In a Nutshell: Every year, millions of travelers plan vacations around their favorite food and beverage destinations. Wineries and breweries have become popular attractions over recent years, but it hasn’t always been that way. Few people ventured into California’s wine country in the 1970s, but Jordan Winery founders still had the vision to build a French-inspired chateau that houses guest suites, a dining room, tasting areas, and a commercial kitchen with a full-time staff of culinary experts. The 1,200-acre estate produces its Jordan Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon and exquisitely pairs both with food offerings created on site. All estate tours, tastings, and other activities require pre-booking through the company’s website.
California’s wine country hasn’t always been the popular tourist destination it is today. Fifty years ago, no one considered adding Sonoma County and its lush, rolling fields lined with grapevines to their travel bucket list.
A lot has changed in the last half-century. Millions of people now travel to wine country every year to experience dining and drink options that can’t be found anywhere else in the United States. The Jordan Winery in Healdsburg, California, is responsible for part of that explosion in tourism. The 1,200-acre, French-inspired estate has welcomed visitors since the Jordan family had the foresight to build its now-famous chateau on the property in the 1970s.
“The Jordans were among the first families to come up with the idea of creating a winery where food was central to the focus,” said Lisa Mattson, Director of Marketing and Communications at Jordan Vineyard and Winery. “Hospitality and entertainment have long been a pillar of the winery. This was back in the 1970s, when there wasn’t any tourism and travelers weren’t coming to wine country.”
The chateau features three guest suites on the premises, as well as a commercial kitchen with a full-time culinary staff that creates diverse dishes to go with tastings of the winery’s two drinking options.
“Everything around Jordan is centered around this idea that food, wine, and gracious hospitality go in concert, and that wines should be crafted to be balanced and elegant and go well with food,” Mattson said.
The Jordans built the chateau in the ‘70s to emulate some of the family’s favorite chateaus they’d seen on their travels to France. Today, the chateau is where the wine originates and where daily tours and tastings take place, though the winery also offers ways to visit the ranch during select months.
Jordan does not have a public tasting room and only provides intimate tours it books in advance through the winery’s website.
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Depending on the number of rewards points or miles currently in your account, you could be well on your way to a memorable trip through California’s wine country.
A Culinary Experience that Complements Jordan’s Famous Chardonnay and Cabernet
While some Sonoma County wineries produce several labels each year, with Reserve labels typically set aside for the premium wines and other labels for the second- and third-tier output, Jordan focuses on only two wines and only sells the best of what the winery produces.
“Jordan is quite rare in that we only make two wines,” Mattson said. “We focus on one white wine, the Jordan Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, and one Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County, near the winery.”
Jordan chose the Russian River Valley for its chardonnay because the area is closer to the coast, providing cooler temperatures and influence from the ocean. The cool-climate grapes grown there are more suitable for Jordan’s crisp, French-inspired style of wine.
The Alexander Valley is inland and warmer. The area’s climate is more desirable for Bordeaux varieties like cabernet. This mountainous region has vineyards planted on the diverse terrains, which yield red wine grapes known for their silky, soft tannins.
Either choice of wine pairs perfectly with dishes crafted on-premises by chefs who understand each wine’s strengths. Jordan’s website also posts recipes for many of its culinary offerings.
“Our chef changes our food pairings seasonally,” Mattson said. “We’ll do a food pairing for chardonnay and a pairing for cabernet. That can be anything from a scallop with a dried stone fruit from the previous season, to doing a wild mushroom and chevre crostini.”
Regularly scheduled events on the estate’s grounds spotlight seasonal offerings of food and drink. These events include the Vineyard Hike experience held eight times each year.
“This excursion lets you hike four miles with a guide across our 1,200-acre ranch,” Mattson said. “You pass through several different meadows and vineyards and oak woodlands. There’s a lot of different typography all the way to the top of the vista. It ends with a nice lunch.”
The Estate Tour is an immersive three-hour food and wine experience and Jordan’s most popular offering.
“You eat and drink your way across our property in an air-conditioned Mercedes Sprinter,” Mattson said. “It’s very comfortable to get around. You can get out and go into the gardens and by the lake, then you move onto the vineyard and learn about the farming and what’s happening with the grapes. The tour culminates at our highest hilltop, with panoramic views and seating for a cabernet sauvignon pairing menu with cheeses.”
Stay in the Jordan Chateaux and Enjoy a Diverse Schedule of Events Throughout the Year
The Jodan chateau includes three guest suites that are available year round, but they aren’t like a typical hotel. Guest rooms are only available to members of the free-to-join Jordan Estate Rewards.
“We don’t have a traditional wine club because we only make two wines,” Mattson said. “We just don’t have enough wine to ship quarterly to a club. So, instead, John Jordan created a loyalty program 10 years ago that focuses on rewarding our most loyal members with access to exclusive experiences at Jordan Estate.”
Members collect points whenever they purchase anything directly from the winery — items that can include a bottle of wine, a bottle of olive oil, touring or tasting tickets, or seats at a dinner party. Those points are redeemable for experiences, including stays in the guest suites, private tastings with hors-d’oeuvres, or discounts on tickets to other events at the winery.
“In addition to tours and tastings, Jordan also hosts dinner parties throughout the year,” Mattson said. “There’s a seven-course Valentine’s Day dinner, a Taste of Spring dinner, and then, in the summer, we move to more chateau dinner parties. They’re a great reason to sign up for our mailing list so you’re the first to know about tickets.”
Jordan Estate Rewards members who also sign up for the monthly email list receive a bonus 3,000 rewards points.
Reward Yourself with a Trip You Won’t Soon Forget
Mattson said September and October is the peak season for visitors, although July and August have become busier over recent years. The winery schedules all tours and tastings privately online and sets prices annually, so there are no seasonal price changes.
“It feels like you’re traveling to another country when you arrive at the estate,” Mattson said. “Sycamore trees and oak woodlands line the driveway. Eventually, you see the grand chateau, covered in lush Boston ivy that changes colors throughout the seasons.”
When it comes time to cash in the credit card rewards you’ve spent so long saving up, shouldn’t you use them for a rewarding experience? Wine lovers from around the globe dream of visiting the area that has played such an important role in American wine history.
Although you may have tasted the wine before, you haven’t really enjoyed the experience until you’ve had a glass among the soil that grows the celebrated grapes you enjoy so much.