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.
- 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.
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
- 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
- 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
- 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:
- 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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