A visit to J Vineyards & Winery

Terrace at J Vineyards

Tasting counter at J Vineyards

Entrance to J Vineyards

Ready for harvest at J Vineyards

Tasting lounge at J Vineyards

Enjoying a sip on my tour of J

Sparkling wine production facility

Racking the Pinot Noir at J Vineyards

The Judy Jordan story

Gyropalettes at J Vineyards

I received a warm welcome at J Vineyards. Michael, one of J’s wine educators couldn’t have been more accommodating and it turned out to be one of the day’s most inspiring visits.

Located about 3 miles south of Healdsburg, in the Russian River Valley, J is a destination not only for sparkling wine lovers, but it is also a great place for foodies. With three locations for food & wine pairings at the winery, including the “Bubble Room” pairing experience that has received rave reviews, there certainly is something for everyone.

But the center of it all, the winery experience is infused with founder Judy Jordan’s passion for making great wines, a sense of innovation and a positive, “anything’s possible” attitude. I felt at home here.

As we walked into the vineyard, Michael explained one of J’s main focuses – sustainability. J sources grapes from their nine estate vineyards making up 255 acres within Russian River Valley. The winery itself was certified sustainable winery in 2011 and it is also certified as a “Green Winery” by the San Francisco Bay Area Green Business Program. PG&E has certified that its energy use is “carbon neutral.”

We then went upstairs to see the production area and view the corridor of the winery’s history. The corridor, full of information on the terroir and motivational quotes like “Surround yourself with things that inspire you. Dream big because anything is possible,” is a lesson not only about soil of the Russian River Region, but also a testament to what can be done with a positive outlook, and a strong leader. I imagined that Judy had hand picked these quotes. Michael’s enthusiasm and pride was obvious and I could tell he wasn’t the only one. It seems to be part of the culture at J.

As an entrepreneur myself, I enjoyed hearing about Judy’s story. Judy founded J Winery in 1986, after purchasing it from Piper Sonoma at the age of 25. But her passion for sparkling wines began during a trip to Champagne, when she was 15. While visiting J I really got a sense of Judy’s personality, and what positivity hard work and dedication can do.

My visit ended with a tasting of several wines in the upstairs lounge. Unfortunately they were out of their most popular sparkling wine, the Brut Rosé during my visit, but you are lucky enough to see it on your visit to J, make sure you try it. The other wines, including still wines like Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir were excellent.

I left with a little buzz, not from the wines, but infused with some of Judy’s positive “dream big, anything is possible” attitude.

Expert tip: If you have the time, plan on making a reservation for the Bubble Room wine and food experience, or if you are traveling in summer months, try the Terrace pairing. The pairings are innovative and add an extra dimension to the wines.

WineryCritic Ratings

8/10 Overall visitor experience

9/10 Knowledge of guide

8/10 Location

9/10 Architecture and design, landscaping

9/10 Other experiences: Food & Wine pairings, tours

9/10 Knowledge of tasting room staff

9/10 Friendliness of staff

8/10 Signage & ease of access

9/10 Quality of the wines poured

Appointment required: No, but reservations are recommended for the food and wine pairings.

Address: 11447 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, CA 95448

www.jwine.com

Tasting room hours: 11am – 5pm daily

Tasting fees and Experiences:

  • $20 per person – J Signature Tasting: Features five wines. Offered daily from 11am – 5pm.
  • $30 per person – J Legacy Tasting: Features five wines, seated in the tasting lounge. Available daily 11:00am-4:00pm with seating times on the hour.
  • $30 per person – J Tour: Take a behind the scenes tour to learn they make legendary sparkling and varietal wines. Daily at 11:30 am and 2:30 pm.
  • $45 per person – Terrace pairing experience (Seasonal): Offered Friday – Sunday (May – October, weather permitting). Bites or Cheese options. Reservations encouraged; walk-ins welcome.
  • $75 per person – J Bubble Room: A seated wine and food pairing in the salon. Offered Thursday – Sunday. Reservations encouraged; walk-ins welcome.

Good for: Sparkling wine lovers, foodies, special events

Wines produced: Sparkling wines, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Ratafia dessert wine, Pear Liqueur.

What’s nearby: Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sapphire Hill Winery, Seghesio Family Vineyards, Simi Winery, town of Healdsburg.

District/Appellation: Russian River Valley, Sonoma

Contact for appointments: Make your reservation through CellarPass

Date of visit: July 19, 2013

E-mail: mindy@winerycritic.com