“Penicillin cures, but wine makes people happy.” — Alexander Fleming
I think of all the days I had planned for this Napa 2017 trip, I was most excited by Day 3. I had never really been to Sonoma before (we will ignore my inglorious attempt at horseback riding, which admittedly took place in Sonoma during our honeymoon. I endeavor to forget the experience on a somewhat regular basis, as I lack any semblance of grace when it comes to activities requiring any gear superfluous to that which God granted my person.) People have often told me that Sonoma is fabulous, and it was my day to discover Sonoma for myself.
The four of us set off around 10am for the hour-long trip up Highway 29 through Napa Vally and west to Jordan Winery. I was first introduced to Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon in medical school. Marcia is the mother of one of my two best medical school friends, Maria, and over the years I have managed to finagle Marcia into becoming a friend of mine in her own right. Maria is a fabulous human being – honestly, she’s one in a million – and it’s easy to see why is is the way she is when you meet Marcia and her jolly husband, Jose. All three of them are brilliant, witty, thoughtful, and surpassingly kind. No visit back to Denver is complete without dropping in on Marcia and Jose; they have become family, and I don’t think I can ever repay the kindness and generosity they have shown me. I guess I’ll have to pay it forward, which is likely their intent. Anyway, I digress. In medical school Marcia learned that I was a fledgling wine aficionado and has been very influential in helping me develop my taste in wine. Jordan was one of the first truly excellent wines I had ever had, sitting in her kitchen, chatting about everything and nothing. Since that time I have taken every recommendation from Marcia seriously, and I have never once been disappointed.
Driving through Napa is very beautiful, and it’s just amazing to appreciate the sheer number of wineries here. Despite a slight and inevitable traffic jam through St. Helena, we arrived right on time for our 11 o’clock tour and tasting. Jordan, located in the northern part of Sonoma in the Alexander Valley, is absolutely breath-taking, and photos really don’t do the place justice. You notice the grandure of the place immediately as you enter and then wind your way through the outer grounds of the estate, over several bridges, grateful to see signage confirming you haven’t gotten lost. Then you come upon this gorgeous chateau, ivy growing along the sides, with a grand driveway overlooking the grounds you just traversed. It makes for a pretty spectacular first impression. We stood in the morning sun wondering over the place, and I could hear little else besides birds chirping and a light breeze rustling through the trees.
I had to go back and read about it, but I learned that the majority of the estate grounds have been preserved as natural habitat (which explains a little of the meandering drive to the chateau itself). The property includes 112 acres of grapevines, 18 acres of olive trees, a one-acre garden, two lakes, and grazing pastures. That’s pretty unique for a winery, especially one situated on such valuable real estate. Props, Jordan.
Already impressed, we checked in and were soon led along a path dappled with shade to the start of our tasting experience. As we strolled we learned some of the history of Jordan from our guide. Yevgeniya and I were delighted to find that we knew two members of our tour group – Angela and Jordan, both nurses from Loma Linda! They were there to celebrate Jordan’s birthday at, appropriately, Jordan Winery. Smiles and greetings exchanged, we stopped at an overlook shaded by majestic trees where we could gaze out across the rolling hills below us. Here a taste of Jordan Chardonnay was poured, paired with a delectable savory ricotta topped with black caviar, furikake, and edible flowers. It was so lovely I almost didn’t eat it, but was glad when I did as it was a perfect complement to the Chardonnay.
Chardonnay still in hand, we were led along a gravel path to a second overlook, where we could gaze down over the farm. There were cows grazing, goats milling about, and even a few donkeys resting in the shade. Looking out to the horizon we could see some of the vineyards, as well as an olive grove. Jordan also makes wonderful olive oil from the olives harvested on the estate. The scene was pastoral and peaceful.
We were then led back to the chateau, into an immaculate dining room with a wall of windows looking over the wooden fermenting tanks. Jordan has numerable on site events, many of which take place in this dining room. They have a rather unique “membership” system; by simply providing an email address, you earn points based on purchases from the winery. As you earn points you are invited to these various events. You don’t necessarily have to sign up for a wine club, and I find this approach refreshing and rather democratic. More props to Jordan! We soon had the opportunity to walk through the fermenting tanks, where we learned more about the winemaking process at Jordan. Something I found interesting is that they use a layer of egg whites distributed over the top of the tank to help filter the wine of debris. Also, they do their blending in these massive oak tanks, and only after the final blend is approved is the wine moved into the smaller oak tanks for an additional year of aging.
From here we made our way into the library and (exciting!) through a secret passage into a hidden, intimate room where a beautiful spread awaited us. We were each seated at a gorgeous dining table where an immaculate, individual cheese board awaited. To go along with our delectable cheeses, which were seriously tasty, we were treated to a vertical tasting of the Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon from 2009, 2011, and 2013.
Needless to say, each of the Jordan Cabs were outstanding, and each was a little different. I was a fan of the 2009, while Brian preferred the 2011. We ended up purchasing both! It was quite the experience to relax in this elegant secret room, lazily enjoying our wine and cheese, chatting over the merits of this one versus that one. I didn’t want to leave!
Per usual, Marcia’s recommendation was a home run all around – all four of us, and our two Loma Linda friends, agreed it was a fantastic experience. They even made it possible for our friend Jordan to have her picture taken beside a bottled vintage from her birth year! How fun is that? We were sad when our time at Jordan came to its inevitable conclusion, but you can bet I will be back on future Napa visits!