J. Lohr Vineyard & Wines is one of the most known wineries in the Bay Area and elsewhere. It’s also one of the largest. Started by Jerry Lohr in the ’70s in San Jose—when he planted his first 280 acres of varietal grapes—the business has grown to include more than 900 acres of cool-climate estate vineyards in Monterey County, producing Chardonnay, Riesling, Valdiguie and Pinot Noir, to around 2,000 acres in Paso Robles focusing on Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Petite Sirah and other red varietals. Sauvignon Blanc grapes are grown on another 33 acres in Napa.
With this in mind, my husband and I head to Jacks Restaurant in the Portola Hotel & Spa in the center of Monterey for a special “Growers Dinner”—a magnificent event of food and wine pairing showcasing the culinary arts of Executive Chef Jason Giles and the splendid wines of J. Lohr. Jacks serves only the freshest local produce, meats and seafood that Monterey County and Central California have to offer—particularly featuring Swank Farms in Hollister; AA SportFishing & Tours for reeling in the very best fish; Harris Ranch beef; and Cowgirl Creamery for dairy produce.
We had five amazing courses that evening, each one paired with J. Lohr wine. Dinner guests were hard pressed to select from imaginative starters such as Hog Farm Asparagus and Glaum Ranch Poached Duck Egg with shaved Parmesan cheese and tarragon cream; and entrees such as Line-Caught California White Sea Bass with lemon-thyme risotto, sautéed beet greens and grilled citrus-tomato vinaigrette—or Slow-Roasted Harris Ranch Tenderloin of Beef with organic Swank Farm cauliflower puree, roasted parsnips, sautéed spinach and a Cabernet demi-glace. Dessert was a Trio of Treats, including meyer lemon madeleine cookies with organic berry compote, a truly decadent treat, indeed.
The care that J. Lohr takes in producing their quality wines of sustainably farmed fruit certainly shows. I particularly loved the Cabernet Sauvignon, Seven Oaks, Paso Robles, with its abundance of dark fruit, spicy clove and toasty notes. But two wines from Monterey-grown grapes really stood out for me, a Riesling, Bay Mist Vineyard, with an almost buttercup-yellow color and an abundance of aromas of apricot, pear and apple; and a Valdiguie, Wildflower Vineyard, a vibrant purple-red beauty with intense boysenberry, cherry, cranberry and banana aromas.
Service, cuisine and presentation are simply superb at Jacks. The next time we go there for dinner, we’re staying overnight in the Portola Hotel.
J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, 1000 Lenzen Ave., San Jose, (408) 288-5057. jlohr.com. Portola Hotel & Spa at Monterey Bay, Two Portola Plaza, Monterey, (866) 711-1534. portolahotel.com.