Just north of the San Francisco Bay Area is the historic city of Sonoma, California. There, adventurous tourists and locals enjoy any variety of water sports and hiking, while history buffs learn from the region’s roots in Wild West enterprise and craftsmen get up-close-and-personal with the Colonial-meets-modern architecture and design throughout the valley bordered by the Mayacamas Mountains.
Renowned for its art galleries, farm-to-table restaurants and unique shopping, the Sonoma Valley region is perhaps best known to oenophiles as the mecca of American wine. The rolling-hilled valley is blanketed in rich soil perfect for growing the grapes that give the area the claim to fame as the home of California’s first premium winery.
Today, wine lovers can find hundreds of vineyards in which to spend the day, but two rise above the rest: St. Francis Winery and Vineyards and Jordan Vineyard and Winery.
At St. Francis Winery, the mission is to consistently produce luscious, elegant, fruit-driven wine that best interprets the richness and distinct varietal characteristics of Sonoma’s unique and diverse terroir. By using the soil, climate and topography to its advantage, St. Francis has been producing award-winning wines for more than 50 years.
Founder Joe Martin established St. Francis Vineyard in 1971 by planting 22 acres of chardonnay and the first 60 acres of merlot in Sonoma Valley, and then, with the help of business partner Lloyd Canton, the winery opened in 1979.
Today, St. Francis features winemakers Katie Madigan and Chris Louton and farms more than 380 acres of Certified Sustainable estate vineyards in Sonoma Valley and the Russian River Valley, each with its own variety of loam, clay and volcanic soils.
The winery fosters long-standing relationships with top Sonoma County grape growers that give it access to some of the most coveted old vines and other varietals from acclaimed vineyards. The St. Francis facility includes a state-of-the-art 457-kilowatt solar energy system, shining a spotlight on the company’s conservation efforts of nearby creeks and waterways.
The stunning mission-style St. Francis Tasting Room is surrounded by estate vineyards and includes a bell tower that houses a 1,000-pound bronze bell cast by the Marinelli Foundry in Italy. Its hourly chimes can be heard throughout the valley.
In 2012, St. Francis planted a 2-acre estate garden to give Executive Chef Peter Janiak access to fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs just steps away from the vineyard’s kitchen. Its Zagat-recommended wine and food pairing has earned worldwide praise and was voted No. 1 in America in 2013 and 2015 by Open Table diners.
Honoring its namesake, the patron saint of animals, the winery also puts philanthropy at the heart of its operations by supporting animal charities that provide service animals for people with disabilities, free of charge. One dollar from the sale of every bottle of St. Francis wine goes to Canine Companions.
Jordan Vineyard and Winery takes pride in producing only two wines: cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. Since its first vintage more than 50 years ago, Jordan has aimed to achieve balance during its winemaking practices. The realization of this balance between fruit, acidity, tannin and alcohol ensures both a wine of finesse and enduring elegance, as well as a thread of continuity in style from vintage to vintage.
Jordan’s focus on chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and hospitality allows the winery to maintain an extremely high standard of quality and value, complemented by immersive on-site tasting experiences and events, as well as an expert culinary program that draws from the estate’s surrounding environment. Also Certified Sustainable, Jordan is situated on 1,200 acres with more than 75% of the land remaining wild for several animal and plant species to call home.
In the fall, Jordan hosts an annual series of al fresco “harvest lunches” available to Jordan Estate Rewards Members. Since the 1980s, these lunches have been a celebration of the season, complete with a curated meal that changes daily based on the estate’s onsite garden. Each menu presents four courses curated by Jordan’s culinary team led by Executive Chef Jesse Mallgren.
The 2019 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a particularly special wine that represents Maggie Kruse’s inaugural vintage as head winemaker. The dark fruit flavors, silky palate and structure make it a lovely wine for food pairing, and its elegance, acidity and spice notes complement grilled or roasted dishes, such as herb-crusted lamb, roasted chicken or grilled pork loin. The wine’s earthiness also complements vegetarian dishes like mushroom risotto, ratatouille and roasted root vegetables.
Jordan is dedicated to striking the perfect balance between tradition and modernization. In 2019, the winery initiated a seven-year enhancement plan revamping spaces within the estate, including the Jordan Chateau Library, Bacchus Courtyard, cellar room, glass pavilion at Visa Point, the chateau guest suites and most recently, the lobby and La Fougeraie.