The culture of care – and excellence- crafted into each bottle of cabernet produced at Jordan Vineyards & Winery plays out every day on the 1,200-acre Healdsburg estate where the wine is nurtured.
Conservation, stewardship and sustainability are all part of the mission and daily routine at the sprawling wine estate established more than 50 years ago in the Alexander Valley.
For winery owner John Jordan, the world-class wine that bears his family’s name must embody the best of the land and people who produce it – an old-world concept that is the core of his philosophy as vintner and businessman. Each day, there are efforts to make the Jordan wines even better and the estate more sustainably self-sufficient on land Jordan wants forever preserved. He sees himself as the land’s current caretaker.
“We are just visiting this planet and it is up to each of us to do our part to make it a better place,” said Jordan, the son of winery founders Tom and Sally Jordan. “At Jordan Vineyards it’s a way of stewardship rather than farming that guides us every day to make the world better and something we can be proud of.”
This dedication to the land and remarkable record of stewardship have earned Jordan Vineyards & Winery the 2022 Luther Burbank Conservation Award from the Sonoma County Farm Bureau. The award annually recognizes an individual, business or family making extraordinary efforts to balance economic viability with environmental stewardship as part of the county’s multi-billion-dollar farming industry.
Jordan Vineyards & Winery will be honored at Farm Bureau’s Love the Land celebration on July 13 at Richard’s Grove and Saralee’s Vineyard at Windsor’s LaCrema wine estate owned by the Jackson Family. It will be a night to celebrate the land and people who are part of Sonoma County’s thriving agricultural industry and its rich farming heritage. The event is open to the public.
John Jordan and his team, which includes Brent Young, director of agricultural operations, epitomize the spirit of farmers and landowners dedicated to doing the right thing on land they want preserved for generations to come. It’s a goal that is supported by Sonoma County Farm Bureau in its work to keep agriculture strong and viable so farmers can continue farming.
“John Jordan and his team continue to expand their effort toward sustainability and earth stewardship. Their passion for practical, diverse conservation efforts is exemplary. They have set a bar that we all should strive to achieve, but given their track record, we know that bar will only go higher,” said Tawny Tesconi, executive director of Sonoma County Farm Bureau.
At Jordan Vineyards & Winery 1,000 of the estate’s 1,200 acres are permanently protected in native oak woodlands and chaparral to support biodiversity. Additionally, there is on-going work expanding a web of designated sanctuaries for bees, butterflies and other pollinators threatened by habitat loss and the deleterious effects of climate change. It’s an ambitious endeavor getting global attention for tackling one of the most threatening biological issues of the time.
Meanwhile, the vineyards are sustainably farmed and the hillsides judiciously grazed by Angus cattle to thwart the spread of invasive plant species for the benefit of native plants. There are continuing efforts to improve soil health through composting and the wise use of cow manure from local dairy farms.
Overseeing the Jordan estate and its blueprint for conservation and preservation is Brent Young, an agricultural hybrid himself who is university educated and hands-on-practical. Young proudly leads a team of eight that farms the 200 acres of vineyards and vegetable gardens as well as tending to the cattle and apiaries. Young’s goal is to continue enhancing Jordan as a sustainable, integrated estate that produces an array of food to match its renowned wines. Young said he is blessed with an incredible team that comes to work every day eager to make things better on the estate.
To that end, Young and his team totally embraced John Jordan’s vision to transform 10 acres of grassland into preserves harboring honeybees, hummingbirds, Western Monarch butterflies and other essential pollinators. It’s the largest endeavor of its kind on any vineyard property in America.
“We can make a real difference by setting aside land and establishing habitats where pollinators can thrive and do the important work they do,” said Young.
The sanctuary project started in 2020 following strategic planning about best sites for native bee and butterflies on the property. Over the next two years, land will continue to be planted with purple owl’s clover, yarrow, sages, cobweb thistle and many other beneficial host plants that allow pollinators to thrive and reproduce. Coyote brush and trees are being integrated into the sanctuaries to provide year-round resources and nesting habitats for native pollinators. Once established, the sanctuaries remain off limits to tractors and mechanical equipment, leaving the bees and butterflies undisturbed in a beautiful zone of their own to buzz and flutter in St. Catherine’s lace and California goldenrod.
Young said the multi-year drought has made it challenging to establish the plant rich habitats for pollinators. Some of the plants didn’t survive because of scant rainfall but thousands more pollinator plants are going in the ground this year and in the years ahead. He knows it will take patience and perseverance as the project moves forward.
“We look at what went wrong and then pay attention to what we need to do make it work. We are always learning and improving,” Young said. Ideas are shared and everyone’s voice is heard and respected to find solutions.
“There are no major egos dominating the work here. Everyone works together for the benefit of the Jordan brand and for John Jordan’s vision to create something that we can proud of on this property,” said Young.
The safe havens for pollinators are an ambitious partnership to help the environment and protect the bees and butterflies essential to food production and human survival. It’s also a blueprint for other landowners interested in setting aside a portion of their property to provide feeding and breeding grounds for native bees or migrating Western Monarch butterflies, magnificent insects on the brink of extinction.
The sanctuaries are being developed with the assistance of Bee Friendly Farming and the San Francisco-based Pollinator Partnership, the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to the protection and promotion of pollinators and their ecosystems. Young worked with experts from the Pollinator Partnership staff to pinpoint optimal sites and plant materials needed to create the pollinator sanctuaries. Plants were then selected based on terrain, sun exposure, proximity to watersheds, and most importantly, which pollinators each habitat will ultimately support, including native bees.
Young said the Monarch butterfly sanctuary, which will add another two acres to the Jordan project, is proving to be the most challenging of the endeavors. That’s because the Western Monarch butterfly feeds exclusively on the leaves of milkweed, which include species like the narrowleaf and showy milkweed. Without milkweed, the Monarchs cannot complete their metamorphosis into butterflies as part of their life cycle.
While life-sustaining to Monarchs, milkweed, which is toxic to livestock and humans, is disappearing from the natural landscape along the West Coast, the vast pathway for Monarchs migrating to Baja. Young said milkweed is notoriously difficult to successfully germinate and grow in the designated habitat. But again he and his team are working with experts to study ways to overcome the problems.
“I love challenges and experimenting with different things while exploring new ideas as we strive to make all things better here,” said Young. His words are very reminiscent of Santa Rosa plant wizard Luther Burbank for whom the Farm Bureau conservation award is named.