Tasting wine by Jordan is always a treat, but it was especially sweet enjoying it in this very special environment. There was a connection in this tour that I haven’t often felt.
The Jordan Estate Tour is as beautifully crafted as their wines.
We hopped on the van to head back to the chateau where we started. Arriving at there I thought, this is how a wine tour should be.