J Vineyards and Winery in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley is pretty well known throughout the U.S. They’re one of the few domestically-produced (and family-owned) sparkling wine houses. Founded in 1986 by Judy Jordan, the ebullient sister of John Jordan at Jordan Winery, she has led this company to huge success, starting with sparkling wine but has recently expanded into producing stellar Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Sampling these great wines is easy. The winery lies right off Old Redwood Highway about two miles south of the town of Healdsburg, the Russian River Valley’s wine country hub. Vineyards and manicured landscaping line the entry way (which it shares with Rodney Strong Vineyards). But the grounds, views and even the tasting room aren’t the best reason to head to J — their Bubble Room experience is.
Before I moved to Sonoma County, I had no idea this fabulous food and wine adventure existed. It’s kinda of on the DL. Insiders know about it and J’s wine club certainly does but they don’t need to shout about it from on high. It sells out. For a reason.
Situated overlooking the ponds and the vineyards beyond, the ambience of the Bubble Room appears straight out of Architectural Digest. When making your reservation (pretty much required, by the way), choose the comfy couches rather than the table since the it feels like a casually elegant dinner party. But if you’re a stickler for correct posture while eating, the tables do have a better view. Whatever works for you.
The six-dish menu varies seasonally and each small plate course is paired with either one or two wines. Not skimpy pours either. Using locally-sourced ingredients, their on-site Executive Chef Mark E. Caldwell personally designs the menu with the wines in mind so you can be assured of a mind-blowing culinary orgasm. We had a butter-poached sturgeon and orange-fennel salad paired with their new Pinot Gris that made my toes curl.
It takes about 1 1/2 – 2 hours to savor every morsel, with a wine educator walking you through the food and wine pairings (ask if Dana is available). The whole experience costs $75, which frankly is a steal considering the restaurant prices in the area. And the portions weren’t miniscule tasting menu bites like you might expect. No need to hit McDonald’s post meal.
Sum up: Intimate, beautiful surroundings, great wine, a bit pricey but worth it.
Advice: Sit in the couches, reserve early during summer season, tip your educator if you want to (but not required)
J Vineyards and Winery Bubble Room
11447 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, CA
Hours and prices vary per season