You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave

I spent the day yesterday up at Jordan Winery.  I’m going to write about the entire experience, but the experience was so amazing it needs to be broken up over a few posts. We got there at 11am and didn’t leave until 4pm, and they didn’t leave us there to our own devices, we were doing something with someone from the Estate every minute we were there.

Today I’m going to talk a little about what I took away from my conversation with John Jordan.  It was the first thing I did when I arrived.  He introduced himself as “John”.  I hadn’t done my homework so I had no idea that he was John Jordan the owner of the entire place.  Up until that fateful moment when I asked about the ownership, I thought he was either the GM or maybe the Wine Director or even the Winemaker.  His answer was simple.  Who owns this?  I do.  Ok then.  He is a pilot, a lawyer, an MBA and the visionary for where this estate is heading.

Jordan was started by his father, a successful oil man, in 1976.  His father signed the deed for the property on the day he was born in 1972.  They took the architect to France to see the great Chateaus for inspiration for the winery.  His father had a passion for food and wine.  John’s father had spent time in his young adulthood in France with a young lady and her family.  They taught him the beauty of food and wine the way that only the French can teach that.  John’s father learned the lesson well.  He shared it with his new wife, his son and now it is shared with everyone, it is the Jordan experience.

John Jordan has the vision.  It is an amazing vision.  Numerous times in our conversation and throughout the day he said that he wanted people who came to Jordan to have a world class experience.  When he first said “World class”, it affected me as if he’d said “Gourmet”, another word that has been diluted by over use.  Then he showed us a world class experience.  He can use that word.  All he wants.  He understands it.  He spoke often of the “pleasures of the table”.  And then his staff delivered.  Mightily.  What went in to that delivery will be in the next missive.

John grew up on that property.  It’s where his parents lived and where he now lives with Nimitz and Bismarck.

Nimitz is a 135lb Lab.  Bismarck is a very short little General who seems to be able to hold his own.  There is a lake on the property where John fishes.  This place is Mecca for adults who possess a sophiticated palate.  John was very passionate about how they did not want to run a “belly up to the bar” tasting room.  And they don’t.  As good as their wines are, they do not ask you to, nor could you if you wanted to, join their wine club.  They don’t have one.  He wants to deliver a world class experience and if you are so inclined to buy a bottle of wine, great.  If not, that’s ok too.  They don’t refund tasting fees towards purchases or any of those sorts of gimmicks.  They just deliver.  On every single level.

He didn’t want Vegas styled signs or advertising pointing the way up the hill.  He didn’t want a Disneyland sort of feel (Hello Rubicon, I think he might be talking to you).  Essentially, he wanted to deliver this “world class experience” he talks about.  And he has.  He talked about how the accountant used to run the business before he took over.  He talked about how his job as owner was to find the best people he could and give them the room to be great.  He doesn’t micromanage.  He does what a smart business man does.  Bring in the best talent possible and get the hell out of the way.  His winemaker, Rob Davis has been there for 34 years.  That’s the kind of company they run.

He talked about their place in a industry that is feeling the influx of corporatization and the importance of their place in that industry and marketplace.  He doesn’t answer to Wall Street, or some corporate wanker.  He answers to his customers.  His father said “I’d rather impress people and credit cards than critics”.  Well, John, you impressed my palate.

I was seated with the guys from Mutineer Magazine.  The photographer dude was talking about how other photogs will ask what you’re shooting with and kind of turn up their nose if you’re not using the right this that or the other.  Now, this kid has talent.  And passion.  And a ton of it.  So I pop off and ask them if they watched football.  Of course.  And you know Joe Montana.  They greatest quarterback ever he opines.  I tell him, no he wasn’t the greatest.  He had lousy footwork and a crappy delivery.  He was a fan and looked wounded.  Joe Montana saw something on the field that no one else saw and that’s what made him great.  He saw the play develop and opportunities present that no one else could see.  That’s what made him great.  The guys with all the fancy blah blah equipment?  So what.  I know you see things that no one else sees.  You could shoot it with a freaking Instamatic and it would be amazing.  And really, that’s the story of Jordan too.  They see opportunities and use them to present amazing service, extraordinary product and a world class experience.

Dear FCC, we were all comped at Jordan Winery.  I was not asked to write about them.  If I didn’t enjoy the experience and learn something I wouldn’t have written anything because I think if you can’t say anything nice after you’ve been comped, then don’t.  And guess what?  I’m going to write about this day a couple more times.  So there.

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