An apiary, olive groves and donkeys: Tour Jordan Estate & Vineyard for more than just wine

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The ivy-covered chateau at Jordan Vineyard & Winery is full of stories and the most compelling one is about the two Francophiles who decided to import French-inspired winemaking to the Alexander Valley. Smitten with Bordeaux, Tom and Sally Jordan decided to build a vineyard and winery on this side of the pond, with their inaugural vintage in 1976.

A recent visit to the property revealed what a gem this nearly 1,200-acre ranch continues to be, decades after the vision first became a reality. Ribbed in vineyards, the ranch is also home to 18 acres of olive trees, a nearly 2-acre garden, an apiary, a petting zoo of sorts and a lake.

The Estate Tour & Tasting, at $125 a pop, is one of the priciest offerings around, but it’s not-to-be missed for food and wine lovers who crave adventure.

On a recent weekend it began with a splash of bubbly, the NV Brut Jordan Cuvee made by Champagne AR Lenoble, coupled with pastries and seasonal fruit, before a tour of the cellar.

In the chill of the cellar, we learned some fascinating facts. Did you know that the bottling line in the cellar ticks off 120 bottles a minute? Expedience is key because the winery produces about 100,000 cases a year –– 70,000 cabernet sauvignon and 30,000 chardonnay.

After traipsing through the cellar, we visited some of the animals on the property and learned that the presence of the donkeys actually helps keep coyotes at bay.

Sampling the garden produce was next on the agenda. The good eats — ripe to perfection — included raspberries, cucumbers and tomatoes.

Later we headed to an area shaded by seven oaks and had a highbrow picnic. First, we tasted the Jordan 2014 and 2017 Russian River Valley Chardonnay with a salad of lightly pickled and cured seasonal vegetables from the garden.

The final pairing came at Vista Point, 650 feet above sea level, the highest point on the property with a 360-degree view. We tasted the Jordan 2006 and 2015 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon with lamb, smoked eggplant, a salad and honey from the winery’s apiary.

The wines showed beautifully, and it’s not surprising. Rob Davis, a UC Davis graduate when he began his career, was mentored by the legendary Andre Tchelistcheff until the consulting enologist died in 1994.

Davis is now transitioning to winegrower; he has groomed Maggie Kruse for the past 13 years to take over as lead winemaker.

Our tour guide, Christopher Huber was an Alexa of knowledge. Huber knew, for instance, that the garden is growing 70 different types of tomato seedlings and that there are four types of olive trees growing on the property. He also knew the full history of Tom and Sally, those entrepreneurial Francophiles who built an empire of cabernet and chardonnay.

And when you’re visiting Jordan, you definitely want a tour guide who knows all the stories the ivy-covered chateau has to tell.

You can reach Wine Writer Peg Melnik at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5310.

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