You can be forgiven if you rub your eyes at first sight of Jordan Vineyard & Winery (1474 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-5250, jordanwinery.com). It looks like a mirage. Tom and Sally Jordan established the 1,200-acre Alexander Valley estate in 1972 as an homage to Bordeaux. True to their vision, the ivy-covered manse overlooking gardens and vineyards appears to have been transported whole from the gently rolling hills of Entre-Deux-Mers. Now their son John Jordan (above) continues the tradition of crafting Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Russian River Valley Chardonnay in the Old World style.
Producing two superb wines—one modeled on Bordeaux’s Saint-Julien, the other on Burgundy’s Montrachet—gives Jordan Winery a clarity of focus. But following the model of Napa, Jordan is a destination winery. The Jordan family has made it a showcase of Sonoma’s bounty. The land was originally covered in prune plum orchards. The Jordans have preserved nearly three-quarters of the property as natural habitat, full of ancient oaks and populated with wild ducks, turkeys, and rabbits. Two lakes and several pastures remain among the 112 acres of grapevines.
The estate maintains an active apiary—all the more important after so many wine country hives were lost in the fall fires. The bees pollinate the entire landscape, including the highly productive one-acre chef’s garden that produces much of the bounty for the culinary program.
Wines at the table
In keeping with the Old World style of the wines, Jordan holds the philosophy that wine requires food and vice versa. The winery hosts a lot of dinner parties and culinary events as well as offering some limited food with wine tastings. We visited for a special buffet lunch, and feel pretty confident stating that Chef Todd Knoll is a pairing genius. He prepared a beautiful beet salad of mixed red and golden beets and roasted a loin of lamb to accentuate the dark fruit of the 2008 Cabernet. A pomengranate with fresh honeycomb highlighted the stone fruits—and the austere Chablis-like minerality—of the 2015 Chardonnay. The mix of Marcona almonds, estate-cured green olives, and local charcuterie rounded out the bright flavors of the 2013 Cabernet.
At the end of the meal, Knoll sent out a dessert that really spoke of place. Jordan maintains 18 acres of olive trees and presses its own luscious olive oil. The Italian Frantoio, Leccino, and Pendolino olives give the oil grassy, green-almond flavors while the Spanish Arbequina olives make it round and buttery. The olive oil cake topped with olive oil ice cream was the perfect conclusion to a taste of Jordan. The winery was kind enough to share both recipes (below).
JORDAN OLIVE OIL CAKE
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt
half a lemon, zested
half a lemon, juiced
3 vanilla beans, scraped (1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract may be substituted)
7 ounces Jordan Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3/4 cup sugar, divided in half
7/8 cup cake flour, sifted*
3 egg whites, room temperature
*All-purpose flour may be substituted, but will produce a slightly more dense cake.
Preheat oven to 350℉ (325℉ for convection).
Prepare 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray and a round parchment liner on the bottom.
Whisk together egg yolks, salt, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla beans, olive oil, and half of the sugar. Sift the flour into the mixture in three stages. Set aside.
Using a standing mixer, whisk egg whites on high. Once egg whites begin to foam, slowly stream in the remaining half of the sugar, adding up to one tablespoon at a time. Whip the meringue until white, thick and shiny.
Fold one third of the meringue into the batter. Repeat until all the meringue is incorporated evenly, then pour cake batter into the prepared springform pan.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife or spatula around the edge and remove the side of the springform pan. Allow to cool for an hour, then remove the bottom of the pan and peel off parchment.
Cut into eight slices, dust with powdered sugar, top with fresh cut strawberries, whipped cream or Jordan Olive Oil Ice Cream. Drizzle with Jordan Extra Virgin Olive Oil and serve.
JORDAN OLIVE OIL ICE CREAM
Serve a scoop of this ice cream on the olive oil cake—or serve it alone with a sprinkle of sea salt and a drizzle of Jordan olive oil.
Makes 1 quart
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup Jordan Extra Virgin Olive Oil
In a medium saucepan, heat milk, cream, sugar and salt over medium heat until the mixture reaches a slow boil.
In a medium bowl, temper the eggs by slowly whisking half of the hot liquid into the yolks. Slowly whisk the hot liquid and egg mixture back into the saucepan. With the heat on low, continue whisking until the ice cream base thickens slightly.
Using a chinoise or fine strainer, strain the base into a medium bowl set directly over an ice bath. Stir in olive oil.
Allow the base to cool completely (or refrigerate overnight for a creamier texture). Spin in an ice cream machine, following the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer ice cream to an air-tight container and freeze for 3-4 hours, or until firm.