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Month October 2015

Harvest Lunch at Jordan Winery: A Cornucopia of Food and Wine Excellence

I remember a long time ago I saw a film about the winemaking tradition in Burgundy and the cornerstone of the harvest is the harvest lunch and how everyone is invited to the table for this treasured lunch.

It is hard to find documentation as to when the tradition began–was it France or was it elsewhere? Is it something from the past couple hundred of years or has this been an ongoing tradition.  We might have to look at harvest in terms of if the tradition of producers making wines for more than just their household might hold the key in terms of finding when the tradition began.

I worked on a harvest a few years ago in Dry Creek Valley–a chilly and grey day–glad it was chilly and grey instead of warm and sunny.  Sorting through four tons of Rockpile Zinfandel was intriguing and hunger creating.

The Zinfandel was cold to the touch, immediately fragrant and my senses kept saying it was Petite Sirah.  It was a long process much longer than I expected.  But I was intrigued and enjoyed this experience.  As we were finishing up I was invited for this day’s harvest lunch.  The harvest lunch was Mexican food; homemade, fresh and extra delightful especially when it was served with the wineries Zinfandel.  I remember enjoying enchiladas, Carnitas, and tamales, rice and beans–it was a feast and I didn’t leave hungry.  I was welcomed to stay for lunch I still felt like I was intruding–I felt like it was a family gathering even though not everyone was related.  After I plated my food, I sat down, wine was poured into my glass and I was immediately made comfortable hence the magic of a harvest lunch.



The perfect autumnal sun in Alexander Valley basked the Jordan winery and estate on Friday-9-October for the conclusion of the harvest lunch season.  The white table clothes perfectly placed on the three rows of tables; each table had gorgeous just picked flowers from the estate.  The richness of the gardens and vineyard was evident on every table and I was excited to taste Chef Todd Knoll’s food for the first time.  I have been a fan of his recipes and videos.


Food and wine experience are rare in California as it relates to food at a winery. It is a tall order to find a connecting point of tasting food at a winery and that is for a myriad of reasons (a bit long and I’d say not all that interesting to list in this article).  But Jordan’s raison d’etre is food and wine as core to their mission and vitally important and are inextricably linked.

Jordan does have an outstanding estate tour (which highlights the estate food and wine) and of course at their events as well.  Jordan celebrates their art of food and wine online as well as in person: well produced videos filled with both fun and inspiration.


The guests for this lunch were welcomed by Lisa Mattson, Director of Marketing and Communications and she introduced CEO John Jordan.  John thanked everyone for attending and talked about the history of the harvest lunch.  John mentioned his family’s long history in this part of Sonoma County and the 40th harvest as a long standing testament to Chardonnay and Cabernet with Rob Davis the same winemaker for each and every one of those forty years.

Chef Todd Knoll completed a five week programme of harvest lunches.  This is an exquisite lunch that encompasses the estate’s fruit, vegetables, olive oil, and vineyard’s polished wines.  Chef Knoll brings the best ingredients and techniques to the table but does so with a spread and presentation that is not just local but sourced on-site and is absolutely beautiful.


Menu highlights:

  • Kimchi (his Kimchi recipe here) and octopus – first time I have had a Kimchi with Octopus–easily the best Kimchi I have ever tasted (so excited to have the recipe!)
  • Pork Loin – absolutely superb–perfectly peppered; when I prepare pork loin it is never this good!
  • Quail – I went back to find some and it had all been enjoyed; a treat to see on any menu anywhere
  • Panzanella – the best Panzanella; I like a bready salad–soaks up the olive oil and vinegar; olives, capers just the right amount of cherry tomatoes and basil,
  • Golden Beat salad
  • Heirloom tomato and Burrata – perfectly plump gorgeous Heirlooms; the perfect sweetness level and uber fresh Burrata.
  • Chocolate mousse – nice rich and feather like character and yet completely satisfying with chocolate goodness.



Jordan’s two wine variety offerings are well known and I have been fortunate to taste from a good number of vintages.  The Russian River Chardonnay a dependable wine that is reliant on fruit speaking versus barrel over expression.  The Alexander Valley Cabernets highlight a star of this valley.  I don’t think that Alexander Valley Cabernet get enough credit for producing stellar wines.  Jordan’s Cabernets show the influence of weather and of course a change on a vintage-by-vintage basis to highlight Cabernet in the most optimum fashion.  I often levitate to a Cabernet that is not always a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon–I want the interplay of it’s Bordeaux brethren.  Each of the wines served were the ideal wines for the menu and were markedly different and showing their personalities.


Jordan Russian River Valley Chardonnay 20139.3

Scent: Comice pear, hint of green citrus grove, white stone fruit, and flowers

Flavour characteristics: white and yellow peaches, Heirloom apple, delicate hint of Cardamom and nutmeg

Barrel programme:

  • 100% French oak for 6 months; 40% new oak

Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – 2011


Scent: Dark coloured bramble tones, black cherry, pepper and fresh herb garden

Flavour characteristics: Tayberry, blackberry, pepper, hint of rose petal, Bay leaf and spices

  • 79% Cabernet Sauvignon,
  • 17% Merlot
  • 3% Petit Verdot
  • 1% Malbec

Barrel programme:

  • 12 months in 73% French and 27% American oak barrels;
  • 37% new oak (62% French, 38% American).
  • Bottle aged: 22 months

Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – 2008


Scent: Cassis, blackberry, Marjoram, and freshly ground baking spices

Flavour characteristics: Black cherry, blackberry, white pepper, hint of clove and violets

  • 77% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 18% Merlot
  • 5% Petit Verdot

Barrel programme:

  • 76% French and 24% American oak barrels for 12 months;
  • 31% new oak consisted of 60% French, 40% American.

I eat out constantly and I love it and I am lucky to appreciate it and never take a single meal for granted.  I immersed myself in this experience and loved the gorgeous wines and spectacular food of this harvest lunch  I further enjoyed that many of the morsels that I tasted were from the garden or nearby and the wine of course from this vineyard and in the case of the Chardonnay coming from a nearby vineyard.  I piled my plate as if it was Thanksgiving–well it was thanksgiving (small “t”) and to be in these environs and around many fellow writers that I have known for years was that much more impactful and meaningful.

What is not to like about great food and an outstanding environment is the producer’s sheer passion for the best in food and wine and doing so not just for the now but for the long haul.  Jordan Vineyard and Winery takes the Harvest lunch to a new level that I can honestly say I don’t think anyone in California does this extensive harvest lunch programme.


A great experience–and four recommendations for you:

  • Visit
  • Find an event at the winery where Chef Todd will be preparing a meal (check the website for more information)
  • Taste not just the latest vintages of Jordan wines but be sure to try some nicely aged ones
  • Check out the delightful recipes from Chef Todd Knoll



Jordan Vineyard & Winery

1474 Alexander Valley Road

Healdsburg, CA 95448




Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.

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Wine and the Price of It – James Melendez

There is an ocean of wine out there but only sea of the good stuff.   I am asked this question about the price of wine—and well simply do you have to pay a lot for good wine.  The answer is simple–”No.”  But in the next breathe I say you have to pay something.  

I was at a simple potluck and the food was nicely done.  The most popular variety everyone brought was Carménère–which I thought was great–shows marketing can be productive. This potluck was with people who don’t write, blog, or video about wine–yes, sometimes I do these things like this.  But each bottle came from the same retailer–and I think the bottle price points was under $5.  Every bottle was unpalatable–but of course–I said nothing and drank water.  I didn’t think it was the right place to talk about the virtues of quality wines as I would have hurt someone’s feelings.  If I would have known Carménère was the most popular bottle I would have brought a fantastic one.  So the issue of wine pricing from a black and white viewpoint doesn’t exist–but the world world of grey is where we truly live as it relates to wine pricing and almost everything else.

I did think to myself–that if each person bringing the Carménère would have spent perhaps $5-6 more they would have had a good bottle of wine.  If I were to taste Carménère for the first time and that bottle was under $5 – I might take away that Carménère is highly unappealing and never try it again.  But a few dollars more for a better quality wine yields smiles and passion for this variety and other varieties as well.  My wine videos I have reviewed a lot of wines in the $10 to $25 range.  I never felt that I was let down or that what I was drinking was “cheap.”

I do not believe that only great bottles of wine are those that have a cult status or cost a $100 and above.  And hence this is where there is considerable latitude.  I have tasted many wondrous bottles of wine below and in fact way below a $100. I think there is a lot of confusion and complexities as it relates to pricing.

First brand development, in my role as a wine marketing manager I recall one distinct label was furious with the wine buyer for putting their wine on a deep sale price point.  The issue wasn’t that the wine was on sale but the price was below what this producer had been cultivating their pricing structure.  I do think this was an extreme case and fast forward to this day and this particular producers pricing trajectory has not appreciated much past yearly inflation.  

Wine appreciates in pricing from several vantage points – good reviews, limited supply, vineyard designation, etc.  I think that this is logical and most producers work hard on this.   I think as a wine producer develops their brand recognition (and there are so many attributes with this) that there is an elevation past yearly inflation.   

So we come back to what do I have to pay for good quality bottle of wine?  There is no simple answer for this–and especially in the United States with thousands of laws governing every aspect in wine it makes this very difficult.  The over-regulation of wine, beer and spirits creates the most illogical pricing.  The state of Ohio makes every wine marked up 100%–truly making cheap wine less so and good wine pricier than almost anywhere else.  The post-prohibition world shows how the intent of law is to discourage consumption especially as it relates to Ohio.

Ohio Wine Pricing

Vineyard designation is a true way of creating a price point–a designation certainly limits how much can be produced and some vineyard sites stand alone.  Think of To Kalon, Missouri Hopper, Bien Nacido, Rosella or Gary’s Vineyard–these are brands unto themselves and even set a bar for pricing.  While a bottle of Gary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir can be outstanding–you can still find an outstanding bottle of Pinot Noir–and please read that this is not throwing one site under the proverbial bus for another site; love Gary’s Vineyard.  It is to say that vineyard is influential in pricing especially if it is a lauded site.  

Go to Napa or Sonoma or Santa Barbara and pricing is showing how important brand can be.  Saddle up to the tasting room bar and see how far the bar can be.  While a $125 and above Napa Valley Cabernet is easy to find; there are still producers who offer their bottles much under that price point.  You can still find outstanding wine and not have to pay a very high bottle price point.  Also, there are many regions on the planet that can be considered as well—when you cannot locate a specific variety–exploration is called for.  Maybe for Chardonnay it is time to think of Chablis–maybe for Pinot Noir Oregon and so forth.  And of course–never give up on Napa.

I often discourage buying the cheapest bottle anywhere—mass retailers and grocers supply this because there is a demand but I do believe that ‘tasting is believing’ often just spending a few dollars more can yield a significantly more appreciable wine.  I try to stay away from a broad or general designation like “California” Pinot Noir. The dynamics of wine is fun and intriguing and today it is highly likely than paying rock bottom prices for a cheap bottle of wine that paying slightly north of “cheap” can yield some great finds without betraying your wallet.



Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.

Read more of my wine reviews:   WORDPRESS

© 2015 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.

James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

Follow, subscribe, like, browse: