J Vineyards & Winery has long been a go-to Russian River Valley producer of world-class sparkling wine. With six wineries reflecting the expression of the valley, J’s wines at this time are Californian icons. The Sparkling House was founded in 1986 by Judy Jordan, daughter of the Jordan Winery founders, and she purchased the current property (formerly Piper Sonoma) in 1996 and opened the tasting room in 1999 after a complete renovation. Jordan decided early on to go for quality rather than quantity. When the property was purchased by Gallo in 2015, it was with the intention of maintaining both the high-touch winemaking process and the now classic style. Chief wine producer Nicole Hitchcock has just done that and herded the brand’s legacy into a new era.
During the pandemic, when Sonoma wineries were allowed to open outdoors, J offered one of the most beautiful tastings in the valley, richly distributed overlooking the property with relaxed, expert service. But now the Bubble Room is open to guests and it is a must-stop on any RRV visit, both for wine and food. Executive Chef Carl Shelton’s current menu is five small plates paired with both sparkling and still wines from the portfolio (see the full menu below).
I visited just before the indoor opening, but was able to see the space and enjoy a patio that tastes outdoors. That Boblerum will add a layer of luxury to the creative, cohesive, very thoughtful food and wine pairing.
Of all the wonderful sparkling wines on offer, the non-vintage Cuveé XB Extra Brut is one of my favorites as it represents the driest style and carefully balances the impulse to showcase the fruit by calling the yeasty notes that give it depth and elegance. And Hitchcock’s still wines reflect their terroir just as much – do not miss the Foggy Bend Pinot Noir, which showcases the classic dark berries the region is known for and has inviting salty impulses underneath.
In addition to the Bubble Room tasting, there are other choices to experience the wines, including Inheritance tasting of J’s most exclusive wines (with optional cheese pairing), which I can highly recommend if you want a full feel of the winemaking here.
When you visit, you can buy some wines that are only available on the property and there is even extra bottling reserved wine club members. A membership also gives you access to exclusive events that I predict will be a highlight in 2021-22 when the world reopens.
I leave you with Chef Shelton’s exquisite Bubble Room tasting menu.
VINTAGE BRUT ROSÉ, RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY, 2016
Hamachi | Strawberries | Cucumber | Hijiki | Pancetta
CHARDONNAY, FAT 16, RUSSIAN RIVERDAL, 2017
Black cod | Rock shrimp | Morels | Ramps | Popcorn
PINOT NOIR, FOGGY BEND VINEYARD, RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY, 2017
Lam | Nantes carrots | Spring onions | Shiitake | Fava leaf
BLANC DE NOIRS, RUSSIAN RIVERDAL, 2016
Flower power | Rhubarb | Honeycomb | Oatmeal sourdough
Demi-Sec, Russian River Valley, NV
Mochi | White cheese | Strawberries | Rose Geranium | Mint