These wineries take you to Europe without leaving Wine Country
Do you miss traveling? Do you dream of seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in France or traveling to Spain to catch a flamenco show in Seville?
If the Delta variant of the coronavirus has convinced you to stay local for the time being, you still can play the tourist and take in the beauty of Europe on this side of the pond by visiting these six wineries with a European sensibility.
Jordan Winery in Healdsburg: This ivy-covered chateau, with its wrought-iron balconies and flower boxes, will whisk you off to France — at least in your imagination — while you drink in the architecture.
A statue of Bacchus, the god of wine, in the courtyard seems to be watching over the vision of founders Tom and Sally Jordan. The Francophiles, who adored everything French, were determined to craft a Bordeaux-style cabernet sauvignon that aged well but was approachable in its youth.
Founded in 1972, the winery will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year. In preparation, Jordan Winery has spent the last couple of years renovating its interiors, including the library filled with a curated collection of old books and the cellar room with its trove of antiques like a 19th-century French wine press.
If you want a sip of France, opt for the Library Tasting, $45 per person. Visitors will taste two chardonnays with food pairings in the library and then move to the wine cellar to taste three cabernet sauvignons, paired with food and a cheese plate.
The best trio of wines appealing to the French palate are the 2011 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2019 Jordan Chardonnay.
Set on a sprawling 1,200 acres, the winery has 120 acres planted to vines and produces 100,000 cases each year. Its flagship is its Bordeaux-style cabernet sauvignon, but the cab’s sibling, a Burgundian-styled chardonnay, also has a strong following.
1474 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-5250, jordanwinery.com
Domaine Carneros in Napa: The hillside chateau, with terraces overlooking a weave of vines, has a grand staircase and marble-floor salons. In the entryway, there’s a portrait of Madame de Pompadour, who famously introduced sparkling wine to the court at Versailles. She declared it “the only wine that a woman can drink and remain beautiful.”
The chateau, founded in 1987, was inspired by the classic 18th century Chateau de la Marquetterie, the home of Chateau Taittinger in Champagne, France. Claude Taittinger decided to plant American roots with the goal of creating a hybrid, a bubbly that married the best of France and California.
Visitors will likely want to explore a range of options and curate their own experience. You can taste flights of sparkling, still wine or both, ranging from $40 to $60 per person. There are a la carte choices for food pairings, from artisanal cheese and local charcuterie plates to smoked salmon and caviar.
An upscale tasting option, $150 per person, is called the Art of Sabrage. While sipping sparklers and snacking on food pairings, visitors learn the history, legend and technique of the flamboyant sabering practice (opening a bottle with a saber) that dates back to the Napoleonic era.
Three tasty bottlings that will impress Francophiles are the flagship Le Rêve (“the dream” in French) Blanc de Blancs, the Brut Rose Cuvée de la Pompadour and the Famous Gate Pinot Noir.
The winery has 400 acres of vineyards in the Carneros region, which spans the base of Sonoma and Napa valleys. With its proximity to San Pablo Bay, Domaine Carneros takes advantage of the morning fog and breezy afternoons that are ideal for growing pinot noir and chardonnay, grapes that produce the winery’s notable sparklers.
1240 Duhig Road, Napa, 707-257-0101, domainecarneros.com
Chateau St. Jean in Kenwood: With Sugarloaf Ridge in the distance, Chateau St. Jean is a modern version of a medieval French castle. A statue of Jean, the winery’s namesake, stands in the main courtyard near a fountain. On the grounds, lush gardens meander around a towering magnolia tree and a pond, making you feel like you’ve stepped into a scene from “The Great Gatsby.”
Wine-lovers are well aware that the winery’s flagship is the Cinq Cepages, a Bordeaux red blend; Chateau St. Jean was the first Sonoma winery to win the “Wine of the Year” award from the Wine Spectator with its 1996 vintage.
With an eye toward Europe, these two tasting options won’t disappoint. The Taste of Sonoma, at $40 a person, offers a mix of single-vineyard or appellation-specific wines, highlighting different European varietals. The Chateau Reserve Tasting, at $45 a person, features some top-tier bottings, including the Cinq Cepages.