Interview with Maggie Kruse, Head Winemaker of Jordan Vineyard and Winery.
Located in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley, Jordan Vineyard & Winery was inspired by the great wine estates of France and timeless connection between food, wine and hospitality.
Under the guidance of second-generation vintner John Jordan, they have continued to innovate and elevate their wines and food-centric hospitality since the foundation in 1972.
From advancements in fruit sourcing, oak aging, precision farming and conservation of natural resources to diversifying agriculture and creating new visitor experiences, they have maintained a quest to improve with every vintage. We interview Maggie Kruse, Head Winemaker of Jordan Vineyard and Winery, to learn more.
What Type of Wine Do You Specialize In?
Maggie Kruse: We focus on three things at Jordan: chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and hospitality. This allows us to maintain our extremely high standards of wine quality and value, while still exploring ways to improve our wines, our guest experiences and our culture year after year.
Popular Tasting Experience at Jordan Vineyard and Winery?
Maggie Kruse: We welcome guests by appointment for distinct wine tours and tastings at our Alexander Valley estate in the heart of Sonoma wine country. Guest experiences include gourmet wine tastings with food pairing in our cellar room, walking tours through our iconic chateau, excursions across our scenic property, as well as seasonal holiday celebrations.
Advance reservations are required.
What makes your wine unique?
Maggie Kruse: There is only one bottling of Jordan every vintage, and it only includes the best fruit. Grapes that don’t meet our standards for taste and quality are sacrificed in the vineyard or declassified and sold.
Investments in research and technology are ongoing. We pay top dollar for grapes, barrels, corks and winemaking equipment, and these efforts are central to the remarkable consistency of our wines. These tenets have helped us remain one of the top cabernet sauvignon brands in America for more than four decades.
What’s one thing you wish more people knew about your winery?
Maggie Kruse: Visitors to the winery may not realize that the Jordan Estate boasts nearly 1,200 acres of rolling hills, oak trees, lakes, streams, vineyards, olive trees, pastures for cattle, apiary and chef’s garden.
More than 1,000 acres of Jordan Estate will forever be wild. As stewards of the estate, we consider the impact that every viticultural and winemaking decision has on the native ecosystems under our care.
Jordan’s electrical use is carbon neutral, with roughly 90 percent of our electricity coming from hillside solar arrays behind the winery and the rest from renewable resources through the Sonoma Clean Power program. The winery and all vineyards are certified sustainable.
In 2021, eight acres of the land were turned into pollinator sanctuaries to benefit vital insect and bird populations.
Tell us a little bit yourself and when you first fell in love with wine?
Maggie Kruse: I was born and raised in Milwaukee before moving to California to attend UC-Davis.
I grew up in a home where wine was always on the table, and dinner conversations often involved the science of fermentation. My father spent much of his career working in production at Miller Brewery Company, and I was fascinated by fermentation science at an early age.
Before becoming a brewer, he served as a U.S. Navy officer in the San Francisco area and fell in love with Napa and Sonoma wine country’s climate and lifestyle. I grew up watching my parents enjoy a good bottle of wine with dinner, and frequent family vacations to wine country piqued my interest in a winemaking career.
When I was in high school, my parents and I took a trip to wine country in October, during the middle of harvest. I remember seeing people picking grapes in the vineyards and passing all the trucks and tractors on the road. The smell of fermentation and pumice was in the air, and there was an incredible energy and buzz to the valley.
I remember thinking that I wanted to be a part of that spirit.”
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a winemaker?
Maggie Kruse: Being dependent on Mother Nature can be quite humbling.
A person is never going to make the perfect choice every time. I have learned to find excitement in the unknown and learn to have fun with every curve ball the weather and climate throws at us. A lot can be learned in the challenging years.
Share you winemaking approach
Maggie Kruse: Our guiding winemaking philosophy is to achieve balance among all components of the wine, and to make no compromises in that pursuit. Dedication to quality and harmony between fruit, acidity, tannin and alcohol ensures a wine of finesse and enduring elegance, as well as a thread of continuity in style from vintage to vintage.
What do you enjoy about being a winemaker?
Maggie Kruse: At Jordan Vineyard and Winery, winemaking is not a recipe.
Achieving both harmony and continuity in winemaking style requires a relentless desire to find new ways to perfect our craft. It also demands a commitment to quality without compromise. Although we’ve focused on making just one white wine and one red wine since the 1970s, we believe every vintage should be better than the last, and we spare no expense in that pursuit.
Do you have any winery traditions with your team?
Maggie Kruse: Our winemaking team works 7 days a week during harvest and at the end of crush every day can start to feel like Monday.
In order to break up the monotony of working non-stop, we celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving which is always the second Monday in October. None of us are Canadian, but we wear Canadian Tuxedos (all denim), listen to nothing but Canadian musicians and enjoy a traditional Canadian feast for lunch. It seems really silly but it’s something to look forward to and have fun with.”
How does your team support you as a winemaker?
Maggie Kruse: Working side by side with my team during crush is my favorite aspect of harvest.
When I see the team looking happy and proud of all the work they are getting done, it fuels me to keep pushing. I feel so very blessed to have such an amazing cellar team with the greatest attitude. They are very proud of the wines they produce, and they certainly show it.”
Between winemaking, viticulture, hospitality, culinary, gardening and administration, Jordan employs more than 80 people, which includes a few husband-wife, father-son, mother-son and cousin teams. John Jordan likes to call us the extended Jordan family.
Half of the winery staff have worked here for at least a decade, and 22 employees have worked at Jordan for more than 20 years.