The art of hospitality dates to ancient times and is thankfully alive and well in the modern era. Jordan Vineyard & Winery practices the art of hospitality whenever it welcomes wine-tasters to its chateau, a 58,000 square-foot winery and home that looks like it has been there for more than a hundred years. This was the fifth winery tour on our recent trip to California Wine Country.
To reach the winery, we ventured out of Napa Valley to the six-lane U.S. Highway 101, a high-speed artery that took us to Healdsburg in Sonoma Valley. Why the journey when there were 496 more wineries to visit in Napa Valley? To visit one of a handful of wineries with Colorado roots.
Founders Tom and Sally Jordan lived in Denver after they were married in 1959. They shared a passion for wine, food, and entertaining, which came together in regular travel to France. Sally learned to cook French cuisine, which they served to their friends at home when Denver was not the growing foodie scene it is now.
The Jordans’ passions culminated in the founding of Jordan Vineyard & Winery. They signed the deed on May 25, 1972, the day their son, John, was born. They set about developing Bordeaux-style wines using California fruit. The French-style chateau was constructed in 18 months and opened in time for Jordan Vineyards’ first harvest in 1976.
John, Sally, and Tom Jordan
It seems only fitting the child who was born on the day of the winery’s founding would be the one to own and manage the winery after Tom and Sally retired. In 2005 John took the reins, later purchasing the winery from his father. John expanded the visitor experience the following year to include more food and wine pairings and additional staff to support his vision for the gracious hospitality guests enjoy today.
Our host, Jayson Blakley, led us on a tour of the grounds. The winery produces 100,000 cases of wine annually, about 75,000 of which are Cabernet Sauvignon, and the remaining 25,000 of which are Chardonnay. Originally the wine was estate-bottled, which means all grapes were grown onsite.
In 1996 the phylloxera root louse damaged a number of Northern Colorado vineyards, including those at Jordan Winery. They were forced to replant their estate vineyards and decided to plant new vineyards on the hillside behind the winery. Until the new vines matured, Jordan Winery sourced grapes from growers in order to maintain production. The winemaker was impressed by the quality of the neighbors’ fruit and has opted to continue using these growers’ grapes today, in addition to grapes from the replenished estate vineyards.
We stopped at a terrace overlooking the valley, organic garden, and groves of olive trees. A bottle of Jordan Chardonnay awaited, along with an amuse bouche-portion of split pea purée with tarragon and sugar snap peas, garnished with seared Maine lobster. Onsite Chef Todd, formerly of the Ritz-Carlton, had requested the large organic garden be cultivated for his use in the kitchen. We were happy beneficiaries of his produce.
* 2012 Jordan Chardonnay – a simple yet complex blend of Granny Smith apple, pear, and oak. The grapes were sourced from the Russian River Valley in blocks located about 10-15 miles southwest of the winery. The wine was pale straw in color and had the food-friendly balance of a White Burgundy. It was aged in French oak for 6.5 months then another 2 years in medium-smoke oak. The wine was made to feature the fruit, with the other elements offering support. The Chardonnay paired beautifully with the pea soup, its creaminess softening the bright acid in the wine.
As we headed inside to tour the tank room and barrel room, Blakley described Jordan’s wine program as having more in common with an airline’s frequent flier program that with automatic shipments of wine. Jordan lovers receive points for every purchase. They can cash in points for private meals and stays in the suites at the winery.
The central building at Jordan Winery was constructed around the large oak fermenting tanks, which hold 6,000 gallons of wine. The second fermentation takes place in these now neutral oak tanks that contain 38 years of tartaric acid buildup. After three months, the wine is pumped from the fermenting tanks to smaller French oak barrels, where it remains for another 12 months. Jordan uses each barrel for three years before selling it to another winery or distillery. The wine goes back to the large oak tanks for another three months, then back to the even larger steel tanks. The entire process takes two years, and then the wine ages in the bottle for another two years before it is released.
We climbed the stairs to the library, where we gathered to watch Blakley decant a 2002 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon. Blakley explained Jordan’s Left-Bank style Cabernet must always contain at least 75% Cabernet Sauvignon in order to be labeled a Cabernet. Jordan Cabernets tend to be blended with 1-2% Malbec, anywhere from 12-23% Merlot, and the balance Petit Verdot.
* 2002 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon – it was dense and rich and tasted of chocolate and cherries. It had an older wine’s mature complexity and smoothness. Layers of flavor continued to evolve in the glass. It was made of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. This wine will peak in 2017.
Blakley encouraged us to save a sip or two in our glasses before we entered the chateau’s hidden room, which used to be Tom Jordan’s humidor and private wine cellar. Individual plates with estate-bottled Jordan Olive Oil, Black Truffle Triple Cream Brie, Ossau-Iraty raw sheep’s milk cheese, and 18-month Aged Gouda awaited, along with homemade quince paste and slices of French baguette. There was also a Nigiri-style piece of New York strip steak over vanilla-scented sushi rice. Nice!
My introduction to Jordan wines was at a Jordan Vertical Tasting dinner at Ya-Ya’s EuroBistro in Denver. Being able to taste different vintages of Jordan Cabernet side-by-side was as big a treat then as it was on our tour.
* 2006 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon – decanted for 90 minutes prior to tasting, this wine smelled of rhubarb with vegetal notes of bell peppers, pepper and spice. It had lush, dark fruit, tannins, and acid. Made of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, and 1% Malbec, it will peak in 2020.
* 2010 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon – the current release. This wine had a dense nose and blackberries and plums on the palate. It was a smooth balance of tannin, acid, and fruit. Made of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec, it will peak in 2026.
Jordan Winery offers tours by appointment only. Its wines are available throughout Colorado and at steak houses across the country. Wine & Spirits Magazine’s 25th annual poll ranked Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon as the #1 restaurant Cabernet Sauvignon; Jordan Chardonnay was ranked #10.
Until our next adventure in wine and food…
Jordan Vineyard & Winery
1474 Alexander Valley Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448
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Organic garden with olive trees in the distance.