11447 Old Redwood Hwy
Healdsburg, CA 95448
4.5 stars, 188 reviews
Since 1986, J Vineyards has built a reputation as not only one of California’s premiere sparkling wine producers
, but also one of the few wineries in America to master the art of producing both sparkling and still wines.
In addition to an always-expanding portfolio of estate and award-winning Russian River Sparkling wines, J specializes in Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. The winery also has some fun with unique, hard-to-find varietals like Vin Gris (Rosé of Pinot Noir), Ratafia, a dessert wine with vintages that date back to 1998, and Pinotage, South Africa’s signature grape that’s a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut.
A certified-sustainable winery, J was founded on the principle that soil is the key to crafting wines that are elegant, balanced and above all, expressive of the terroir. As the first winery to establish an educational food and wine pairing program in Sonoma County, J set the bar for wine country hospitality when they opened their luxe, ivy-clad Visitor Center in 1999, located just south of downtown Healdsburg in the heart of the Russian River Valley.
Visitors can choose from a variety of exclusive, world class wine and food experiences
in a mix of settings, including J’s Signature Bar and the Bubble Room. But when the weather is beckoning you outdoors, the Terrace Tasting is perfect for soaking up a relaxing, warm and sunny afternoon in Sonoma wine country.
For $55 per person, the Terrace Tasting
is offered every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during Sonoma County’s warm season, April 21 through the end of November (weather permitting). Seated on the cozy, scenic terrace, you’ll leisurely sip four J Vineyards wines, a selection of sparkling and still, paired with four, gourmet bites.
The view from the patio is especially stunning during the Harvest season, presenting a beautiful sea of lush, tall vines on the estate. And don’t worry, if the sun is shining particularly bright that day, there’s plenty of shade.
The delectable hors d’oeuvres are prepared by Executive Chef Carl Shelton, formerly of famed Boka Restaurant in Chicago, which earned a Michelin Star during his tenure. Shelton’s first gig on the California culinary scene was at Healdsburg’s Spoonbar
, before truly honing his skills at the renowned Napa Valley’s The Restaurant at Meadowood under Chef Christopher Kostow. After a year, he was ready to return to Sonoma Country as head of the the culinary team at J Vineyards.
Shelton works side-by-side with Hitchcock and the winemaking team to develop harmonious wine and food pairings for J Vineyards experiences. The culinary team sources almost all produce exclusively from Sonoma County, working closely with local farms. The duck, for instance, comes from Sonoma’s Liberty Ducks, which works with some of the Bay Area’s top restaurants. Calamari is brought in by a fish purveyor, fresh from nearby waters.
While the menu changes seasonally, a Terrace Tasting in the late summer might start with a the ever-refreshing Vin Gris, paired with a light salad, like watermelon, cucumber and tomato, topped with charred calamari and finger limes.
The second sampling may match the estate Eastside Knoll Pinot Noir with Shelton’s creative interpretation of Escalivada, a smoky, grilled vegetable dish from Spain. His version features grilled eggplant, pickled summer squash and garlic chips atop a sourdough toast.
Moving on to J’s signature bubbly, the Brut Rosé begs for an especially epicurean companion, like a creatively elevated corn dog, made from duck and foie gras with house-made plum mustard.
And lastly, dessert presents the chance to taste J’s newest release, Demi-Sec. On the sweeter side, this sparkling wine beautifully compliments Shelton’s fromage blanc pudding with peach jam, peach snow and brown butter streusel.
Be sure to come hungry!
If you’re looking for a more complete meal, J is one of the few wineries around that offers a sophisticated, seated dining experience. Make a reservation for lunch at the newly renovated Bubble Room
, and enjoy a filling, 5-course wine and food pairing ($100 per person).
Want to make a day of it?
Head to Copain Wines
, a short drive from J Vineyards, for a tasting flight of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay accompanied by sweeping views of the Russian River Valley.
is the hot spot for Happy Hour in Healdsburg. From 5-7 p.m., take a short break from vino and order up a $6 seasonal, craft cocktail like the Blackberry Pimms Cup (blackberry and elderflower Pimms, ginger, lemon and soda). Munch on $6 gourmet snacks like Paella Popcorn.
For dinner, check out Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen
or the rustic-chic Valette
for a fine dining experience, or Healdsburg Bar and Grill
for something more casual. All three are located right off or near the Healdsburg Plaza.
Jess Lander is a freelance wine, food and travel writer based in Napa Valley. She will write for wine.