This wine tasting, followed by lunch with their winemaking team, was arranged by my friend and PR pro extraordinaire George Rose. J’s got a great PR person working for them, but this isn’t an isolated case. Leadership at J Vineyards starts at the top with Judy Jordan. I recently wrote about Judy in a story I entitled: Two weekends in wine country: One Focus ~ Wine & Food with great hosts and an important marketing lesson

At one point, Jose pointed out, “There’s Judy Jordan.” He was right, and I was amazed. There she was, outside in 107 degree weather talking with her guest. Frankly, I didn’t expect her to be there. In the days when I worked for wineries (in the 1990s), the families were nowhere to be seen for functions that involved the public. The staff was expected to “handle it,” and we did. This tells me a lot about the new landscape of direct marketing today. To have a successful winery, the family’s role as ambassadors cannot be underestimated.

Judy’s got it down. It’s important to cover all aspects of what customers are expecting. If she’s not the role model, then who is?

My affinity for George has to do with our living in a parallel universe. In the 1980s, he was in LA photographing rock and rollers (and Hollywood stars), while I was doing the same thing with rockers in Portland, Maine. Now, with both of us living and working in Sonoma County, that’s a very small club to be in… seemingly with only two members.

And, so… our very engaging and anticipatory day at J.

This was a time to celebrate winemaker Melissa Stackhouse’s first vintage release of wines that she’s crafted for J Vineyards and Winery… A very exciting moment for her and the winery.

Melissa arrived in Sonoma County to follow her passion for Pinot Noir, landing a job at La Crema in 2003. During her years there, her La Crema Pinot Noirs… most especially the Russian River… was my go-to, quintessential Pinot. Before arriving at J, Melissa also worked for Robert Mondavi, Peter Michael, Joseph Phelps, Sterling, and Alexander Valley Cellars. Great credentials…

Now, I was finally connecting the dots between her days at La Crema, my loving her wines then (not knowing that she was the winemaker), and presently really enjoying J’s wines; still and sparkling. I had one of those “hit your forehead” moments about her wines.


[Image is from the book The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast, a story that I have read to my children, at least 100 times]

Melissa’s been with J since 2010, and it was the 201o vintage wines that we were about to taste. As George said, “We’re rolling out Melissa’s wines, just before we take them on the road.” A few tastings that George had set up were like dress rehearsals for the big time; and honestly, I only see continued success coming to J and Melissa. As I sat there, getting all of the details for the day, I had a flashback of Alan Aldrich’s book The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast, and could see Melissa working her way across the country with delicious success.

My partner Jose was also with us that day. He’s posted a great image on his photo blog: J’s sparkling wine program winemaker Scott Anderson was also with us. Scott’s been with J for seven years. Melissa said, “I’m learning about sparkling wines from Scott, and he’s learning about still wines from me.” I could see a tight cohesion between the two of them, as we began our conversations, toasting with the 2005 J Vintage Brut, Russian River Valley. This sparkling is their Creme de la Creme flagship méthode champenoise wine, and a really great putting their best foot forward moment.

Last and by no means least, during the initial stage of our morning, Kathryn Lindstom, J’s Chief Operating Officer, did the pop in. (Don’t you love the pop-ins?) It was great to see her again, with her remembering our last meeting at their 25th Anniversary party… Great memories… J’s attention to details cannot be underscored, and trust me… it translates right into their wine program.

Beginning our day with their 2005 J Vintage Brut was important, not only because the wine is the best of the best for them; but also, because it began an important dialogue of not just finding out all we could about J’s winemaking team, but also because Melissa flipped the tables on us. After we learned all about her, she wanted to know about Team Diaz… who we are and how we got to be. Again, I’m going back to the leadership of this winery. It’s that kind of curiosity and mutual caring that creates a great team, hence a great wine.

With J Vineyard wines, since my very first glass, I highly recommend any J wine that I’d find on a wine list and/or a wine shop. I personally buy J wines, because they’re consistently great… Given all the elements that nature will and does throw their way, they still rise to the top.

You can expect the best with J, and you’ll get no less.

Here at the wines they’re rolling out…

Melissa Stackhouse 2010 J Vineyards New Chardonnay Releases

  1. 2010 J Vineyards Chardonnay ~ Russian River Valley
  2. 2010 J Vineyards Chardonnay ~ Jewell Ranch Vineyard
  3. 2010 J Vineyards Chardonnay ~ STRATA
  4. 2010 J Vineyards Chardonnay ~ Barrel 16

Melissa Stackhouse 2010 J Vineyards New Pinot Noir Releases

  1. 2010 J Vineyards Pinot Noir ~ Freestone Hill Vineyard
  2. 2010 J Vineyards Pinot Noir ~ STRATA
  3. 2010 J Vineyards Pinot Noir ~ Robert Thomas Vineyard
  4. 2010 J Vineyards Pinot Noir ~ Nicole Vineyard

Tomorrow, my notes on these wines… and more information on why J has gone the route of still wines, as well as having a sparkling program.


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