Our hike around Jordan Estate has just begun and already the view is soul-stirring. In the distance are Mount Saint Helena and the dome of Geyser Peak. “And that finger of fog is Dry Creek Valley,” says Lisa Mattson, our leader for the vineyard tour.
It’s mid-April in the Alexander Valley, and the wildflowers — purple lupine carpeting gentle slopes and yellow-white chamomile lining the vineyard rows — are in full bloom. The hills are emerald green as far as the eye can see.
A sign atop Jordan’s Vista Point has arrows inscribed with the distances to such destinations as Bordeaux (5,653 miles), Hawaii (2,373 miles) and closer to home, Napa (29 miles).
“We put Napa on the sign,” Mattson says, “because some people think they’re in Napa.”
Introduced last year and expanded to six hikes this year, Jordan’s outdoor excursions are an invigorating way to see the 1,200-acre vineyard.
The winery is committed to sustainable practices, such as plowing the chamomile into the soil to boost its nitrogen content, and has planted only about 10 percent of the property with vines.
After being driven up to Vista Point in a luxuriously appointed Mercedes van, we enjoy energy bars and fresh fruit before embarking on the trek.
The winery calls the hike, which covers about 3 miles in two-plus hours, “moderately strenuous.” But for anyone in good physical condition, especially someone used to hiking, it’s not too taxing.
“We wanted to err on the side of caution,” says Mattson, the winery’s director of marketing and communications.
Our hike takes place on a misty, drizzly day, but that seems to add to the property’s mystical allure.
The hike is a feast for the senses. When we come upon a patch of fava beans, Mattson invites us to taste the plant, which has the flavor of an uncooked green bean.
The chamomile flowers, which can be dried and brewed to make a calming herbal tea, have a slight citrus tang.
We feel like we have the entire property to ourselves — we see no one other than a few winery workers and a couple of honking geese.
Red-winged blackbirds sing as we approach Jordan Lake, which is stocked with largemouth bass, trout and bluegill and has a strict catch-and-release policy.
In the distance lie a series of solar panels — Mattson says the winery gets more than 90 percent of its electricity from the solar energy generated on the property.
Jordan, known for its cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, has long sought to be as self-sufficient as possible, to work in harmony with nature as it produces its renowned wines, Mattson said.
We learn about some of the winery’s unusual practices, such as harvesting chardonnay at night when it’s cooler, which Mattson says gives the wine a “brighter, more pure flavor.”
Cattle graze on the property, and though we don’t see them, we learn they’re processed by the Sonoma County Meat Co., known for its artisanal beef jerky.
We come to a shaded area called Seven Oaks with a large stone table where we taste olive oils and fuel up on the estate-raised jerky and non-alcoholic refreshments before the homestretch.
IF YOU GO
Hikes are limited to 18 guests and can be booked on Jordan’s site starting two months in advance. The hikes are likely to sell out. Reservations are required, but anyone interested may call the winery to check for cancellations ahead of hike dates.
Hike dates: April 28 and 29, May 18, June 17, July 20, and Nov. 3
Location: 1474 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg
Information: 800-654-1213, jordanwinery.com
THE JORDANS’ A-HA MOMENT
Founded in 1972 by Sally and Tom Jordan, Jordan Vineyard & Winery has been inspired by the estates of France where the threads of fine food and superb wines are woven into a braid of welcoming hospitality.
In a video on the site, Sally Jordan says that she and her husband Tom dreamed of owning a Bordeaux vineyard in France, but the geographical and cultural constraints of owning property there appeared overwhelming.
The couple lived in Colorado in the 1960s, which Sally says was as a “gastronomic wasteland” at that time. So they often traveled American culinary destinations such as New York and New Orleans to enjoy fine food.
In 1971 they went to one their favorite San Francisco restaurants, Ernie’s, where a sommelier recommended a California Cabernet.
“Tom and I rolled our eyes,” Jordan says in the video. The sommelier said that if the Jordans didn’t like the Cab they could return it free of charge and order a French Bordeaux.
The sommelier uncorked the Beaulieu 1966 Georges de Latour, and the Jordans tasted it. In that moment Tom and Sally realized with a jolt that they could make a “beautiful Bordeaux-style wine” in California.
Jordan Vineyard & Winery was founded the following year in the southeast corner of the Alexander Valley.