Monday, December 12, 2011

J Employee Holiday Lunch at the Dry Creek Kitchen!

Our sparkling Founder & President Judy Jordan provided the employees with a fabulous Holiday lunch last Friday at the Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, specially prepared by Chef De Cuisine, Dustin Valette, which was an amazingly delicious and elegant dining experience. 

J Employee Holiday Luncheon

We started with a remarkable “Slow Cooked White Leek Soup” with Toasted Brioche, Truffle Crème Fraiche & Verjus Caramel, paired with the 2010 J California Pinot Gris. 


Then a mouthwatering “Whole Roasted New York Strip Loin” with Candied Red Onion, Smoked Potato Puree & Black Garlic Emulsion, paired with the J Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.

In addition, Pastry Chef, Yulanda Santos, prepared a delectable dessert, Dark Valrhona Chocolate Fondant with Sea Salt Caramel Ice Cream, Peanut Brittle & Port Gastrique.

For the chic food & wine lovers, Dry Creek Kitchen offers an outstanding dining experience to make any occasion a memorable one! 

Dry Creek Kitchen Dining Room

We salute the Dry Creek Kitchen crew for providing  J Vineyards & Winery an outstanding Holiday Luncheon:

Dan Prentice, GM
Drew Munro, Sommelier
Wade Nobles, Restaurant Manager
Dustin Valette, Chef De Cuisine
Yulanda Santos, Pastry Chef

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Tale of Two Harvests, by J Winemaker Melissa Stackhouse

Melissa Stackhouse

The 2011 harvest can be summarized as a tale of two harvests:  the harvest before the rain and the one after the rain.

The harvest began on August 22, with our first pick of Pinot Noir for sparkling wine. The entire sparkling wine harvest went smoothly. There were no dramatic weather events, and the fruit benefited from cool morning fog and warm afternoon sunshine.  From a winemaking perspective, calling picks in the field was straightforward.  A typical harvest day for the winemaking team began in the vineyard, walking the rows, tasting fruit, surveying the vines’ health. While assessing maturity of the sparkling fruit, we also monitored the grapes for our varietal wines: Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. The sparkling fermentations were incredibly aromatic and yielded very high-quality base wine. The team is impressed with the sparkling vintage, and eager to blend this year’s Cuvée 20 and Brut Rosé.

As we progressed through harvest, the Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir began making their entrance.  Quality was spectacular for these varieties. I was particularly excited about the Pinot Noir that we source from J’s estate vineyards within the Russian River Valley. One vineyard in particular, Bow Tie, was most compelling.  Located on Westside Road on the outskirts of Healdsburg, it is a warmer, cool-climate vineyard, the makings of a world-class site. The fruit did not disappoint, nor have the wines that are presently aging in barrel.

Bow Tie Vineyard

Most winemakers hit a certain point in harvest when watching the forecast becomes an hourly event. It is quite common in Northern California to receive early autumn rains. And this year was no different. Most of our fruit was in the winery prior to any heavy rain, with the exception of Chardonnay.  This is a varietal that is early to break bud, but late to ripen. 
Jewell Ranch Vineyard & Russian River Valley Estate Chardonnays

The first batches of Chardonnay were somewhat low in sugar but we did get well-developed flavors.  Then came the rains and with them botrytis. Unfortunately, we had to leave one vineyard unpicked.  The result is a significantly small crop of Chardonnay from this vintage; but, what we were able to get in before the rains should result in some racy and flavorful wines.  I am looking forward to tasting it as the blend develops.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

J Vineyards & Winery Founder & President Judy Jordan Wins Women’s Initiative "Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award"!

Judy Jordan

Judy Jordan, Founder and President of J Vineyards & Winery, has been named a “Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in the North Bay.” The award is given by Bay Area nonprofit Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment and recognizes women business owners in the Bay Area who:
  • Have been successful despite the barriers that exist for women business owners
  • Exemplify how business ownership and leadership is beneficial for women
  • Have a positive impact on the local community or the community at large
  • Advance their business through innovation
The Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award recognizes these women entrepreneurs and their businesses for their leadership and positive contributions to their communities.  Jordan will be recognized at the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, November 15th at the Mill Valley Community Center in Mill Valley.
Approximately 600 businesses were nominated for the award throughout the Bay Area and more than 42 women will be honored with the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in regions throughout the Bay Area.  For more information and a complete list of winners, go to

About Women’s Initiative
For more than 22 years, Women’s Initiative for Self Employment has been providing low-income, high potential women with the business training, funding and ongoing support to start their own business and becoming financially independent.  The women who go through the training significantly increase their income and assets while launching businesses, creating jobs and stimulating the local economy.

About J Vineyards & Winery
Founded in 1986 by Judy Jordan, J Vineyards & Winery is an independently-owned Sonoma County winery.  The Winery is celebrating its 25th Anniversary.

J Vineyards & Winery focuses on non-vintage Brut, Vintage Brut, and Brut Rosé sparkling wines, as well as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris Estate varietal wines, all crafted from grapes farmed primarily within Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley appellation.

The J Vineyards & Winery Visitor Center and Bubble Room is located at 11447 Old Redwood Highway, south of Healdsburg. To learn more, or to join the J Wine Club, go to   You can also follow us on Facebook.

Friday, October 14, 2011




Share your love of J this holiday season.  Purchase a J Gift Card and eliminate the hassle of hauling wrapped packages through airport security or paying extra baggage fees.

Better yet, surprise someone with a J Gift Card before the holiday season and watch his or her face light up like Holiday lights.

Purchase a J Gift Card by calling 888-594-6326, visiting our website at, or dropping by our Visitor Center where we will offer a complimentary tasting* of our J Brut Rose for each person purchasing a J Gift Card in our Visitor Center. 

J Gift Cards can be loaded in $50 increments from our website or any denomination in the J Visitor Center. The J Gift Card is perfect for purchasing wine* or J merchandise from our boutique.

(*You must be 21 years of age to purchase & taste wine)

Friday, October 7, 2011

J Harvest News from our Winemaker, Melissa Stackhouse, Friday, October 7, 2011

Melissa Stackhouse, J Winemaker

The J harvest of 2011 continues to roll on.  We are nearly finished with Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.  Early sampling of our 2011 Russian River Valley Estate Pinot Noir shows a vintage across the board that is nothing less than exquisite.  Most of the lots are still in tank, on the skins and fermenting.  A few Russian River Valley Pinot Noir lots are already in barrel, having been drained and pressed last week. These wines will be going through malolactic fermentation in barrel, and will be aged for about nine months. We expect blending to begin in early spring.

Melissa Stackhouse Admiring J Estate Pinot Noir Grapes

And happily, we completed our sparkling wine harvest weeks before the rain began to fall.  The sparkling lots are all tucked away in tanks awaiting assemblage. We will begin blending these wines at the end of October for tirage bottling in early February.  The 2011 sparkling wine vintage can be characterized with one word — spectacular!

 Spectacular Night Harvest in Nonny's Vineyard

Our major challenge this harvest, however, has been with Chardonnay.  Chardonnay is always the variety that takes a hit when the Russian River Valley weather becomes marginal.  The seven-day forecast will hopefully bring us warmer and drier weather.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed and hope to finish this year’s harvest by the end of next week.  

J Vineyards Russian River Valley Chardonnay

We will keep you posted on our progress.

Best Regards,
Melissa Stackhouse, J Winemaker

Thursday, September 29, 2011

J’s Tasting Room Stands Among the Best in the West, by Kasey Wilson of The Dish

Tasting Temptations
Sonoma’s J Vineyards takes the guesswork out of food pairing
Wine Access - The Dish, by Kasey Wilson
October / November 2011

At J Vineyards, food and wine go hand-in-hand.  J’s tasting room stands among the best in the West.

The winery’s owner, Judy Jordan, has been a Sonoma pioneer in her efforts to create an elegant food-and-wine experience for visitors. Touting both sparkling and traditional Burgundian still wines, Jordan offers guests a luxurious take on Sonoma County hospitality.

Judy Jordan, J Founder & President

In 1996, she purchased the former Piper Sonoma winery in Healdsburg, in the heart of California’s Russian River Valley. A few years later, in 1999, she opened J Vineyards’ tasting room. Going beyond basic wine tastings, staff  members offered small food items to complement each wine, showing how what’s in the glass marries with what’s on the  plate.

Eight years ago, Jordan hired Mark Caldwell as executive chef. His job: to create a variety of “ahhh-inducing” dishes to partner with her wines.

Mark E. Caldwell, J Executive Chef

The Signature Bar in the tasting room has art as cool as its bubbly. It’s backed by an impressive 18-by-24-foot, floor-to-ceiling, metal-and-glass installation by Napa Valley artist Gordon Huether. It’s washed with acid and mineral dusts to give it the warm hues of copper. Embedded in it are sparkling nuggets of glass lit by fiber optics, evoking the bubbles in a flute of sparkling wine.

J Signature Bar

On weekends, an enhanced tasting is offered in the Bubble Room, overlooking the gardens and lily pond. As part of this experience, Caldwell prepares several courses to go with a half-dozen wines, all served in the luxuriously appointed salon. Jordan believes Caldwell’s cooking is a perfect match to J’s wines; both wines and dishes have balance, elegance and subtlety.

J Bubble Room

“There’s a lot of experimentation and playing with flavors at J,” says Caldwell. “I reduce down sparkling wines to  make different vinaigrettes, or to make a sauce for oysters on the half shell; or I’ll marinate strawberries in a reduction of our rosé and mint. I’ll also pour sparkling wine on dessert, so it foams up at the last second.”

His experimentation has led to one answer to the ongoing challenge of pairing asparagus with wine. “What I’ve learned,” says Caldwell, “is that steamed asparagus brings out a metallic flavor with wine. If you sauté or roast asparagus, it caramelizes, and shows nicely with the earthiness of a pinot noir.”

His impeccably wine-friendly recipes vary from succulent lobster-shellfish cakes with saffron aïoli (paired with J  Cuvée 20 and the 2009 California Pinot Gris), to chilled carrot-curry soup (see recipe; best with the 2008  Chardonnay and J Vintage Brut). He uses two ’08 pinots — the Russian River Valley, and the Nicole’s Vineyard — in a  reduction to accompany pan-roasted beef sirloin. Even sweets are deserving of pairings, with a dessert of citrus olive-oil cake with rose petal parfait matched to J Brut Rosé.

With an owner intent on upholding gracious wine country hospitality and a chef crafting unforgettable wine and food pairings, J’s tasting room stands among the best in the West.

Chilled Carrot-Curry Soup Recipe
 Photo by Lenny Siegel

Here, Mark Caldwell shares his recipe for a silky, Madras curry-spiked carrot-curry soup. It’s wonderful chilled, but can also be served warm.

2 Tbsp. butter
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. young fresh carrots, scrubbed then chopped
1 bay leaf
3 Tbsp. Madras curry powder
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 can (14 oz/398ml) unsweetened coconut milk
3 cups chicken stock

In a heavy medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions and garlic; cook until onions are softened, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and 1 tablespoon of curry powder and cook for 5 minutes. Add bay leaf and chicken stock. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer soup for 15 minutes. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of curry powder and cook, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir in coconut milk and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Pour coconut-curry mixture into soup and stir well.  Purée (in batches) in a blender until smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste.  Cover and chill thoroughly, at least 2 hours. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

J Wine Match: 2009 J Vineyards Viognier, Hoot Owl Vineyard



Monday, September 19, 2011

J Harvest News from our Winemaker, Melissa Stackhouse, Monday, September 19, 2011

Harvest Update by Melissa Stackhouse, VP of Winemaking
Monday, September 19, 2011
With The Cooler Weather, We Wait

I walked through Nicole’s Vineyard early last Friday, tasting fruit that’s slated to be picked over the next few weeks. With the foggy, cool mornings, we’re running a bit behind schedule while Mother Nature warms up.

Nicole's Vineyard

I had the same thought about our Bow Tie Vineyard, located on Westside Road. The clusters are still a couple of weeks from ripening. The vine canopy looks healthy, and the 10-day forecast is for 85-degree daytime temperatures. It’s a Pinot Noir winemaker’s dream forecast.

Bow Tie Vineyard

I should be ecstatic. And I am. But my adrenaline was so revved up during our sparkling wine harvest, which at this point is 80% complete, there’s a part of me that wants to charge forward. 

Full disclosure…I’m an impatient soul. I do understand the importance of long hang-time and the maritime influences that can sometimes bring the harvest to a grinding halt.  I do appreciate and expect a slow ripening, the respiration of acid, waiting for that phenolic ripeness of the grapes seeds, and above all, cheering on those intense flavors we’ve come to expect in our wines.  I’m so excited to get my hands on these beautiful grapes that it’s difficult for me to wait on Mother Nature.

As with every harvest, I have no control. The pace is never in our hands and it unfolds differently each year.  I have no doubt this will be an extraordinary year for Russian River Valley Pinot Noir grapes, but this waiting is killing me!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

J Vineyards & Winery Barrel Room Video!

J Vineyards & Winery Prepares the Barrel Room
for the Pinot Noir Varietal Wine Harvest!

Melissa Stackhouse, J Vineyards & Winery VP Winemaking

J Barrel Room YouTube Link:

Founded by Judy Jordan in 1986, J Vineyards & Winery is an independently owned Sonoma County winery.  The winery kicks off its 25th Anniversary celebration this year on Saturday, September 17, 2011.  To learn more, or to join the J Wine Club, go to

Monday, August 29, 2011

J Harvest News from our Winemaker, Melissa Stackhouse (8/29/11)!

Melissa Stackhouse, J Vineyards & Winery VP of Winemaking

The 2011 harvest is now underway for sparkling wine and I'm thrilled to be part of the J winemaking team. I’m also excited about becoming well-versed in the nuances of sparkling wine production.  At J, however, the future is all about varietal wine.

So far the weather has been steady and predictable. Just enough fog in the evening and early morning to moderate the pace of ripening, and just enough sun and heat during the day to move the sugar levels in the right direction.

A faint aroma of the first fermentations is now wafting through the cellar. The winemaking and vineyard teams are out in the vineyards monitoring the grapes, focused on the weather forecast to ensure our decision-making is tethered to sound information. The next couple of weeks will be very busy.

As for varietal
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, we’re expecting to start picking for the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir in about two weeks, assuming the weather cooperates! Our Chardonnay destined for the Russian River Valley blend is expected to ripen by mid-September. 

The most magical thing about harvest is the twists and turns as we go through it.  We don't have a crystal ball to tell us what the weather will be like, or what sort of vintage this will be. A good friend mentioned once that if there was such a thing as a crystal ball, we'd be making crystal balls rather than wine.  My response to that was, maybe, but it wouldn't be as fun!

Founded by Judy Jordan in 1986, J Vineyards & Winery is an independently owned Sonoma County winery.  The winery kicks off its 25th Anniversary celebration this year on Saturday, September 17, 2011.  To learn more, or to join the J Wine Club, go to

Friday, August 26, 2011

J Vineyards & Winery Harvest Celebration Video!

Check out our J Vineyards & Winery Harvest Celebration YouTube video featuring Founder & President Judy Jordan blessing the grapes. Special bonus feature, the crowning of Melissa Stackhouse—Queen of Winemaking.

Melissa Stackhouse & Judy Jordan

J Harvest Celebration Video Link:

Friday, August 19, 2011

J Vineyards & Winery Begins Harvest on Monday, August 22, 2011!

Wineries prepare for harvest to begin next week

JOHN BURGESS/Press Democrat
John Erbe, a viticulturlist with J Vineyards & Winery, 
checks the sugar levels of pinot noir grapes on Thursday.
Erbe believes the Healdsburg winery will start the harvest on Monday morning.

There’s excitement in the air as winemakers across Sonoma County hurry through final preparations, or catch their last bit of rest, before the onslaught begins.

The North Coast grape harvest is expected to kick off next week, several weeks later than normal as a result of cool spring weather that slowed the maturation of the region’s $1 billion grape crop.

Melissa Stackhouse, Winemaker with J Vineyards & Winery

“I have the pre-harvest butterflies a little bit, and a general sense of hope that you have before harvest,” said Melissa Stackhouse, winemaker for J Vineyards & Winery of Healdsburg. “Because who knows, it could be really stellar. Harvest unfolds as we’re going through it, and that’s the nice mystery about it.”

In the wee hours of Monday morning, grape pickers will set out at J Vineyards to begin picking pinot noir and chardonnay grapes used to make sparkling wines.

The winery expects to harvest about 20 percent fewer grapes than normal this year, spokesman George Rose said. Rains in June simply knocked the flowers off the vine, so there were fewer berries in each cluster, he said.

“Our winemaking team definitely is gearing up for what they like to refer to as war,” Rose said. “It’s a very grueling process.”

Despite the cool temperatures, vineyards in Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley have accumulated about five or six more days of warm temperatures than the same time last year, said Nick Frey, president of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission.

“We’re going to have the long hang time that winemakers want for flavor depth, but I think we’re in a better position than last year,” Frey said.

The lighter crop is making some grapes ripen faster on the vine, said Chris Bowen, vineyard manager for Hunter Farms in Sonoma Valley. With fewer grapes, the sugar produced by the leaves makes its way inside the grape faster, he said.

Bowen estimates Hunter Farms will start picking pinot noir grapes for sparkling wines in the middle or end of next week for Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards.

“I’m hopeful that we don’t have another harvest like last year, because last year was just slam-bang. We had no letup,” Bowen said. “It would be nice if things went smoothly. They never do.”

Bowen is expecting to harvest about 25 percent fewer pinot noir grapes than an average year. Chardonnay grapes don’t look quite as bad, and some of his merlot and cabernet grapes look good, while others don’t.

To the west in the Russian River Valley, Iron Horse Vineyards is poised to start picking grapes for its sparkling wines in about 15 days, based on the sugar content of the grapes, winemaker David Munksgard estimated.

“It’s kind of like crystal ball-ing right now,” Munksgard said.

When J Vineyards starts picking, Munksgard can practically set a clock and assume Iron Horse’s grapes will be ready for picking within a week or two.

Iron Horse is racing to get bottling done now so it can hopefully give the crew a long weekend off before the madness of harvest begins.

“There’s all kinds of obstacles in your way, but at the end of the day, after all the agonizing and worry about the harvest, it’s suddenly here,” Rose said.

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