April 15 2012 issue
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WINERY SPOTLIGHT Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Healdsburg, California Benjamin T. Weinberg
John Jordan has restored the prestige of his family’s iconic winery.
John Jordan, second-generation vintner and CEO of Jordan Vineyard & Winery since 2005, believes strongly in the timeless qualities of balance, elegance, and finesse. His esthetic is reflected throughout Jordan’s 1,500-acre estate in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, where rolling hills, lakes, streams, oak trees, pastures, and gardens frame the winery, vineyards, tasting room, and operational facilities.
The company has been dedicated to Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and hospitality since its founding in 1972 by Jordan’s parents, Tom and Sally. Chardonnay grapes are sourced from the Russian River Valley under long-term contracts, and the Cabernet Sauvignon, a long-time restaurant top seller, combines grapes from the winery’s best hillside lots with fruit from coveted growers. Estate vineyards include 223 acres of Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon (158 acres), Petit Verdot (21), and Merlot (44). In 1995, the Jordans planted nearly 18 acres of olive trees—primarily Tuscan varieties such as Frantoio, Leccino, Arbequina, and Pendolino—which they use to produce their own oil. They also farm 1.5 acres of organically grown vegetables, fruits, and herbs, incorporated by the onsite kitchen staff into food pairings for tour participants and meals for overnight guests. Jordan attributes the winery’s focus to his parents, who fell in love with food before they developed a passion for wine. "For us," he says, "wine is a beverage to be enjoyed alongside great food in beautiful surroundings with convivial company."
The current Jordan team includes Rob Davis, who has been winemaker since the family’s first commercial vintage in 1976; assistant winemakers Ronald Du Preez and Maggie Kruse; viticulturalist Brent Young; vineyard manager Dana Grande; executive chef Todd Knoll; and Tim Spence, director of facilities and operations since 1989. Add in the talents of communications director Lisa Mattson, and you’ve got quite a seasoned group on hand to celebrate the winery’s 40th anniversary on May 25.
When not in the office, Jordan is an enthusiastic pilot who learned to fly at age 17 and now owns Gulfstream, Bonanza, and Piper Cub aircraft. "Hawaii is probably my favorite trip," he says with a smile. "There’s something about oceanic flying that just appeals to me." He’s an avid fisherman as well, often found on the banks of the estate’s peaceful lake, which is professionally stocked with largemouth bass. "Disposable income not spent on fishing or flying is money wasted," he adds.
Jordan earned a law degree and an MBA while simultaneously attending two different postgraduate schools. Although he’s still a partner in a Santa Rosa law firm, he uses his legal and financial training primarily to oversee all aspects of the family business. These include green initiatives: with three-quarters of the total estate acreage dedicated to natural habitat, Jordan considers the impact of every viticultural and winemaking decision on the native ecosystems under his care. Reducing the winery’s impact on the environment has been a guiding principle for decades. Indeed, Jordan was among the first wineries certified in both the Sonoma Green Business Program (1999) and the Bay Area Green Business Program (2000); it was certified carbon neutral in 2009. From ground cover and composting to the introduction of beneficial predators and water recycling, Jordan’s viticultural team works year round to preserve sustainability. The winery is currently constructing an American-made solar farm, which will supply 75% of its annual energy needs upon its completion this summer.
Jordan’s approach has diverged significantly from his father’s in some respects. "It’s about making a great wine even better," says Davis. "Blending grapes from the finest benchland vineyards in Alexander Valley with our own fruit gives us more complexity than would a wine made only from our estate." Those fruit-sourcing enhancements were realized with the 2007 vintage and are already paying dividends in terms of quality.
The only alteration to the barrel program that Jordan has made during his tenure, however, has been a greater investment in French oak. "That decision was based purely on the more intense characteristics we are getting from the benchland fruit," Davis explains. "We don’t use formulas in our winemaking; élevage decisions are made each year purely by taste." The 2005 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon was aged in 64% French and 36% American oak barrels, the 2006 version used 66% French oak, and the 2007 employed 70% French oak. But only a third of all barrels, whether French or American, are new. The wine spends 12 months in barrel before the final blend is created and bottled. For Chardonnay, Jordan continues to use 100% French oak, about half new. The most important change since the 2005 Chardonnay vintage has involved a reduced reliance on malolactic fermentation, now down to around 30%.
"Designing a wine to compete in a 50-bottle lineup, which is the way this business is often viewed," says Jordan, "is a very different task than creating juice that makes a chef look good, whether in a restaurant kitchen or at home. Our wines have never contained anywhere near 15% alcohol. We view ourselves as keepers of a much older tradition."
Still, the company continues to look forward. Jordan’s information-technology initiatives include interactive videos, media for iPad restaurant lists (see "Weinberg’s Wine Tech" in the Feb. 28, 2012, issue of Sommelier Journal ), and customer-reward programs. The winery welcomes guests for tours and seated tastings by appointment throughout the year; reservations are required, but can be made online. Overnight accommodations in onsite suites and guest houses are available to members of the trade, the press, and the Jordan Estate Rewards program. Guests who join Jordan’s mailing list are automatically enrolled in this program, which awards points for every dollar spent at the winery, redeemable for exclusive events.
John Jordan is a Renaissance character, equally comfortable discussing wine’s historic grandeur and its high-tech future. His imprint is felt all over his domain, which continues its pursuit of excellence in every aspect of modern winemaking, cuisine, and hospitality, ensuring access to both the artistry of the cellar and the joys of the table.
Jordan Vineyard & Winery
1474 Alexander Valley Road
Healdsburg, CA, 95448