We attended the 10th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference held in Santa Rosa, California in November of this year. In our books, the conference was a big success: educational, fun and full of great wine experiences. But certainly the highlight for us was the dinner that Jordan Vineyard and Winery hosted.
If you are not already familiar with Jordan, you really need check this winery out. Jordan Vineyard and Winery is located just outside of the town of Healdsburg in the Alexander Valley AVA, one of 17 AVAs within Sonoma County. Tasting at Jordan is by appointment only or in this case, as a part of the Wine Bloggers Conference, which Jordan generously sponsored.
A bus picked us up at our hotel to take us the half hour drive to the winery. Lisa Mattson, Jordan’s charming and very capable Director of Marketing and Communications was there to greet us and welcome us on to the bus. As we headed towards the winery she told our group of hungry and excited bloggers about what we could expect during the evening to come. And then she passed around plastic cups and bottles of Jordan’s special order Champagne so we could all enjoy a roadie on the way to the winery–a good omen if ever there was one!
To say that the Jordan winery is an impressive sight would make us guilty of gross understatement. Sitting on a high point on their expansive and very private property, the yellow buildings are covered in vines and evoke traditional Bordeaux Chateau architecture. The interior is every bit as impressive as the exterior. Our group was lead down to the barrel room where tables had been set up for us, facing the front of the room. We were now about to begin an utterly fascinating 45 minute seminar on pairing wine with caviar! At each setting were 4 glasses, each poured with a different wine to taste with the 5 different caviars and an amuse bouche. The caviars were spooned on to individual Blinis.
Jordan has long been known to be dead serious about their wine making, crafting elegant Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay that is among the very finest in the Sonoma Valley. And they are no less serious when it comes to caviar. The caviar for this event came from Tsar Nicoulai, an artisanal caviar farm just outside of Sacramento, about two hours drive from the winery. Tsar Nicoulai has been cultivating caviar from 100% American White Sturgeon using sustainable practices for over 30 years. The unique caviar we tasted that night was a special collaboration between Tsar Nicoulai and Jordan’s Executive Chef, Todd Knoll. Chef Todd harvests salt water and kombu, a sea vegetable often referred to as kelp that is dried and then infused with the chilled Sonoma Coast sea water for three days. The kombu is then removed and final evaporation is allowed to occur, making the caviar’s essential cure. The result is a richly textured and deliciously saline caviar that is unique and irresistible. While that level of effort and detail to get just the right texture and flavour may seem excessive to some, that is just everyday business at Jordan.
Leading the seminar were Lisa and Tsar Nicoulai’s Otto Szilagyi. Otto gave an excellent account of the sustainable practices in use at Tsar Nicoulai and then proceeded to lead us through the tasting. Lisa filled in with details about the wine. We began with a wasabi roe paired with Jordan Cuvee, a Non-Vintage Brut Champagne produced especially for Jordan by Champagne House AR Lenoble. This dry Champagne (5g/l dosage) paired wonderfully with the spiciness of the wasabi infusion. Next we moved onto a ginger infused caviar paired with the 2014 Jordan Chardonnay. The ginger produces a different heat and spice than the wasabi that preceded it and this worked wonderfully with the elegance of Jordan’s Chardonnay. Jordan goes light on the oak which helps to work with the spiciness and the salinity. This a beautiful Chardonnay, slightly creamy with good acidity on the back end. Great with caviar!
From here we went to the red wines. We have to admit, we were skeptical at first. We have loved pairing cooked seafood with red wine, usually Pinot Noir. But raw with red? With Cabernet?? We were going to need some convincing. For this pairing the roe was infused with beet and saffron. The beets provide an earthiness that is tremendous with the tertiary, earthy flavours of the well-aged, 2009 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon. As we stated earlier, Jordan is known for the elegance of their wines. These are wines crafted for the dinner table; intense flavours on medium body that works so well with food and never seeks centre stage. The eight years of cellaring accentuated that elegance. The pairing worked brilliantly; two new caviar-paired-with-red-wine fans were born! Our newly formed opinion was cemented with the last pairing: a truffle-infused caviar with the 2012 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon. The earthiness that was in both the food and the wine was a great match and the greater intensity of flavours worked well together too. We had never paired caviar with anything but Champagne prior to this tasting. In future, we certainly won’t hesitate to pair caviar with still wines as well, white or red. This was a terrific seminar; great for education but also a delight for the senses as the caviars and each of the wines were excellent.
We left the barrel room and moved next door to where Jordan’s old wooden fermenters are situated. Here sit the original 12 massive oak tanks, each with a capacity of 6,000 gallons, that Jordan purchased for the original opening of their winery in 1976 (6,000 gallons is over 30,000 standard bottles of wine). A long table was set up running down the length of the room. 60 of us were treated to a spectacular 5 course dinner paired with the 2014 Jordan Chardonnay and three different vintages of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Chardonnay worked brilliantly with the salad and with the seafood appetizer. This is a crisp and precise Chardonnay, terroir-driven, with flavours of apple and hints of almond and zesty acidity on the long finish. Next up was a beautifully tender and flavourful duck breast paired with Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a toss-up for most of us in trying to find a winner between the 2009 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2013 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignons. The softness and all around seductiveness of the older wine certainly charmed many I spoke with. But the intensity of the duck flavours seemed a match made in heaven for the bright black cherry and gentle earth flavour of the 2013 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon. Jordan’s signature elegance and gentle tannins made this young wine work perfectly with the soft texture of the duck. The depth of the fruit was stand out feature as was the precise balance. Our opinion might have been in the minority, but we are giving the nod to the 2013.
After the main course was served, Chef Todd Knoll took the stage to say a few words and receive a well-deserved rapturous applause from our very appreciative group. But just when I started to sink back in my chair, enjoying my last sips of the 2013 and smile broadly about this feast of great food and amazing wine, John Jordan, son of the founders and President of the winery got up to speak. He spoke with great passion and enthusiasm about his family, their wines and the winery’s belief in making wines for the dinner table. He thanked us all for coming. And as a special treat he had one more wine for us to try. As he spoke out of the kitchen came about a half a dozen waiters in black suits and white shirts, each carrying a magnum of the 2003 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon! We were all treated to a glass of this 14 year old elixir which offered up dark cherry, currants, earth and hints of spice on the finish. Fully mature, showing plenty of complexity, this was showing no signs of breaking down and probably has another decade of good drinking in front of it. What a rare treat to drink such a wine, and from Magnum no less! John’s generosity was a fitting touch to an evening of delicious food, amazing wine and great company in a unique surrounding. This extravaganza was a memory-maker, one we will always cherish.
As it turns out, once-in –a-lifetime events like this are not once-in-a-lifetime for people on Jordan’s mailing list. https://www.jordanwinery.com/rewards/join In fact, this sort of thing is relatively common along with all sorts of other events from wine dinners to hikes, and cruises. Definitely a lifestyle we could become accustomed to…and yes, we joined up!
Jordan Winery 1474 Alexander Valley Road • Healdsburg, CA 95448-9003 800-654-1213 • firstname.lastname@example.org