Immigration reform and a proposed wall on the border with Mexico are not just passing news stories for this California winery owner. His trail to success starts with an illegal border crossing…
Crossing The Border
Jose Jesus Ordaz is an American success story with an ending for which wine lovers are most thankful. Ordaz, known as Chuy (pronounced “Chewy”) was the son a a vegetable farmer in Mexico. By the time he was 20, he had tried unsuccessfully to cross the border 32 times. He realized his goal on his 33rd try – and he has now been a resident of Sonoma for 43 years.
He grew up farming and sold grapes from a fruit stand when he was 15. With the help of a “coyote” he finally crossed the border into the US. He has worked in Sonoma County in almost every position inside and outside of a winery, logging most of his work at Kenwood.
He got his immigration papers decades ago and has been a citizen for more than a dozen. Not only is he the owner of Palo Alto Vineyard Management which services premier vineyards in Sonoma Valley as well as Alexander Valley, but he has his own vineyard in Russian River Valley.
The Fruits Of The Journey
We recently had the chance to taste a pair of Ordaz Family wines as part of the Wine Studio educational program. The Ordaz 2014 Placida Vineyard Pinot Noir and 2012 Sandoval Vineyard Malbec were paired with food and festivities.
The Ordaz Pinot Noir was part of a three-way Pinot shootout with Pinot Noir from Rogue Valley, Oregon, and Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) from Germany. Our meal was pork tenderloin with a red wine reduction sauce accompanied by sautéed spinach and grilled potatoes. Pinot and pork is a heavenly combination.
I’m a big fan of Oregon Pinot Noir, but the finesse of the Ordaz Pinot outclassed the the other two. Placida Vineyard is in the heart of the Russian River Valley and the prized grapes delivered elegant, layered flavors of cherry and raspberry. The light ruby colored wine also has delicate flavors of berry compote. The other two Pinot were clumsy by comparison.
Our next Ordaz tasting was wildly different – in a good way. The Green Dragon (my wife) is known for her Mardi Gras parties and so she whipped up a pot of jambalaya and red beans and rice. As our partygoers enjoyed the Cajun style food and Zydeco music, I poured the Ordaz Malbec.
Some Malbec (did someone say Argentina?) can be fruit bombs – jammy to a fault. The Ordaz Malbec struck a wonderful balance. The fruit was rich and beautiful without going over the top. I’ll also give high marks for versatility.Jambalaya has sausage, shrimp, peppers and who knows what in it. There is a bit of a spicy kick, too.
The Ordaz Malbec could have been crowned king or queen of the Mardi Gras, the pairings were so good. My biggest challenge was trying to keep our guests from finishing the bottle before I could get a refill. I’m happy to report that the Ordaz Malbec lasted long enough to pair with beignets for dessert.
Ordaz 2014 Placida Vineyard Pinot Noir retails for $38 while the 2012 Sandoval Vineyard Malbec has an SRP of $25. These are wonderfully crafted wines and great values to boot.