Sometimes the most seemingly obtuse bits of knowledge lead to bigger, better, and in some cases, bubblier things.
When Judy Jordan got her degree in Earth Sciences/Geology from Stanford and returned home to work at her father's winery, Jordan, she was able to apply her knowledge to the geology of the vineyards. At the same time, the exposure to the winery provided her with enough skills in business and marketing that she was able to start her own winery J Vineyards, in 1986.
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Creating her first vintage of the J Brut in 1987 from Russian River fruit, Jordan expanded from there, moving to the current location, the former Piper Sonoma winemaking facility, in 1996. To say that terroir is important would be an understatement, but Jordan also focused on improving the experience on the hospitality side by offering food and wine pairings in 1999, ahead of the curve.
At the Bubble Room, winemaker Melissa Stackhouse works with chef Erik Johnson to formulate five-course pairings of seasonal dishes paired with different vintages of sparkling and still wines. At $75 for five courses, inclusive of the wine, it makes for a great deal and enjoyable way to learn how sparkling wines and food pair in a meal from start to finish.
That presentation is what makes J Vineyards so unique. Even with the Legacy Tasting ($30), adding on the optional cheese plate ($20) is recommended since each serving is prepared with accompaniments like house-made preserves and garnishes that highlight each glass of bubbles. As a plus, the lounge where the tasting is hosted offers birds eye views of the winery production area.
And how are the sparkling wines? The small range offers some fantastically crisp and luxuriously textured bubbly. The non-vintage bottles get aged on the lees for two years and move upward from there to seven years for the Late Disgorged Brut. Winemaker Scott Anderson who focuses primarily on the sparkling wines, also uses something I hadn't seen until I went there: a Coquard press.
Working very much like a basket press, the Coquard presses the grapes against themselves rather than a hard surface like in a bladder press. "This makes for a lower solid content (most trials show about half the amount of percentage of solids), which brings us cleaner juice and cleaner fermentations," says Anderson. "Along with a slow, low pressure Champagne press program, the Coquard presses are very gentle on the grapes, yielding low phenolics and low color, as well."
We'll toast to that.
Location: 11447 Old Redwood Hwy, Healdsburg, 888-594-6326
Tours: $30, offered daily at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., includes tasting of five wines. Reservations required.
Tastings: The J Legacy Tasting ($30) has an all sparkling option in the upstairs tasting room with views of the winery production area
Approximate number of wines in the tasting: Five
Price range for sparkling wines: Most in the $28-$50 range
Yearly production (in cases): 120,000 total wine production, with approximately 30,000 of that being sparkling
Picnic tables/food available: No picnic tables, but you can live it up with in the Bubble Room ($75) with five course food and sparkling pairing
Best for: Small groups looking to experience how versatile sparkling wine can be with food
Don't miss this on the way to visit: Healdsburg is a few miles further up north with shopping, bars, and restaurants galore