Hours: Open daily April through November (closed Sundays in December through March); tours and tastings are offered by appointment at select times each day
Tasting fees: $30-$120, depending on experience
Wines offered: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay
Did you know: John Jordan, an avid pilot, houses his Piper Cub in a hangar built from a redwood water tank on the Jordan Estate.
Wine Country changes with the seasons, so it makes sense for wine tours to reflect those shifts. If you’re looking for an experience that perfectly captures the bounty and beauty of summer and fall in the North Bay, look no further than the Jordan Estate Tour & Tasting. Because the tour starts at 9:45 a.m., Executive Chef Todd Knoll prepares a light breakfast sampler that includes pastries, jams, fresh fruit and juice, with many ingredients sourced onsite.
Offered Thursday through Monday, May through October only, this three-hour van tour travels across the 1,200-acre Jordan estate at a leisurely pace, stopping here and there to highlight different aspects of the operation (only 112 acres are planted to vineyard). At the organic culinary garden, for example, we wander through rows of herbs, fruits, vegetables and flowers, smelling David Austin roses and plucking ripe strawberries to taste. I’d never seen a horseradish bush or white asparagus growing naturally, nor a towering okra flower in bloom. Amazing.
“Chef and [gardener] Lionel Camargo work together to decide what to plant, and chef is also very insistent that we use as many heirloom varieties as possible. He works with the Petaluma Seed Bank and, at this point, we harvest back some of our own seeds to use year-after-year,” says Claire Smith, senior guest services associate/estate tours, our host for the day. Most excess is donated to a local food bank.
The nearby barn houses chickens (fresh eggs!) and two miniature donkeys, Maverick and Goose. A small herd of cattle graze nearby (Texas longhorn and black angus, used for weed/grass control and also harvested for in-house use by Knoll). On a bright, sunny day, an adjacent, 2,000-panel solar array provides all the energy needed to run the estate (75 percent is average); some days, it feeds extra energy back to the grid.
After driving past a large, meandering reclamation pond that collects rainwater and wastewater from winery operations then repurposes it for any necessary irrigation and frost protection, we arrive at Seven Oaks, a lovely, shaded area next to Jordan’s well-stocked, tournament-caliber bass fishing lake. In this tranquil setting, we sample two Chardonnays—the current release and a library selection—and enjoy a small food pairing prepared by Knoll.
The 2013 Russian River Valley Chardonnay is creamy, with fresh apple, citrus fruit and light minerality; we contrast it to the 2010 version of the same wine, which has aged beautifully. The 2010, only available at the winery, is richer in color and weightier in texture, with a baked apple depth of flavor. Both pair beautifully with Knoll’s garden escabeche of spiced root vegetables with Gravenstein apple and coriander vinaigrette; and a Nigiri of citrus blossom water with grilled fennel and fleur de sel, wild fennel pollen, fennel fronds and saffron panna cotta with 2013 Jordan Estate extra virgin olive oil. Happy dance!
Next, we travel past the olive orchards (18 acres), housing three Tuscan varietals and one Spanish, the source of Jordan’s award-winning extra virgin olive oil. The estate produces enough oil to share with visiting guests, for Knoll to use in his preparations and to sell out of the winery, but not for outside distribution.
A subsequent stop mid-vineyard leads to a lively and informative conversation about clonal selection, soil science, vine development and lesser-grown varietals. We inspect newly flowered vines as a red-shouldered hawk swoops down to inspect us. Another memorable moment.
The tour culminates at Vista Point, a newly constructed, glass-enclosed tasting room atop a high hill on the property. The aptly named location offers a 360-degree view that includes the entire estate, Mt. St. Helena in the distance and much of Alexander and Dry Creek valleys. Here, we sit for a second comparative tasting, this time of Jordan’s excellent Cabernet Sauvignons. Again, Chef Knoll scores with an unexpected but spot-on selection of food pairings.
The 2011 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is soft and refined, with red currant, fresh herbs and warm spice. The 2006 library version is velvety, with blueberry, cranberry and sweet tobacco. With the wines, a small tureen of Mangalitsa pork (two ways) with Sebastopol mushrooms, vegetables and heritage Freekeh grain—umami heaven—is presented alongside a bento box divided into three sections, each containing a different flavor profile that brings out different elements in the wine: roasted and dried pear and dried peach; fresh-baked bread and more estate olive oil; and a variety of California artisan cheeses with quince paste. My mouth is watering with the memory.
As we survey the land, it’s apparent how much of the Jordan estate is not planted to vineyards. One of the more impressive takeaways is how in-balance the cultivated portions of the property are with those left in (or reverted to) a natural state. “We’ve done extensive soil studies and found that, when we were struggling with a particular piece of land, it was because it isn’t well-suited to planting,” says Smith. “We’ve worked hard to make sure we’re site-specific farming, and where we’ve planted is the most ideal for high-quality fruit instead of just looking to quantity.”
Part of what makes this tour so exceptional is its pace. This isn’t an overly scripted or scheduled affair. Rather, it’s a casual conversation spread over time. Nothing feels rushed. “We really want to let our guests set the pace,” says Smith. “Some people want to linger in the garden and are very interested in that element. Others want to know about sustainability and water conservation. Of course, many people want to learn about and try the wines. We want everyone to get something personal from this experience.”
So if you think you’ve seen, done and know everything when it comes to winery tours, think again.
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