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What to Wear to a Wine Tasting & Other Wine Country Vacation Tips

Working at a destination winery in Healdsburg, we field many questions from visitors who are trying to plan the ultimate wine country vacation. We try our best to offer tips and advice that will make their Sonoma wine tasting and dining adventures as memorable as possible. By far, the most asked question we receive at Jordan Winery is what to wear to a wine tasting. Here, I’ve compiled a list of the top frequently asked traveler questions with answers from the Jordan hospitality, many of whom have lived and worked in Sonoma wine country their entire lives. We dug a little deeper into the fashion questions and included photo galleries, as the “wine country casual” fashion is better explained through photos.

What to Wear to a Wine Tasting

Wondering what to wear wine tasting? Before you raid your closet, make sure you know what your wine tasting entails. If you’re just popping into tasting rooms around the town of Healdsburg, Sonoma, Yountville or Napa, you want to be comfortable but cute and fashionable (see “What is Wine Country Casual? below). For ladies, you can wear a sundress, dressy jeans and a cute top, or a casual skirt and cute top. Recommended shoes include wedge sandals, flat dress shoes or stylish boots. (See below gallery for photos.) If you’re going to a winery where walking through the vineyard is part of the experience—which is becoming more common, especially in Sonoma County—leave the stillettos at home and wear flat, close-toed shoes. Depending how hot it is outside, jeans may even be more appropriate for a vineyard tasting. Daily temperatures fluctuate significantly in wine country—that’s why the wine grapes are so delicious—so it’s always a good idea to bring a sweater or light jacket with you to morning tastings and dinner. And don’t forget–wearing white to a wine tasting is daring because red wine spills do happen.

What to Wear to a Wine Tasting: Women’s Fashion Photos

Below are some examples of typical clothes women wear to a wine tasting. Some wineries are more formal with seated tastings, like Jordan Winery, while others are more casual, such as Gundlach Bundschu, which has outdoor concerts and vineyard tours in a vintage military vehicle. Be sure to dress accordingly based upon the tasting description.

What to Wear to a Wine Tasting: Men’s Fashion Photos

Find fashion inspiration in the photos below of stylish men at Jordan Winery events and wine tastings. For outdoor lunches and vineyard tastings, you’ll see that guys definitely wear shorts, but they are typically dressy shorts with a collared shirt—or dressy pants/jeans with a collared shirt. Casual dress shoes or stylish sneakers work.

What is Wine Country Casual Attire?

Wine country casual is a very vague term that frustrates some and inspires others to create their own definition of wine country fashion. For women, wine country casual means sundresses or a cute dress top and dress shorts or capris. Fancy jeans can even work. Shoes can range from boots and sandals to flats and stylish sneakers. For men, that means a short-sleeved dress shirt, golf shirt or designer tee shirt with dress shorts, casual pants or dressy jeans. Casual dress shoes or stylish sneakers. During the evening, if you’re going to a fancy restaurant like French Laundry or SingleThread, ladies will probably want to wear a dress or dress slacks (and jackets without a tie for men), but you could easily wear jeans and a nice top (don’t forget the light sweater or jacket) to Barndiva, Valette, Chalkboard or Spoonbar in Healdsburg.

What wine country casual is not: gym shorts, cut-off Jean shorts, or sports t-shirts. If you’re going to brewery for dinner, feel free to don those duds. High heels—regardless of how fabulous they look— are iffy. Feel free to pack those kicks if you’re only walking from the Uber to your table at the restaurant.

People do, however, tend to dress up a little more than wine country casual at night if they’re going to dinner at a white-tablecloth restaurant like Dry Creek Kitchen or Farmhouse Inn, but for most places, the same style of wine country casual works for day or night—just don’t forget the sweater or jacket.

The slideshow above shows our favorite wine country casual attire from events and tastings at the winery. View the gallery at the end of this post for Instagrammers who know how to pull off the wine country casual look.

Should We Tip a Wine Tasting Host?

Visiting a winery sometimes feels like visiting a restaurant or a wine bar, so it’s natural that visitors feel as if they should be tipping their wine tasting host. In general, tipping a wine tasting host is not required or expected—unless the winery operates like a restaurant and chooses to present guests with a bill that includes a section for adding gratuity. At Jordan, tips are never expected but are appreciated. Wherever you are, if you are feeling “tipsy,” you can always ask the host directly if they accept tips. If they turn down your tip, don’t feel bad.

Food and wine tasting experience with cheese and cabernet sauvignon

Do We Need Reservations for Wine Tasting?

“Do all wineries require reservations?” This is a question we receive quite often at Jordan Winery, as all of our tours and tastings include food pairings and are by appointment with advance reservations required. Many wineries do require reservations due to food preparation, staffing, use permits and overall philosophy. A traditional tasting room typically doesn’t require an advance reservation for a tasting at the bar, but it’s always best to check the winery website to confirm before showing up. As a general rule, most of the best winery tours in Napa and Sonoma require a reservation because they are experiences that include food, different destinations on the winery property, or both.

How Far in Advance Should We Book a Wine Tasting?

Wineries in Napa and Sonoma vary dramatically in size and capacity for guests as part of wine tasting experiences that require advance reservations. In our experience, visitors should book winery tours and tastings for holiday weekends 3-4 months in advance. If you’re traveling to wine country during harvest (September and October), make a reservation 6-8 weeks before for weekday wine tasting experiences and 2-3 months for non-holiday weekends during harvest. During winter, you can typically book a top-rated wine tasting in Sonoma County 1-2 weeks in advance for weekends, and even a few days in advance for weekdays. During spring and summer months, from April to August, make wine tasting reservations 4-6 weeks in advance for weekends, and at least 1-2 weeks in advance for weekdays.

Group of people sipping chardonnay before winery tour begins

Are Most Wine Tastings Private or Groups?

Whether or not you’ll be wine tasting alone or with strangers varies from winery to winery. Winery tours are often done in groups, and tasting rooms offer bar service where you’re elbow-to-elbow with another group and one host offers pours as guests arrive. At Jordan Winery, all tours and tastings with food pairings that can be booked on the website are group wine tastings. In order to have a private wine tasting at Jordan, you have to become a Silver member of the Jordan Estate Rewards loyalty program. On the other hand, at MacRostie Winery, the Estate House is designed like a living room with several private tables so that wine tasting guests each have their own table. It’s best to ask the winery if you’re looking for a private experience. Many wineries also offer the option of booking out a group tasting and turning it into a private, which is popular with the award-winning Jordan Estate Tour & Tasting excursion.

Can We Drive from Healdsburg to Yountville for Dinner?

The short answer is yes, but it’s not a cakewalk of a drive, especially after a fancy meal. Napa Valley’s southern town of Yountville—located about 70 minutes southeast of Healdsburg—is known for its restaurants and is home to the famous French Laundry. The hip town of Healdsburg in northern Sonoma County has become increasingly known for its restaurants, hotels and inns—not just its beautiful wineries in the surrounding Alexander, Russian River and Dry Creek valleys—and many travelers choose to stay overnight in Healdsburg but have dinner reservations at The French Laundry or another Yountville restaurant. Be mindful that you’ll more than likely be spending more than two hours in a car round-trip, crossing a mountain range to get to and from dinner. An Uber from Healdsburg to Yountville one-way will cost about $100. If your hotel is in Healdsburg, I’d suggest opting for nearby Michelin-star restaurants, including SingleThread Farm Restaurant & Inn, Madrona Manor and Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant.

Our Favorite Wine Country Casual Attire from Instagrammers

 

Jordan Winery Introduces Estate Garden Plate, Handmade Clay Pottery

At Jordan, we have long embraced the farm-to-table ethos, incorporating estate-grown produce, herbs and olive oil into its culinary hospitality and guest experiences. This year, we are taking the concept of terroir a step further with Jordan Garden Plates, custom, handmade clay pottery that features clay from Jordan’s Alexander Valley estate. The one-of-a-kind plates were created in collaboration with Napa Valley-based NBC Pottery, renowned for the rustic yet handmade pottery it crafts for luxury hotels and Michelin three-star restaurants.

Todd and Nitsa Knoll Jordan Winery
Todd and Nitsa Knoll in the Jordan Winery garden

The project was born after Todd Knoll, Jordan Winery’s executive chef, and his wife, Nitsa, who serves as Jordan’s director of hospitality and events, spent a few years getting to know NBC Pottery owners, Nikki and Will Callnan, at their annual open house studio event. The two couples discovered kindred creative spirits and philosophies, and the Knolls approached the Callnans in 2018 about working together.

Nikki and Will Callhan, NBC Pottery
Nikki and Will Callhan at their studio.

“I wanted a locally made piece that was the ultimate expression of our terroir,” Chef Knoll said. “I couldn’t think of any culinary experience more connected to the land than eating vegetables from Jordan’s garden on a plate that was made from clay in which those ingredients were grown.”

pottery making at NBC Pottery Napa
Nikki cuts around the mold of the Jordan Garden Plate.

Nikki created a custom mold with curved edges for the rectangular Jordan Garden Plate, sized to fit into a custom bento box Chef Knoll had made for the final food pairing served on Jordan’s Estate Tour & Tasting, a moveable culinary excursion with four destinations across our nearly 1,200-acre estate. The cleaned Jordan clay was applied as an iron-rich, decorative slip to the hand-modeled stoneware clay form before glazing. After the initial bisque-firing, the plate was glazed and fired with a brown glaze that interacted in complement to the saturated slip surface. The resulting plates feature graceful, curved corners and a lush, brown, color glaze with a crystal satin finish.

NBC Pottery Jordan Garden Plate, hands holding ceramics
The Jordan Garden Plate, handmade clay pottery by NBC Pottery

“What’s great about this project is that between the design and the composition of the natural elements, every piece is slightly different,” said Nikki, whose pottery pieces grace the tables of some of Napa Valley’s finest restaurants, such as The French Laundry, The Restaurant at Meadowood and The Charter Oak. “I like to think of them as fingerprints, each with their own unique signature.”

clay samples for pottery Jordan Winery
Clay samples from Jordan Estate collected to determine which would be best for pottery making.

It takes a particular type of clay to produce artisan ceramics, and there was no guarantee that the varieties found on Jordan Estate would be suitable for the project. After hiking across the property and digging up clay samples from three different locations, Todd and Will found what they were looking for, ironically, near a greenhouse in Jordan’s garden.

Will and Nikki Callhan, NBC Pottery
Will and Nikki making Jordan Winery plates in their studio.

With only 80 created, each piece is its own expression of the estate’s unique soil composition. “It is exciting to see how the clay, once cleaned and processed, reacts through the firings and glazing,” Will said. “Sourcing the clay for a project from a specific terroir builds a story around the pottery and creates a deeper connection. It makes a memory between the piece and its origin.”

NBC Pottery Jordan Garden Plate
The bottom of each plate carries both logos.

The Jordan Garden Plate is featured on Jordan’s Estate Tour & Tasting and also makes appearances during Private Tables and Culinary Events in the Jordan dining room. The handmade clay pottery pieces will be available for sale at the winery, or buy online for $100.

NBC Pottery Jordan Garden Plate, chef holding plate of food
Chef Todd Knoll presents a formal lunch course on the Jordan Garden Plate.

This Year’s Jordan Winery Harvest Lunch Menus

The countdown to grape harvest season has begun in Sonoma County, which means it’s time for Jordan Winery Harvest Lunches in Healdsburg. This communal feast for Jordan Estate Rewards members, our staff and grape growers celebrates the harvest season with delicious, garden-driven dishes by our winery chef, Todd Knoll. This year’s menu was unveiled today.

Offered September 9-October 4 (Monday through Friday), savor a delectable assortment of dishes from the Jordan garden, as well as an entrée and dessert–all served with multiple Jordan wines. If you’d like to experience Harvest Lunch at Jordan, all you need to do is become a Silver member of our loyalty program. Silver, Gold and Platinum members may request a seat at the table on our website.

2019 Jordan Harvest Lunches Menus

Monday, September 9
Traditional Pork Chile Verde and Chicken Chile Rojo Tamales
Rice, Beans, Salsa, Sour Cream
Cabbage Salad with Cilantro Heirloom Tomatoes
Apple, Cinnamon and Coconut Salad

Tuesday, September 10
Roasted New York Strip
Summer Squash, Farro, Roasted Shallots, Tarragon Vinaigrette
Garden Greens with Heirloom Tomatoes and Goat Cheese
Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries

Wednesday, September 11
Grilled Chicken Souvlaki with Warm Pita
Tzatziki, Traditional Greek Salad
Dolmas and Tabouli (Tabbouleh) Salad
Greek Yogurt with Fig, Honey and Pistachio

Thursday, September 12
Kalbi Short Ribs, Sushi Rice and Jordan Kimchi
Ahi Tuna Poke
Shiitake Mushrooms and Snow Peas in a Sesame Vinaigrette
Coconut Cream Pie

Friday, September 13
Glazed Salmon over Black Quinoa with Grilled Asparagus
Heirloom Tomatoes with Scallions and Miso Vinaigrette
Spinach, Walnut and Cranberry Salad in White Balsamic Vinaigrette
Garden Fig Bread Pudding with Crème Anglaise

Monday, September 16
Jordan Meatloaf
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Wild Mushroom Gravy
Haricots Verts and Fig Salad, Garden Greens with Sherry Vinaigrette
Famous Jordan Chocolate Mousse with Estate Raspberries

Tuesday, September 17
Herb Roasted Chicken with Grilled Asparagus
Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato Orecchiette Pasta
Heirloom Tomatoes, EVOO Marinated Bocconcini with Garden Basil
Strawberry Cheese Cake

Wednesday, September 18
Kobe Burger Bar
Corn on the Cob, Baked Beans, French Fries, Cole Slaw
Kozlowski Gravenstein Apple Pie

Thursday, September 19
Grilled Pork Chops
Roasted New Potatoes, Jordan Haricots Verts
Classic Wedge Salad
Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, Jordan Berries and Whipped Cream

Friday, September 20
Halibut with Lemon Caper Beurre Blanc over Freekeh
Swiss Chard, Broccolini and Garden Vegetables
Classic Caesar Salad
Lemon Tart with Raspberries

Monday, September 23
Taco Bar
Ceviche, Chicken, Cilantro, Onions, Cabbage, Salsa, Guacamole
Classic Pinto Beans and Spanish Red Rice
Tropical Tapioca Pudding

Tuesday, September 24
Pepper Crusted Ribeye Beef
Jordan Braising Greens, Grilled Asparagus,
Crème Fraiche Mashed Potatoes with Braised Shallot Jus
Kozlowski Triple Berry Pie

Wednesday, September 25
Pork Loin and Pancetta Chips, 
Anson Mills Polenta, Porcini Gravy
Classic Caesar Salad, Heirloom Tomatoes with Burrata
Tiramisu

Thursday, September 26
Roasted Chicken with Dates, Citrus and Picholine Olives
Arugula, Shaved Pecorino, Pine Nuts, Lemon and White Truffle Vinaigrette
Jordan Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Curd and Jordan Bee Pollen

Friday, September 27
Mexican Prawn Cocktail
Black Beans and Rice
Grilled Corn with Lime and Cilantro
Tres Leches Cake

September 30-October 4
Finale week features an entrée, many surprises from our garden and dessert

Executive Chef, Todd Knoll

*menus are subject to change

Jordan Winery Announces First Winemaker Leadership Change in Four Decades

Rob Davis, who has worked at Jordan since the inaugural 1976 harvest and is considered the longest-tenured winemaker in Sonoma County, is transitioning into the newly created role of winegrower at Jordan, effective July 1, 2019. He has turned over lead winemaking and management responsibilities to Maggie Kruse, who has worked alongside Davis for the last 13 harvests.

Davis’s winemaking career began after he graduated from the University of California at Davis in 1976, when legendary winemaker André Tchelistcheff, consulting enologist at Jordan Winery, selected Davis to be his protégé in crafting the inaugural vintage of Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Tchelistcheff continue to mentor Davis until his death in 1994. Davis’s role expanded into working with grower vineyards during the phylloxera epidemic in the mid-1990s, when Jordan transitioned from estate bottled to purchasing grapes from local growers. Since then, he has managed both grower vineyards and winemaking, spending his mornings visiting a dozen Alexander Valley grape growers for Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon and a half-dozen Russian River Valley grape growers for Jordan Chardonnay—and his afternoons at the winery working with his production staff. Davis will continue to manage all grower vineyards and serve as a mentor and advisor to Kruse and assistant winemaker John Duckett on many aspects of winemaking—just as André Tchelistcheff did for him.

“At many wine companies, managing grape growers is a full-time job, and we are grateful for all of Rob’s work to lead both the winemaking and grower relations for so many decades,” said John Jordan, CEO and proprietor of Jordan Vineyard & Winery. “For family businesses like ours, leadership changes like this only come around two or three times in a century. This newly created position will allow Rob to focus entirely on grapegrowing while letting Maggie to take on more leadership responsibility after 13 years of dedication to the company.”

Kruse joined Jordan in 2006, not long after John Jordan took the reins from his father. She worked closely with Davis on wine quality improvement programs initiated by John Jordan in 2006, fine-tuning barrel and cork selections while Davis focused on finding even better vineyards for sourcing grapes. Kruse was promoted from enologist to assistant winemaker in 2009 and began overseeing all aspects of barrels and bottling. She also took over day-to-day management of the cellar that year.

Fermentation science runs deep in Kruse’s family. Her father spent his career brewing beer at Miller in Milwaukee, and she moved to California from Wisconsin right after high school graduation to pursue her winemaking studies. Kruse graduated from the University of California at Davis in 2005 and worked as an intern at J Vineyards & Winery before joining Jordan the following year.

Read full biographies for Rob and Maggie on our website.

Jordan Winery Debuts Cabernet Tasting Experience With Vineyard Tour

We’re excited to announce the official launch of a new Jordan Winery Chateau Block Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Tasting, which takes place at a new six-acre hilltop vineyard across from our iconic chateau, aptly named the Chateau Block. The highlight of this outdoor experience is a seated tasting at the edge of the vineyard, featuring three vintages of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon paired with charcuterie from Journeyman Meat Co., including two custom recipes created in collaboration with Jordan’s chef.

An aerial view of the newly planted Chateau Block Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard at Jordan Winery

After planting the new vineyard in summer 2018, winery owner John Jordan noticed a shady spot on the edge of the woods just above the grapevines with sweeping views of the Alexander Valley and its surrounding mountains, and the idea for this new tasting experience began to take shape.

“We’ve always wanted to take guests into the vineyard without getting into a car,” Jordan said. “This new vineyard not only holds great promise for future vintages of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, but it allows us to offer a memorable outdoor tasting experience in less than two hours.”

Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon pouring into wine glass during new Chateau Block tasting

From the Chateau Block tasting area, guests can see the Alexander Valley, the slope of young grapevines, rolling hills of the 1,200-acre Jordan Estate and the rooftops of a distant property—the home of neighbor Pete Seghesio, owner of Journeyman Meat Co.—which made the decision to offer a curated cabernet sauvignon and charcuterie tasting a natural choice for the winery’s chef, Todd Knoll.

“It’s great to support our neighbors and fellow culinary craftspeople, but our connection goes beyond a share property line,” Knoll said. “Pete’s products are much more wine-friendly than others due to his fermentation style. They are the best salumi I’ve encountered for pairing with a higher-tannin wine like cabernet sauvignon. His roots in a historic wine family have guided his style of salumi making in a direction that is ideal for wine country.”

Overhead view of the salumis featured during the new Chateau Block Cabernet Sauvignon tasting

Knoll shared with Seghesio some of his favorite ingredients for cabernet food pairing, including cocoa powder, fennel, juniper and anise, which resulted in the berry-hued Jordan Salami Buio—only available during this tasting, at Jordan’s Wine & Charcuterie Tasting or as a special harvest offer in Journeyman’s Meat Club. A coppa made with Jordan Chardonnay, turmeric and white pepper became an unexpected favorite pairing with young and old vintages of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, and beat out a third cured meat made with Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon for a spot on the Chateau Block Tasting charcuterie board. Journeyman’s Culatello, Finocchiona and Parmesan Porcini are also served on the tasting with Jordan vintages dating back to 2006.

The seasonal Chateau Block Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Tasting is offered by appointment only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from late June through October at 10:30 a.m. for $75 per person. Reservations can be booked online.

The planting of the Chateau Block in 2018 marked the first time Jordan planted a vineyard near its French-inspired chateau. The vineyard is home to 9,352 cabernet sauvignon grapevines planted in some of the estate’s rockiest soils. The hillside is so rocky that an estimated 4,000 tons of stones were moved to the edge of the vineyard during planting, creating an impressive 50-foot x 184-foot wall.

Learn more about our partnership with Journeyman Meat Co. in the latest issue of Wine Country Table magazine.

Infographic: Family Owned Wineries in Sonoma County and Napa Valley (1978-2019)

In 1978, six years after Tom and Sally Jordan founded Jordan Vineyard & Winery in the Alexander Valley, there were 180 wineries in existence in Sonoma County and the Napa Valley combined. So much has changed in the last forty years, not just in terms of the total number of wineries found in Wine Country, but also in terms of ownership. After years of reading headline after headline about another family winery selling to a wine group or corporation, we decided to dig into the data and discover exactly how many wineries have changed hands since the 1970s.

Of those 180 wineries, more than 150 are still in business today. Many were sold to corporations or purchased by new families when the founders retired or moved on. Only about one-third—62 wineries in total—are still owned today by the founding families. Jordan is proud to be part of this exclusive club, and with second-generation vintner John Jordan at the helm since 2005, the winery will continue its family ownership long into the future.

Trends in Family Owned Wineries Infographic

We created this infographic to show the fate of family-owned wineries in Napa and Sonoma over the last four decades.

Infographic Data:

Total Number of Wineries: 180

Still Owned by Founding Family: 62

Now Corporate Owned: 65

Closed: 26

Sold to a New Family: 28

Data compiled from independent research using Wines Vines Analytics.

 

Vineyard Photography: Grape Fruit Set Images during Summer

During the month of June, grapevine berries have formed and are beginning to grow. This critical time in the development of the vine is called the grape fruit set. The below photo gallery shows fruit set images at various stages.

Fruit set happens at slightly different times for white grapes and red grapes. The temperature of the wine region also plays a factor. For Jordan, chardonnay grapes grown in the cooler Russian River Valley tend to flower and set fruit in mid-May, around the same time that our merlot grapes flower in the warmer Alexander Valley. Cabernet sauvignon is a later-ripening grape variety and typically doesn’t flower until 2-4 weeks after early-ripening grapes.

The flowering of grapevines in the spring determines the number of berries that form and their size. Without consistent, moderate weather during flowering — also known as bloom — grape flowers cannot turn into berries and have what farmers call a great “set.” What winemakers and grape growers hope Mother Nature will deliver every May is moderately warm days with very little wind, no rain and no heat spikes. In this case, she grants their wish for both early- and late-ripening white and red grapes. But in inclement years during flowering, chardonnay, merlot and other early-ripening varieties don’t have a great fruit set. When May weather is a mix of cool days, rain showers and even heat waves, the bloom of grapevines will be uneven –some flowers won’t even pollinate– leading to fewer berries per cluster of fruit. But this transition from flowering to fruit set determines quantity, not quality. With a few chardonnay clusters in these grape fruit set photos, you’ll also see examples of what we call “hens and chicks,” where the they grow at different sizes due to inconsistent flowering times. You’ll also notice that a handful of the grape flowers that didn’t turn into berries are visible in the bottom-left photo.

Once the fruit sets, it goes through rapid cell development, expanding in size quickly. Before the end of July, red wine grapes will begin to change color, the next step in the life cycle of the grapevine called veraison. Geek out on fruit set in the vineyard with our other wine 101 blog.

Fruit Set Grape Images: Vineyard Photography

Lifecycle of a Vineyard: How Grape Flowers Timing and Leafing Effect Harvest

In the world of grape growing and vineyard management, the abundant fall harvest is generally what springs to mind. But the stages leading up to this yearly bounty are crucial factors to success. Grape flowers, or grape “flowering” in vineyard manager parlance, arrive in late spring, 40-80 days after bud break, depending on the temperatures and rain. To make their welcomed appearance, grape flowers need average daily temperatures to stay between 59-68 degrees Fahrenheit, generally sometime in May in Sonoma County. It’s during this stage of a grape’s lifecycle that pollination and fertilization occurs, with the results ultimately producing a cluster. To learn more about how spring weather influences bloom and fruit set, watch this fruit set video.

For fertilization to occur, unlike many other plants, the bees don’t have to buzz in the vineyards. Grapevines are hermaphroditic – they possess both male and female parts so, barring weather issues or pest invasions, grape flowers can transform into berries all by themselves. Read more about this process and the geeky science behind flowering.

What Can Affect a Grape Flower?

Jordan Winery Estate Petit Verdot grape flowers

Every vineyard manager wants an even fruit set, defined as when the fertilized flowers develop into a grape and then into picture-perfect clusters. But if the delicate grape flowers are exposed to rain, wind or cold temperatures, the dream of a beauty-pageant cluster can be dashed. Low temperatures can freeze the flowers or a heavy rain can wash them off. This unwanted result is called “shatter,” meaning the cluster grows without the ideal, tight shape with the berries differing in size. While this variation thankfully doesn’t affect the quality of the berries, it definitely affects their quantity. This article offers a photo gallery of various fruit sets and what a shattered cluster looks like.

Jordan Winery Estate grapes fruit set

Once the tiny berries appear, we begin our leaf pulling or thinning practice. This crucial activity allows for increased air movement within the vine’s canopy, as well as helps manage light penetration through the vines. The breezes help keep non-beneficial pests at bay and the dappled light helps prevent sunburned grapes which can negatively affect a wine’s flavor. To learn more about our leaf thinning program here at Jordan, watch this video: Leaf Vineyards to Prepare Grapevines for Ripening.

With the right practices and if Mother Nature cooperates, grapevines thrive, especially in the temperate and normally predictable weather of California. We’re fortunate to grow vineyards here but we pay a lot of attention to everything to maintain the highest quality standards. We know it shows in the bottle.

Five Ways Winemakers Made Great 2017 Chardonnay in Sonoma

With record rainfall and multiple heat waves, the 2017 vintage was full of surprises and challenges in Napa and Sonoma wine country. The high quality of the wines is a testament to the resilience and hardiness of grapevines during extreme weather, and to the determination and skill of the vineyard and cellar teams working together to make the best of a difficult situation. Here are five key practices that allowed California winemakers to craft great 2017 chardonnay despite uncooperative weather conditions.

Jordan chardonnay grapes on the vine
Jordan chardonnay grapes protected by leaf canopy on September 12.

Delayed Vineyard Leafing

The growing season started out beautifully. Record rainfall in the winter filled the drought-parched reservoirs and the water table recovered. April showers were plentiful, and flowering began in mid-May—three weeks later than the last few vintages due to cooler temperatures. Bloom conditions were normal, allowing an average-sized crop of grape clusters to form on Russian River Valley chardonnay. So far, so good. Then, three heat spikes hit Sonoma County in June and July, bringing temperatures from the mid-90s to well above 100 degrees. Clusters seized up over Father’s Day weekend, and the vines maintained small clusters without much increase in berry weight. We knew we had to take action to protect the fruit, so we made the tough decision to delay leafing of the canopy. The additional shade this provided helped to cool the grapes and prevent sunburn.

Jordan Russian River Valley chardonnay vineyard drone photo
A Russian River Valley vineyard that grows grapes for Jordan Chardonnay.

Irrigation of the Grapevines

August days were blessedly cool, with ideal foggy mornings and night temperatures that dipped into the mid-50s. But over Labor Day weekend, just after our chardonnay harvest kicked off, another heat wave hit and temperatures reached well into the triple digits. Sugars in the fruit climbed due to dehydration, and the vines fought to retain enough water to stay alive. We made a quick decision to begin a judicious amount of irrigation to help rehydrate them without compromising flavor concentration. Fortunately, the brutal heat was contained in a few days, and our irrigation efforts did the trick. Grapes tested at Jordan just after the heat spell showed very high sugar readings, but two days later, sugar levels dropped back to their normal rate of maturation.

While irrigation can help cool the fruit and bring much-needed moisture to the plants, there is a limit to what a grapevine can endure. Once the stomates (microscopic openings or pores in the plant leaves) close to prevent water loss through the leaves, respiration and photosynthesis shut down. Maturation is essentially stunted until weather conditions improve. If the heat continues day after day, then the vine aborts the fruit in a last ditch effort to survive.

2017 vintage chardonnay grapes Jordan Winery
2017 Jordan Chardonnay grapes in September.

Patience with Picking Grapes

When an extreme heat wave hits, there’s a temptation to rush and pick the grapes before further damage is done. This is not the ideal approach, since the grapes are not yet fully developed. Our growers always get anxious to pick when challenging weather conditions arise, and my usual response is to take care of the fruit through the heat and wait for the vines to work their magic. And so we resisted the urge to harvest early and rode out the heat wave. This allowed the grapes to reach their full maturity.

Chardonnay grape cluster counting
Sampling 2017 Jordan Chardonnay grapes.

Sacrificing Quantity for Quality

The 2017 vintage was a reminder that quality winemaking requires sacrifice. In order to retain our high standards of quality and flavor, we declassified most of the hard press juice—about one-third of our production—to ensure that the 2017 chardonnay retained its brightness and fresh fruit aromas and flavors. The clusters were small, about 25 percent below normal weight and additional clusters were lost when the stressed vines aborted some of the fruit during the Labor Day heat wave. Juice yields were about 10 percent below normal, but the flavors were clean, showing no ill effects of sunburn—with bright aromas and crisp flavors of apple, pear and peach. As a result, we bottled about one-third less Jordan Chardonnay in 2017 than in a typical vintage.

row of French oak wine barrels at Jordan Winery
French oak barrels ready to be filled with young wines.

Diligence in Winemaking

Due to the effects of the hot weather, diligence continued in the cellar, where were worked to uplift the fruit and soften the edges. Bitterness in the finish of the wine is a natural result of a season where the fruit is exposed to excessive heat, and despite our efforts to eliminate any juice from the press that tasted bitter, we still detected a hint of bitterness in the finish of the wine that we didn’t want. During the fermentation, however, that last bitter note disappeared in the juice, settling to the bottom of the barrel in the lees. Obviously, we would not want to re-introduce a bitter note back into the wine, so batonnage, or stirring of the lees, was eliminated in our winemaking for 2017. I am truly proud of how our team tackled the challenges Mother Nature handed us to make a beautifully balanced 2017 chardonnay. When we tasted the wine out of barrel after five months, we were sampling startled at how good the wine tasted. The finished wine surpassed all of our efforts at crafting a beautifully balanced, fruit-forward chardonnay. The 2017 Jordan Chardonnay displays inviting aromas of honeysuckle and lemon peel, leading to bright flavors of stone fruits and citrus. The palate is elegant yet succulent, with layers of oak-laced lemon, pears, quince and white peach—all supported by uplifting acidity.

 

Learn more about the 2017 Jordan Chardonnay.

Five Things That Made 2015 a Classic Vintage for Cabernet Sauvignon

Following three exceptional harvests, the 2015 vintage experienced more difficult weather conditions, but great vineyards prevail during these climatic challenges. In years like this, it is especially important to pay meticulous attention to farming practices and vineyard site selection in order to craft elegant, perfectly balanced wines. Five main factors played a key role in making classic 2015 Cabernet Sauvignons in Sonoma and Napa—and for Jordan in particular—despite the curveballs Mother Nature pitched our way.

Alexander Valley vineyards vista
The view from a prized hilltop vineyard for Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Meticulous Viticulture Assured Great Quality

Mild spring weather resulted in an early bud break, with grapevines emerging from dormancy three weeks ahead of a typical growing season. Temperatures remained warm in March and April, mitigating any frost threats, and it looked like the vintage was off to a great start. But when early May arrived, the weather took a dramatic turn. Suddenly, it seemed more like February than the end of spring, and unusually cool, damp days lingered the first two weeks of the month when fertilization of the grapevines’ flowers was occurring. This caused shatter in the forming clusters, which led to fewer flowers on the grapevines developing into berries. Sometimes a smaller crop is not a bad thing. Fewer and smaller clusters can provide more concentration in the wine, as long as the vine growth is balanced. But too many times, when nature takes a bite from the vineyard in terms of crop size, the grower has to work diligently to maintain the balance of vigor in the vine. “Undercropped” vines in years like 2015 require vigorous canopy management to get the vine to focus on their grape clusters rather than the excess growth of the canopy. It all comes down to achieving physiological maturity in the fruit.

The cool weather also led to uneven flowering and fruit set in some of Jordan’s Alexander Valley vineyards. Because uniformity of the clusters is key to growing exceptional fruit and making great wines, I asked all of our growers to drop any flower clusters still hanging while they completed hand-leafing of the canopies. Fruit set was so prolonged that I wanted to ensure any latent clusters that were less mature than the rest were removed. Because Mother Nature didn’t cooperate, we had to sacrifice some of our precious crop to bring the vintage back into balance. Fortunately, warm weather soon returned and remained throughout the summer, helping the vines ripen their reduced crop.

small grape clusters on gondola
Small cabernet clusters on a gondola at harvest.

Smaller Berries Brought More Concentration

The growing season was free of major heat spikes until September, when temperatures climbed above 100 degrees. Extremely hot weather makes winemakers and growers uneasy, because it causes vines to shut down and withdraw water from the clusters to help them survive. The heat fluctuations, coupled with the cold weather during flowering, resulted in grape cluster weights being down 20-30 percent from normal. All the work prior to the harvest maintaining the balance between the canopy and the bearing fruit came literally to fruition when we chose the timing of our pick for 2015 cabernet sauvignon, which ensured that the small berries retained their concentrated flavors.

Jordan merlot grapes in bin at harvest
Freshly picked merlot grapes, an important part of the Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon master blend.

Fruit Quality Was Excellent

The September heat wave lingered throughout the first half of the month, accelerating sugar levels in the grapes and speeding up harvest dates. It was a scramble during the last five days of harvest to get all the ripened fruit into the winery, when much-welcomed cool weather moved in. The last grapes made their way through the hopper and into our fermentation room on September 28, making the 40th vintage at Jordan one of the earliest-finishing harvests in our history. Despite low yields, the quality of the fruit was superb. The cabernet displayed deep, rich, blackberry and cherry aromas with a concentration of tannin provided by the vintage’s uniquely small berries.

Jordan cabernet sauvignon wine bottles in a row
Jordan’s Bordeaux-inspired Cabernet Sauvignon through the decades.

The Cooler Vintage Lent Itself to Silky, Bordeaux-Style Wines

The overall coolness of the 2015 vintage lent itself perfectly to crafting beautifully balanced, Bordeaux-style cabernets—Jordan’s house style since the winery was founded. The 2015 Jordan Cabernet is pure elegance in a glass, with aromas of black cherries, pomegranate, dried cranberries and a hint of graphite. Its lovely, silky texture coats the palate with layers of black cherries and a touch of cedar from French oak’s fine tannins. From beginning to end, the balance carries all the way through.

Jordan wine barrel inspection
Associate Winemaker Maggie Kruse inspects new French oak barrels for 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon.

All French Oak Elevated the 2015 Vintage’s Structure

Aging entirely in French oak barrels for the first time in Jordan’s history played a pivotal role in this wine. Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon historically was aged in a 50-50 mix of French and American oak barrels, as a tribute to the wine’s European inspiration and American roots. However, in 2005, when John Jordan took the reins from his parents to become the winery’s CEO, we set a plan in motion to transition to entirely French oak barrels to better complement the shift in the winery’s vineyard sourcing away from valley-floor fruit. The proof is in our 2015 Cabernet, which exudes a great fruit character and fine structure that French oak supports and elevates—a truly classic vintage. Read the full story behind our transition from French-American to all French oak barrel aging.

Learn more about the 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon.

Jordan Winery Unveils New Dining Room by Interior Designer Geoffrey De Sousa

We’re thrilled to announce the completion of the redesigned Jordan Winery dining room in Healdsburg by Geoffrey De Sousa of San Francisco, one of the top interior design firms on the West Coast. This is De Sousa’s first project for a winery, and the Jordan dining room’s first remodel in more than 20 years.

Geoffrey De Sousa is known around the world for creating interiors that are cosmopolitan and warmly modern. With the Jordan Winery dining room and its adjoining areas, De Sousa and his staff reimagined the 18th century-French design, retaining its best architectural features while introducing new design elements. He and his staff worked closely with John Jordan and Todd and Nitsa Knoll, the husband-wife team behind Jordan’s culinary hospitality program, to reimagine the space, which is central to both Jordan’s winemaking philosophy of making elegant, food-friendly wines and to the chef’s culinary philosophy of bringing a snapshot of the surrounding countryside to the plate.

“I’d always loved the dining room, with the French neoclassical lines and antiques, but I wanted the space to show reverence to nature and the habitats across our estate that inspire my cooking,” said Todd Knoll, executive chef at Jordan Winery. “Our vision for the dining room remodel was to refresh the room in a way that pays respect to our French inspiration while honoring the land and conveying an appreciation of timeless beauty and craftsmanship. The new design has brought drama, elegance and mystery to the space.”

Situated in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, Jordan is a 1,200-acre estate with more than 80 percent of the property preserved as natural habitat. Large swaths of Jordan Estate remain as they did when the native Pomo and Wappo tribes hunted and gathered in the region—groves of towering oak trees are draped in lichen, time-sculpted rocks are wrapped in velvety-green moss and prized mushrooms poke through the underbrush of the woods. In the thick morning fog, these quiet corners of Sonoma County are mysterious and ethereal to Chef Knoll, who often finds himself lost in the primal wonder of nature while foraging for Jordan menus. He worked with De Sousa to capture all of these elements and emotions in the dining room design.

“We always enjoy working with spaces that have strong architectural features and a story to tell,” Geoffrey De Sousa, proprietor of Geoffrey De Sousa Interior Design and De Sousa Hughes. “The Jordan dining room is now not only an homage to old-world France, it’s also a portrait of the surrounding estate and the chef’s philosophy.”

Jordan Winery dining room before remodel
Jordan Winery’s dining room before the 2019 remodel.

The before and after transformation is quite striking. Look at the above of the dining room two years ago before Valentine’s Dinner at Jordan and in again February 2019, the latter of which was taken by photographer Kim Carroll from the same angle.

New Jordan Winery dining room after remodel charcoal gray dining room
Jordan Winery dining room by Kim Carroll, taken in February 2019.

The original interior design of Jordan Winery’s dining room and guest suites, led by John Jordan’s mother in the 1970s, featured antiques and other elements that celebrated 18th-century French design. A minor remodel in the mid-1990s continued in this style. Today, buttercup yellow walls with sherbet green fabric in framed molding are now a deep gray with an elegant wallpaper pattern that brings the outdoors in. Mahogany brown chairs were disassembled and completely reimagined with embroidery that celebrates nature; all woodwork has been painted and lighting was replaced. Bathrooms were also updated. French toile fabric partitions that kept guests from viewing the kitchen’s prep area have been replaced with a new butler’s pantry. The butler’s pantry features French doors that open to a covered alcove, giving guests the opportunity to see Jordan’s culinary staff in action during outdoor events, such as Picnic Days at Jordan, Bastille Day Brunch and Bounty of Sonoma County Dinner.

The wallpaper installation was extremely intricate. Master craftswoman Heidi Wright Mead of A Paper Hanger said it was the most challenging project of her career–more difficult than the paper hanging at McDonald Mansion in Santa Rosa, Calif., during its historic renovation. She and her staff formed the wallpaper over the moldings from the crown to the base board to accentuate the original character of the room. This included intricate work around the oculuses located above and below the windows (check out her Instagram video). According to Heidi, she’s never seen a wallpaper installation with this much meticulous hand-labor; every wall in the room had some sort of molding from floor to ceiling. We captured a portion of her work through time-lapse video.

Design features include:

  • Restoration of Jordan’s existing high-back chairs, including intricate chair embroidery by a renowned, haute-couture artist based in London, who studied with Alexander McQueen, and has worked for some of the world’s most renowned fashion houses, including Tom Ford, Versace, Givenchy and Fendi. Each embroidery pattern is distinct and inspired by the vibrant, moss-carpeted rocks and lichen found across Jordan Estate.
  • Addition of an elegant wallpaper design called Midsummer Night from Wall&deco, created by graphic designer Lorenzo De Grandis of Milan, Italy. The forest-like pattern is both mysterious and elegant like the woodlands of Jordan. The exciting installation was led by an expert wallpaper hanger, who specializes in applications for historic buildings and projects with intricate details.
  • All new lighting selected by San-Francisco based designer Jonathan Browning Studios, pulling inspiration from French Beaux Arts classicism—an homage to Jordan Winery’s original inspiration.
  • A refresh of the room’s grand fireplace by Sonoma County metalsmith Randell Tuell of Tuell + Reynolds, who created a bronze surround, hearth trim and tools to give the fireplace a modern touch.
  • Accent walls and woodwork painted with Benjamin Moore French Beret, a cross between dark gray and navy that conveys timeless elegance.
  • Floor-to-ceiling drapes in gold leaf (reminiscent of the golden hills visible across Jordan Estate each summer) and navy cotton velvet tablecloths with flax-hued linen toppers fabricated by Susan Lind Chastain, Inc.
  • Wall art featuring Chef Knoll’s photographs of estate tree bark, moss-covered stones and wild mushrooms.
  • Addition of a “Piethian Apollo,” a playful statue by New York artist Stephen Antonson from his pie-faced bust series, which aligns with Jordan’s reputation for its fun culture and humorous music videos.
  • Custom vases by wine country’s leading ceramic artists, Nikki and Will Callnan of NBC Pottery, were created for the space. NBC also harvested clay from Jordan’s garden to create “estate garden plates” that will be used to showcase food pairings in the dining room and on Jordan’s Estate Tour & Tasting.
  • Hexagon terracotta floor tiles found throughout the hospitality wing of Jordan Winery’s iconic chateau—sourced from Provence and installed in the late 1970s—were stripped, stained and sealed by hand in a warm gray tone, adding to the overall ambiance of the newly reimagined dining room.

Guests can experience the new dining room at Jordan’s next seven-course, prix fixe dinner party event, Spring Dinner with the Winemakers, on May 4. Tickets are $295 per person and go on sale on April 2. Members of Jordan Winery’s loyalty program, Jordan Estate Rewards, can also book private food-and-wine-pairing experiences in the dining room with Jordan Private Tables. Once members spend $500 at Jordan, they gain Silver status and access to booking the dining room.

What do you think of the new Jordan Winery dining room? Please leave us a comment.

Gorgeous photographs by internationally renowned interior design photographer, Jose Manuel Alorda, are featured in the below gallery.

Jordan Winery dining room table with fireplace
Photo by Jose Manuel Alorda

Air Jordan XV Retro 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Edition Sneakers

A historic vintage calls for a historic shoe. Serious wine drinkers need serious arch support, right? The first vintage in Jordan history aged entirely in French oak barrels–the 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon–releases May 1, 2019. To celebrate this milestone, we are thrilled to unveil the Air Jordan XV Retro 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Edition sneakers. Shoes drop April 1, 2019.

The Air Jordan XV Retro 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon series was created by Troy Cole of Kickasso Kustoms, a Los Angeles-based artist, beloved by celebrities and NFL players, who is known as the “Picasso of Custom Cleats.” (And for all your sneakerheads: We do know that this shoe is an Air Jordan XI. We are releasing the ’15 vintage, hence the XV.)

Shoe design highlights include:

  • Wine cork midsoles
  • Detachable corkscrew for versatility, featuring a Jordan French oak barrel stave handle
  • 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon wine cork lace lock
  • French oak barrel stave aglets
  • French Digitsoles with Vivino wine app integration
  • Egg-white fined lining for extra comfort
  • 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon-infused leather upper
  • Inserts marinated in coq au vin for 12 months to ensure the shoes always smell like a fine French restaurant
  • Packaged in small French oak barrels for the ultimate unboxing presentation

Find the Air Jordan XV Retro 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Edition sneakers at fine shoe retailers worldwide on April 1.

Happy April Fool’s Day.

If you’re not already on our mailing list, be sure to sign up to receive the 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon release announcement.

Air Jordan wine shoes Jordan Cabernet custom sneakers