Food and wine pairing at J Vineyards and winery.

J Vineyards & Winery in Healdsburg

By Published On: June 19th, 2023

J Vineyards & Winery in Healdsburg

When Judy Jordan founded J Vineyards & Winery in 1986, there were only a few wineries producing sparkling wine in Sonoma County and no known tasting rooms with educational wine and food pairing programs.

The J Visitor Center, located south of downtown Healdsburg, set the bar for wine country hospitality with its Bubble Room featuring sit down dining showcasing Russian River Valley bubbles and still wines paired with fine cuisine.

After all, everyone knows that food and wine are meant to be enjoyed together! Keep reading to discover all the delicious details.

The Food & Wine Experiences

Gallo purchased J in 2015, and under new ownership, the food and wine programs have evolved. At the pinnacle of J’s wine pairing experiences is the Shifting the Lens chef-curated tasting experience.

Shifting the Lens experience at J Vineyards.
Shifting the Lens experience. Photo courtesy: Nikki Ritcher.

Incidentally, the program recently won the Sonoma County Tourism Innovation Award. The award acknowledges the winery’s work in promoting a greater level of diversity in the wine industry.

J Vineyards & Winery Entrance sign.
Entrance sign. Photo courtesy: J Vineyards & Winery.

Shifting the Lens invites chefs with diverse backgrounds to J for a two-week Bubble Room residency to showcase unique food and wine pairings, drawing from their own cuisine and J’s wine portfolio.

J vineyards chefs during Shifting the Lens Experience.
Chefs during Shifting the Lens Experience. Photo courtesy: Carly Hackbarth.

The next resident chef will be Mexican-born and European-trained Ana Castro, one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs 2022. From September 14-24, 2023, chef Castro will share her perspective and inspiration behind her cuisine while guests relish a five-course tasting menu paired with sparkling and still wines.

J Vineyards Bubble Room food and wine pairing.
Bubble Room food and wine pairing. Photo courtesy: Carly Hackbarth.

Choose from either the Bubble Room Experience for the food and wine tasting along with her stories, or the Dinner & Dialogue, a VIP dinner with food and wine discussions from Castro, winemaker Nicole Hitchcock, and other wine industry leaders.

J Vineyards Chef Ana Castro.
Chef Ana Castro. Photo courtesy: J Vineyards & Winery.

A recent participant in Shifting the Lens was chef Tu David Phu who cooked at Daniel in New York and San Francisco’s 2-star Michelin Acquerello and was named Rising Star Chef by the San Francisco Chronicle.

His multi-course Vietnamese-inspired meal started with J 2015 Blanc de Blanc paired with a surf and turf appetizer of duck liver, lobster and pork with mushrooms in a velvety roasted duck bone broth.

This was followed by Summer Truffle and Garlic Sapporo Noodles brightened with oyster sauce paired with 2021 Chardonnay, Strata Russian River Valley, and segued to Campuchia-style BBQ Liberty Duck glazed with Sonoma honey, crushed ginger and scallions served with full-bodied Hitchcock’s estate grown 2020 Pinot Noir, Strata, Russian River Valley.

Seeking less of a commitment? The basic Signature Bar Tasting is a celebratory yet approachable way to sample a selection of five sparkling and still wines.

J Vineyards & Winery tasting bar.
J Vineyards & Winery tasting bar. Photo Courtesy: Haydn Adams.

The sit-down Legacy Tasting on the shaded terrace offers five of J’s most exclusive small-lot wines with an optional cheese and accoutrement presentation. 

J Vineyards Legacy Tasting with food.
Legacy Tasting. Photo courtesy: Carly Hackbarth.

The Award-Winning Winemaker

Head winemaker Nicole Hitchcock, who was awarded Winemaker of the Year 2022 by Wine Enthusiast, has an impressive resume including a degree in Viticulture and Enology from University of California at Davis, an MBA from the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University, and internships in Italy and Western Australia.

J Vineyards Head winemaker Nicole Hitchcock.
Head winemaker Nicole Hitchcock. Photo courtesy: J Vineyards & Winery.

The California native was born and raised in Carmel and first discovered her passion for wine when working alongside well-respected sommeliers. 

The Wines at J Vineyards & Winery

As a certified-sustainable winery, the J winemaking philosophy points to the soil as the key to crafting elegant and balanced wines expressive of the terrior. In addition to its core portfolio of award-winning sparkling wines, J specializes in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris from cool-climate fruit grown in the renowned Russian River Valley in Sonoma County.

We will touch on a few, but all the vintages and different varietals are worth exploring.

J Cuvée 20 Brut is the flagship sparkler “with aromas of toasted almond, Braeburn apple, dried cranberry and ginger snap. Delicate bubbles lead to a soft palate with flavors of lemon meringue pie, as the creaminess is whisked away by a lively finish,” according to the winemaker’s tasting notes.

J NV Brut Rosé has an “elegant, flavorful palate with notes of mandarin orange, roasted strawberries and crème fraiche. Lively acidity and steely minerality frame a crisp, lingering finish.”

J Vineyards Cuvee 20 & Brut Rosé NV.
Cuvee 20 & Brut Rosé NV. Photo Courtesy: J Vineyards

The 2021 Estate Pinot Gris is “expressive with a silky-smooth palate that brings fullness and viscosity with ripe peach, pear, kumquat and honeydew melon characteristics. Hints of spice, citrus and wet river rock offer a palate-refreshing finish.”

The 2020 Barrel 16 Chardonnay “showcases the finest Chardonnay lots of the vintage with impactful notes of Meyer lemon, sweet orange, papaya and mango tossed with toasted nuts and flaky croissant on the lengthy finish. Oak notes offer depth and structure while allowing the fruit to shine through.”

J’s 2021 Russian River Pinot Noir, crafted from 100 individual small lots, is “deeply layered and velvet-smooth, with ripe blackberry, black cherry, dark plum and cranberry notes that blend with toast, lavender and rose.”

Final Thoughts

For your journey to J Winery, expect a quick jaunt right outside downtown Healdsburg to a bucolic area surrounded with vineyards. The contemporary ivy covered building and the setting are a refreshing throw-back to the days before Healdsburg was packed with tasting rooms and big wineries competing over showy architecture.  

The Visitor Center is open daily from 11am-5pm. Walk-ins are welcome for the signature bar tasting but make reservations for a party of 6 or more.

Reservations are required for the Legacy patio tasting (starting at $50), Bubble Room food and wine pairings ($150), and Shifting the Lens experiences (starting at $200). Plan to spend about 2 hours at the Bubble Room Shifting the Lens dinners and tastings.

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