Monday, December 3, 2012

How to Host a Wine Tasting Party

The days, of course, are getting shorter here in the Russian River Valley, but they’re also getting busier as the holiday season approaches. It’s that time of year when people are readying cellars and making sure there’s plenty of wine on hand for end-of-year festivities, so the buzz is building.
One of the best new holiday traditions we’re seeing out there is the wine tasting party. Tasting parties spark conversation, so they’re a great way to add new interest to holiday gatherings. Tasting parties also lead to new wine discoveries, giving your guests a reason to remember you fondly each time they enjoy a new favorite. 

We especially love how easy it is to host a tasting party. Just ask friends and family to bring a bottle of wine, then slip each bottle into a numbered, velvet bag. Having six to eight different wines will keep things focused yet engaging. Smaller pours will ensure guests get a chance to taste all the selections.
You can focus on particular varietal such as Pinot Noir or Chardonnay for your tasting party, but it's also very festive to have a wide variety of wines, in which case you'll want to start the tasting with sparkling wines, followed by white, red, and dessert. Younger wines tend to have bigger, bolder flavors that can desensitize the palate to the nuances of older vintages, so within each category, start with older wines first.
Of course, you'll want to provide your guests with scoring and comment cards so an overall winner can be declared at the end and it's a nice touch to offer a prize to the person who brings that bottle. Another nice touch is to provide some plain crackers and a carafe of water, so guests can cleanse their palates between rounds of tasting.
Speaking of parties, J's wine collections are an easy way to get one started. Our Holiday Wine Collection is a great choice for this time of year. So is our Party in a Box collection and Bubble Love is a perennial favorite, too. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Spiced Leg of Lamb and 2009 J Nicole’s Vineyard Pinot Noir

We think it’s a bit of a myth that special occasions need to entail a lot of work, so for the rest of 2012, we’ll be featuring some easy ways to add elegance to your holiday festivities without lengthening your to do list.

First off, we’d like to point out that the simple combination of an anise-scented rub and aromatic olive oil can work some serious magic on lamb and turn it into a holiday worthy dish, especially paired with a smooth, medium-bodied Pinot like the 2009 Nicole’s Vineyard Pinot Noir. The Nicole’s Vineyard Pinot has some lovely cocoa and leather aromas on the nose and flavors of dark plum, cinnamon, and caramel, so it's absolutely delicious with lamb and stands up well to strongly spiced dishes. 

To make the spiced leg of lamb, just crush one tablespoon each of coriander seed, fennel seed, and red pepper flakes, then add to two tablespoons of olive oil. Coat one and a half pounds of butterflied leg of lamb with the spice mixture, marinate for 30 minutes or overnight (refrigerated), then roast for about 25 minutes per pound until the thickest part of the meat reads 130 degrees. A leg typically weighs between 8 to 10 pounds and can feed six people. Leftover lamb is delicious in sandwiches and salads.

To make the lamb, just crush one tablespoon each of coriander seed, fennel seed, and red pepper flakes, then add to two tablespoons of olive oil. Coat one and a half pounds of butterflied leg of lamb with the spice mixture, marinate for 30 minutes or overnight (refrigerated), then grill until the thickest part of the meat reads 130 degrees (six to eight minutes per side for medium rare). A leg typically weighs about 8 to ten pounds and can feed six people. Leftovers are delicious in sandwiches and salads. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fun Things to Do in Sonoma County This Weekend: The Holiday Spirit Edition

Not only does Sonoma County grow especially cozy this time of year, the luxurious and eclectic mix of shops, designers, and artisans make it an absolutely fabulous place to pick up holiday gifts. Here are our picks for shopping elegantly and getting into the holiday spirit in Sonoma County this weekend. 
  • Silo in Healdsburg. This brand new, stylish shop features a brilliantly curated, gorgeously modern array of home goods, gifts, apparel, and accessories — all made in America.  Handmade wooden sunglasses, wool baskets, artisan jewelry, as well as American classics like Bauer Pottery and Pigeon Toe Ceramics are just a few of the highlights and the prices are surprisingly reasonable. If you're looking for hip, modern, soon-to-be-treasured gift items, definitely check out Silo. Silo. 243-B Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, CA 95448.

  • Lime Stone in Healdsburg. For holiday shopping (and shopping in general) we're also big fans of the incredibly elegant Lime Stone boutique in Healdsburg. From ornate highball glasses and cashmere throws to luxury scented candles and lotions, Lime Stone offers an irresistible mix of traditional and modern objets that are a joy to peruse.  Lime Stone, 315 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, CA 95448.

  • Sit by the Fire. Our fireplace of the week is in the deliciously old world Madrona Manor, where you can warm up after shopping on the square. Dinners here are fantastic (especially the chef's tasting menu), but it's also possible to just have a drink and a small bite or two. The bar opens at 4pm and the lounge menu starts at 6pm. A wonderfully warm and inviting spot to sip and chat away the evening. Madrona Manor, 1001 Westside Road, Healdsburg, CA, 95448.

  • Enjoy Some Delicious Sparkling and Varietal Wine.  While you're in Sonoma County, you shouldn't miss a chance to drop by the J Visitor Center — just south of charming downtown Healdsburg to sip award-winning Russian River Valley sparkling wine, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir in our elegant tasting room. Seated tastings available for a slightly higher fee. More information here. Tasting Room Hours: 11am to 5pm, 11447 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, CA. 
If you can't get to Sonoma this weekend, be sure to visit us next weekend for our Sip and Shop event on Friday December 7th, Saturday December 8th, and Sunday December 9th. This event will be held throughout our Visitor Center and will feature an array of exquisite gift items: wine gift sets, entertaining essentials, gourmet cookbooks, and more. More details here

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sonoma County Winemaking Regions Compete in Holiday Toy and Coat Drive

Which Sonoma County winemaking region has the most holiday spirit? Jordan Vineyard and J Vineyards & Winery have launched a friendly head-to-head competition to see which wine region — Alexander Valley or Russian River Valley — can collect the most new, unwrapped toys and coats for children in need.
The contest begins today and runs through December 14, 2012. All donations will be given to the Toys for Tots Foundation. Then, during the week of December 17thmembers of the U.S. Marine Corps (which runs Toys for Tots) will distribute toys and coats to children in Santa Rosa, Windsor, Healdsburg, Guerneville, Forestville, Sonoma, Rohnert Park and Petaluma.
Donate today! New, unwrapped toys and coats for kids ages infant to 16 are requested. To participate in the drive, just bring a new, unwrapped gift to one of the two gift gondolas — either the Alexander Valley gift gondola stationed at Jordan Vineyard or the Russian River Valley gondola located at J Vineyards & WInery (addresses below). The challenge is to fill each of these massive merry-mobiles with the most donations. A winner will be determined by scale house weigh-in on Friday, December 14, at 2 p.m.
The driving force behind this competition are brother and sister John and Judy Jordan. John is the CEO of Jordan Vineyard & Winery in the Alexander Valley and Judy Jordan, of course, is founder and president of J Vineyards & Winery here in the Russian River Valley. Judy and John are inviting all wineries in the both growing regions to join them in the competition.
“We want local wineries to join together this season and take up the challenge of improving the lives of our more vulnerable fellow citizens,” said Jordan CEO John Jordan.
“J Vineyards & Winery has a 25-year legacy of giving back to the community,” said Judy Jordan, Founder and President of J Vineyards & Winery. “I look forward to participating in this friendly charitable competition with my brother.”
In 2011 Jordan Vineyard & Winery hosted its first gondola toy drive, pitting different departments against one another and collecting nearly 1,000 pounds of toys  — the single largest donation Toys for Tots received that year.
Toy and coat drop-off instructions:
You can drop off toys and coats anytime between today, Wednesday, November 28th and Thursday, December 13th from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. On December 14th, donations will be accepted only from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Toys and coats for kids ages infant to 16 are requested; must be new and unwrapped. Donations can be placed in the Toys for Tots donation boxes located in each winery’s retail/tasting area. Gondolas will be on display when weather permits.
For the Russian River Valley, drop off your gift or coat at J Vineyards & Winery, 11447 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, CA 95448
For the Alexander Valley, drop off your gift or coat at Jordan Vineyard & Winery, 1474 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448  Note: Jordan Vineyard & Winery will be closed on Sunday 12/2, Saturday 12/8, and Sunday, 12/9.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Save the Date! J Holiday Sip and Shop Event

Some especially merry days are about to happen here at J Vineyards & Winery. On Friday December 7th, Saturday December 8th, and Sunday December 9th, you’re invited to stop by our Visitor Center to enjoy our award winning varietal and sparkling wines while enjoying an elegant holiday shopping experience. 
This festive event will be held throughout our Visitor Center and will feature a wide array of exquisite gift items:  wine gift sets, essentials for entertaining, gourmet cookbooks, stemware, wine openers and more.  We have all the perfect gifts for the foodies and wine lovers your list. 
So, come and sip some delicious J wines while doing a bit of holiday shopping! It’s a relaxed, social way to get into the holiday spirit. The Sip and Shop event is included with the purchase of our Signature Wine Tasting for $20.  (Club J member benefits apply.)

For your convenience, we will also be offering decorative gift bags at checkout for an additional fee. Club J members receive *10% off of non-wine merchandise.  (*Excludes Gift Boxes, Gift Sets and J Cycling Jerseys.)
Event Details:
When: Friday 12/7, Saturday 12/8, and Sunday 12/9; from 11am to 5pm
Where: J Vineyards & Winery, 11447 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, CA
Cost: $20 for Signature Wine Tasting
Additional Details: No RSVP required. Event open to all. Club J member benefits apply. Click here to see this event on the main J website.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Two Days Only: Save 20% on All J Wine Orders, Plus Flat Rate Shipping

For two days only, J Vineyards & Winery is offering 20% off on all orders. Shop for wines on the J site and use discount code CYBER20 at checkout. This offer ends Tuesday, November 27, 2012.

We're also offering $20 flat rate shipping during this period. The $20 flat rate shipping offer is valid on all six to twelve bottle orders within the continental United States. Use SHIP20 at checkout.  Valid on ground shipping. Excludes MA, HI, AK.

Please note, due to state laws, shipments to MA require an alternative method of delivery. Allow up to 12 business days from ship date for your wine if you live in MA.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to Serve Sparkling Wine on Thanksgiving Day

Sparkling wines are such an easy way to add elegance to your Thanksgiving feast and they bring a beautifully fresh, lively element to all the rich, autumnal flavors. Here are three ways to introduce sparkling wine into your Thanksgiving Day menu.

Cheese Course. A cheese course benefits greatly from a versatile sparkling wine, such as J Vintage Brut — known for its perfect balance of fruit and toast flavors. This course doesn't have to be elaborate to be elegant. The easiest way to pull one together is to choose a few different types of cheese: a fresh cheese like Gioia's burrata, a soft cheese like Cowgirl Creamery's Red Hawk, a semi-hard cheese like Manchego, a hard cheese like Vella Dry Jack, and a veined cheese like Rogue's Smokey Blue. You don't have to have one of each type, but even if you're only serving a few cheeses, it's good to offer a range of textures.

Main. Turkey confit is a popular offering this year so if you're serving a particularly rich main course like this or like this Smoky Paprika-Bacon Roasted Turkey, this Honey-Roasted Turkey with Chestnut Dressing, or this Turkey Roulade with Peach and Sage Gravy, consider serving a sparkling wine with the main course in order to introduce some freshness and counterpoint. Try a citrus inflected sparkling wine like our J Cuvée Brut with notes of lemon zest and Fuji apples. 

Dessert. Thanksgiving pies, cakes, and roulades are especially rich, earthy desserts, which means that once again, bubbles bring a wonderfully light and lively element to this course. We recommend choosing a youthful, vibrant, fresh sparkling wine that has some pear or lime fruit characters as well as some nice almond, toast, or caramel notes such as our J Late Disgorged Vintage Brut

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What Wine Goes with Turkey? Thanksgiving Day Wine Pairings

Thanksgiving is upon us and this time of year, we always get lots of questions about what kinds of wines pair best with Thanksgiving Day dishes, especially turkey. 

Traditional roasted turkey with a clean, bright Chardonnay. Chardonnay is a traditional pairing for roasted turkey and we recommend choosing a fairly clean, vibrant one to balance the richness of the dish, especially if you're serving gravy. Our 2010 Jewell Ranch Chardonnay has bright, zesty flavors of pineapple, Meyer lemon, and golden apricot that pair perfectly with roasted turkey. If you like a more creamy Chard, we recommend staying on the more nuanced side of things, such as our 2009 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, with subtle characters of vanilla, peach, and almond — plus a long, luxurious finish of caramel, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

Herb-rubbed or grilled turkey with a balanced, elegant Pinot Noir. If you're adding lots of robust flavors to your turkey this year — either with an herb rub or by grilling the bird (by the way, we like the Food Network's straightforward Food Network guide to grilling turkey) — consider pairing it with a balanced, elegant, not-too-tannic red like our J Barrel 16 Pinot Noir with its subtle cherry aromas and well integrated flavors of cinnamon, clove, and anise. Pinot Noir also pairs wonderfully with sweet potato dishes.

Turkey confit with a dry Chardonnay or fresh sparkling wine. Curing turkey legs in duck fat results in a rich, mouth-watering dish and this year we're seeing recipes for confit turkey everywhere we look. We especially like Saveur's recipe, which emphasizes roasting the cured legs in the oven afterward — adding a crispy layer atop the buttery one. To balance this succulent, decadent dish, we recommend serving it with a clean, dry white wine — such as our 2010 J STRATA Chardonnay. We also love pairing turkey confit with fresh, citrus-inflected sparkling wine like our J Cuvée Brut, with its notes of lemon zest and Fuji apples.  

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Wine Enthusiast Names J's 2010 STRATA Chardonnay Top 100 Cellar Pick

Some of the world's best wines become even better in the cellar. This November, the editors at Wine Enthusiast reviewed all the wines designated "Cellar Selection" in 2012 and we're thrilled to see our 2010 J STRATA Chardonnay among the top 100 picks of the year.

The 2010 J STRATA Chardonnay was awarded 93 points by Wine Enthusiast and we agree time in the cellar will only make this dry young Chardonnay more interesting and delicious. Here's what Wine Enthusiast has to say about it:
J Winery goes against the grain of the modern high alcohol, superripe style to produce this bone dry, steely, somewhat austere young Chardonnay. It hits with a smack of acidity and minerals, with an elegant complexity that may challenge those looking for big, fruity Chards. Give it a couple years in the cellar and see how it evolves. 
This is an auspicious beginning for our inaugural STRATA vintage, the grapes for which come from our two best vineyards in the Graton region of Russian River Valley: Jewell Ranch (70%) and Mill Station (30%). 

Recent pairing suggestions for our STRATA Chardonnay include Dungeness crab, a red potato and blue cheese tart, and Thanksgiving Day turkey confit.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Club J December Wines Shipping Soon

There are little more than two weeks before the December Club J shipment ships (December 3rd), so if having a delicious assortment of unique single vineyard and special cuvée bottlings show up on your doorstep for the holidays sounds like a good thing, consider becoming a Club J member today. Here's what Club J members will be receiving:

2006 J Vintage Brut, Russian River Valley. Featuring lively citrus aromas on the nose and an elegant sequence of toast and fruit flavors on the palate, the 2006 vintage is an absolutely ideal sparkling wine for the holidays. Almond and butterscotch characters add to the layers in the mouth along with notes of taffy apple, pear, and citrus. The hallmark of the J Vintage Brut is its balance of toast and fruit flavors. This wine is heavenly when paired with triple crème brie or as a first-course accompaniment. It also pairs perfectly with sushi and potato leek soup, finished off with some caviar and truffle oil. ($48)

2011 J Vineyards Viognier, Hoot Owl Vineyard, Alexander Valley. The famed Hoot Owl Vineyard in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley is one of the best places to grow Viognier. This wine begins with fresh fruit aromas of mango, honeydew and cantaloupe followed by a lush mouth of silky vanilla and a creamy finish. The full texture is nicely moderated by a subtle yet taut mineral component. This wine pairs well with goat cheese and lighter blue cheeses. It's also the perfect “bridge” wine for salads, such as spinach and arugula drizzled with sherry vinaigrette. For a maximum flavor experience, add some slices of melon and thinly shaved prosciutto. ($30) 

2010 J Vineyards Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. With a gorgeous ruby hue, satiny texture, and subtle oak structure, our 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is vibrant on the palate but also has a sophisticated earthiness about it — the result of meticulous blending and 15 months of aging in French oak. Festive bright cherry aromas fill the glass followed by warm notes of toasted nutmeg, black clove, and smoke. This wine pairs beautifully with rustic foods like grilled Portobello, country ham, and duck confit. A great choice for the main course of a holiday dinner. ($37)

2010 J Vineyards STRATA Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. A true gem created by the art and science of winemaking, J's STRATA Pinot Noir is a tribute to terroir: the complete natural environment in which a wine is produced. Tantalizing aromas of cinnamon, clove, toasty vanilla, and mushroom are followed by delicious blackberry and dark cherry flavors. The J STRATA Pinot Noir wine makes the perfect accompaniment to wild game such as venison, bison burgers, and grilled salmon. It also pairs exceptionally well with medium bodied cheeses like Gruyere, Comté, and Cabriflore. ($50)

To join Club J or ask questions, contact us at or call our Wine Club Coordinator at 707.431.5479. We also have live chat with customer care available on this page

We should mention, too, that you can now give the gift of Club J for the holidays. This includes five shipments per year, but you can also give as few as two shipments. Recipients receive the same great benefits Club J members enjoy year round. Call 707.431.5479 for pricing.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dungeness Crab Season is Here! How to Buy It, Enjoy It, and What to Drink with It

Well, the boats headed out yesterday morning and the 2012-13 Dungeness crab season has officially begun! Here on the West Coast Dungeness is a holiday tradition. Prices will be a bit steeper for consumers this year, but not so steep as to keep crab off many a Thanksgiving Day menu.

Dungeness crab season is long — it goes from November until June — but as YumSugar reports, about 80 percent of Bay Area Dungeness is brought in by the end of the year. And Dungeness has been certified as a sustainable seafood, too — rated "best choice" by multiple watchdog groups because they're plentiful and caught in pots versus trawlers. 

Everyone in the Bay Area has their favorite place to buy Dungeness, like Alioto Lazio Fish Company in San Francisco, and Half Moon Bay Crab Boats down in the South Bay and you can buy Dungeness live, cooked, or as picked meat. 

Most aficionados prefer to purchase live crabs, then boil in salted water for 15 to 18 minutes. If you'd like, you can add seasonings to the boiling water, too, before dropping in the crabs (no crowding!) Cover the pot and boil until the crabs float — about 15 minutes — then give it another two minutes before removing the crabs with tongs.

If live crabs aren't available, simply buy whole cooked crabs. Look for one that's heavy for its size and has its legs curled up beneath it. (This is a sign the crab is fresh. Crabs with hanging legs should be avoided.) You can reheat a cooked Dungeness in boiling water for just three or four minutes or under the broiler for the same amount of time. 

The average Dungeness weighs about two pounds and about 25 percent of that is the creamy, buttery meat for which it's known. If you're serving it, get two to three crabs per person.  

Fans of J wines absolutely love Dungeness with our J Cuvée Brut. Its vibrant lemon peel aromas and Fuji apple flavors play well against the richness of the crab. We also love Dungeness with our J Pinot Gris or a particularly crisp, tight Chardonnay like our J STRATA Chardonnay

If you don't feel like preparing the crab yourself, we recommend heading straight for Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar here in Healdsburg for their crab BLT with green goddess dressing featuring huge chunks of fresh, expertly seared crab. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fun Things to Do in Sonoma This Weekend: November 16 2012 Edition

Just because the weather has grown colder doesn't mean there aren't plenty of fun things going on in Sonoma County this weekend. Here are our picks: 

  • Enjoy a Cool Blast of Art. This Saturday evening Santa Rosa's art district will come alive with open galleries and studios plus local food vendors, live music, street performers, and more. It's the 8th annual Winterblast Festival — one part art exhibition and one part street party — so come take an art walk down South A Street and enjoy all this thriving district has to offer. Culminates in a "description defying" parade. Saturday, November 17th. 5:00 to 8:00pm.

  • Sit by the Fire. To warm up after Winterblast, head to Fabiani Ristorante in Santa Rosa (formerly called Franco's) — a wonderfully toasty spot for classic Italian cuisine with wood beam ceilings, two fireplaces, and much-praised gnocchi and thin crust pizza. Fabiani also has a fabulous panna cotta — a silky pillow of cooked cream, topped with delicate flecks of vanilla and two sauces. Fabiani Ristorante, 505 Mendocino Avenue @7th Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95404.

  • Taste Grandly. Whether you attend the grand tasting in the afternoon or the harvest dinner at night, you'll need all five senses to appreciate the 4th Annual Artisano Celebration at the Vintners Inn Events Center on Saturday, November 17th — featuring locally-sourced delicacies from the best restaurants, ultra-premium wines, and fine art. Saturday, November 17th. 12:00 to 4:00pm (Grand Tasting) and 5pm for Harvest Dinner.

  • Enjoy Some Delicious Sparkling and Varietal Wine.  Speaking of ultra-premium wines, while you're in Sonoma County, you shouldn't miss a chance to drop by the J Visitor Center — just south of charming downtown Healdsburg to sip award-winning Russian River Valley sparkling wine, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir in our elegant tasting room. Seated tastings available for a slightly higher fee. More information here. Tasting Room Hours: 11am to 5pm, 11447 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, CA. 
If you can't get to Sonoma this weekend, be sure to visit us next weekend for our Kick Off the Season event on Friday, November 23rd, Saturday November 24th, and Sunday, November 25th when the J culinary team will be serving a delicious array of locally sourced, regionally authentic hors d'oeuvres paired with your favorite J sparkling and varietal wines.  Click here for ticket information and times.