Although I used to sell J Vineyard wines and have done a couple different tastings and tours here, this by far was the most special – a true guest experience in all it’s cheese and food pairing glory thanks to renown Chef Carl Shelton. Trade hospitality is always so fun and educational but this time around J showed me the uniqueness of the estate and its offerings through a genuine visitor’s eyes.
Once we arrived and started to settle in, Sarah greeted us each w/ a glass of J Rosé and let us prance around the patio and gardens before we got things started.
Known as a premier California Sparkling producer, the “Visitor Center” is situated in prime Chard and Pinot territory (grapes of which are almost always in your glass of bubbles): the Russian River Valley. Winemakers Nicole Hitchcock and Scott Anderson are committed to showcasing cool-climate wines at their best, and I’m always so THRILLED to see a female at the helm! I was really honored to meet and chat w/ her during my visit and as elegant and sophisticated as J is, it’s the people like her, Lon (PR), and Sarah (best host ever!) that remind you how down to earth the environment actually is.
The brand was originally born from a vision of Judy Jordan’s (yes, of the famed Jordan winery). The idea was to create a sparkling program taken from the qualities of old world winemaking and fusing them with her vast knowledge of geography (a Stanford Grad in Geology/Earth Science) and the use of modern resources for this exact vision to come to life. Now owned by E&J Gallo, who has continued w/ this drive and passion with an elevated finesse, J is a brand that exudes feminine empowerment laced throughout an inspiring mission to offer only the best in hospitality AND product. Something that, to me, is the true allure of wine.
Now, after the outdoor shots she invited us for our sit down wine & cheese pairing in the Legacy Lounge which is a MUST if you find your way here! It’s so well-curated and will give anyone a new appreciation the diversity of cheese. This room is where I did my tasting which showcases the wide potential that production method and vintages (aka growing seasons) can have on this special category. Also how pairing the right things can amplify characteristics in both food and wine.
*Full Menu Here
J Legacy Sparkling Flight
- Vintage Brut, Russian River Valley, 2011 – Whether you’re a Blanc de Blanc person (like yours truly) or a Blanc de Noir type, this will surely please all palates considering it sits somewhere right in the middle – the perfect balance of Chard and Pinot. Pretty fruit and balanced texture w/ a little acidity sneaking through on the back end. Don’t forget, Brut = Dry. Vintage = Ageability.
- Cuvée 20 Magnum, Russian River Valley, NV – I mean…. a magnum! Enough said. Anytime you can get your hands on a magnum of good bubbles (and this is their flagship), just buy it…. . Magnum = 2 bottles. Magnum = Party wine. This is a great wine to drink now, while it’s fresh!
- Vintage Brut Rosé, Russian River Valley, 2013 – Limited Release!! “2013 was a stellar growing season” and considering dry Rosé is what’s current, finding it in quality sparkling is even better and on top of that it’s Vintage, and on top of that it’s traditional method. Pinot Noir left on its skins is what creates this delicate hue. Winner! #JRoseAllDay
- Vintage Brut Magnum, Russian River Valley, 2009 – Again, Magnum! (enter jazz hands here) – Perfect for that special occasion and highly recommend stowing it away for some years for an even bigger occasion. “Vintage” = More ageability.
- Demi-Sec, Sonoma Couty, NV – Okay, now, some people are scared of Demi-Sec assuming it might be too sweet. Technically demi-sec does translate to slightly sweet, which to me actually makes for some of the most perfect pairing options (think spice, salt dishes). The fruit and light sweetness in J’s demi-sec isn’t overdone and one of my favorite in from California.
*They also do some great stills but the bubbles are what you’ll find me here for. Especially since well-made, traditional method is a little harder to find in California.
Lastly, we were led into the enchantment of my favorite room, and the most appropriate, the J Bubble Room. I die.
I felt the exclusivity and at the same time the inclusivity. Meeting Nicole, Knowing Chef Carl resided a stove’s throw away and there really isn’t a more festive environment and so well-suited to its theme. I think a reservation here w/ the right group of people lends itself a recommendation on a well-thought out itinerary. It’s a place that makes Russian River (just south of Healdsburg) a prime destination and I’d look to spend some time here and coordinate your day around this stop.
All in all I had such a blast and an experience I’ll recommend again and again.
*Reservation Recommended; $$-$$$
*BIG, gigantic thank you to Chloe Jackman for these beautiful photos and bringing the day to life!