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Wine: An Oenophile’s Escape

Brett Anderson

"I am a frustrated hotelier," declares John Jordan, CEO of Jordan Vineyard & Winery, as he pilots our boat toward a small oak-enshrouded island at the center of the lake. We are on his Alexander Valley estate in Sonoma County, Calif. As the boat glides alongside the railings of a dock projecting from the island’s bank, Jordan elaborates: "The business of hospitality has always interested me. At top-end hotels, I’m always looking at the details—the linens, the silverware, the service. The very best know what you need before you know it."

At various times a naval intelligence officer, an attorney, and a vintner, Jordan remains first and foremost a perfectionist. "This was my idea," he says, pointing toward the wooded mound before us. "We’re going to do something out here for the Estate Rewards members."

Beneath the moss-draped boughs of oaks, a path leads up to an outdoor lounge, complete with a refrigerator and bar, lounge chairs, picnic tables, and lanterns—everything that an impromptu beach party might require. "One of the experiences we’ll offer is the opportunity to go bass fishing on the estate’s lake," he says. "This is a great place for a picnic lunch. I haven’t completely decided what else we might do."

Jordan’s ideas pour forth as plentifully as the wine flows from the winery on the Jordan estate, which was established in 1972 by his father, Tom, as a producer of fine Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The experiences Jordan refers to are part of a new program introduced in August to offer direct customers of Jordan Winery (whether in person, online, or by phone) the opportunity to participate in a variety of exclusive activities associated with this spectacular property. For each dollar spent, customers earn three points; these points can be redeemed later at different levels (see the winery’s web site for further details). At the lower end, members can attend private seasonal events, and at the highest level, they can indulge in the Jordan "Escape," a complete immersion in the comforts of wine-country living as imagined (and regularly reimagined) by Jordan.

"Escape" accommodations (for one or two nights) consist of a country cottage called Wildwood and two spacious suites in the château, where the winery itself is also located. These rooms have open-beam ceilings, tiled floors, enormous carved mantelpieces, and antique furnishings. A private driver can be arranged for the length of the stay, which includes private pairing dinners prepared by executive chef Todd Knoll. It is over one of these dinners that Jordan expands upon his philosophy of service. "I want the quality of service here to reflect the quality of the wines and of our terroir," he says.

The service during dinner is indeed flawless, thanks to the ministrations of sommelier and wine educator Andria Herron, who ensures that our five courses (which include pan-seared Loch Duart salmon with sea-urchin sauce and sautéed breast of squab with a sauce of raspberry sherry vinegar) and the accompanying wines make their entrances and exits with choreographic precision. After cigars and a bottle of Jordan’s 1983 Rivière Russe, an exquisitely rich and unctuous late-harvest dessert wine, my host accompanies me across the terrace toward the flight of stone steps that leads to my suite. Here he pauses to ask, "Do you mind if I make sure everything is in order?"

He leads me up the stairs and switches on the lights, illuminating the vaulted ceilings. He glances about the spacious room, taking in the freshly oiled furnishings, the bottle of Jordan Chardonnay chilling in a silver bucket, and the turned-down bed, whose crisp, rectilinear folds he inspects. "Excellent," he says, smiling. "Hospital corners: I always insist on hospital corners." In this, at least, the frustrated hotelier finds satisfaction.

Jordan Vineyard & Winery, 707.431.5247, www.jordanwinery.com

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