Family Business: Ordaz Pinot Noir

In this clip from the film Sideways based on the book by Rex Pickett, a character eloquently describes her passion for wine, and how the vine and then the wine captures and expresses time and place and love and life.

When you listen to Eppie Ordaz of Ordaz Family Wines talk about growing wine grapes and making wine, or when you learn about his family’s story, and his father’s devotion to growing wine grapes, you know that they know exactly what she’s talking about.


The Ordaz family is justly famous for their vine tending and their vineyard management company, Palo Alto, which has 50 employees and manages 400 acres. In fact, some wines are designated not by the name of the vineyard but by the name of Ordaz patriarch Chuy Ordaz!

Hailing from Palo Alto, Michoacán, Mexico, Chuy Ordaz crossed the border 33 times. Fortunately for wine lovers, on his 33rd crossing he was successful and made it north to Sonoma county where he fell in love with and married Beverly Young; they have six children, and one of them, Eppie Ordaz, is the winemaker for their Ordaz Family wines label and another, Chuy, Jr. is also involved in the operation.

Among his many accomplishments, the senior Ordaz led vineyard workers on a strike that established him as a respected leader. He also led the way to remove dangerous chemicals in the vineyards and to promote organic management that is better for vines and so much better for those who tend the vines.

Chuy Ordaz “was a pioneer in organic farming in Sonoma because he wanted to protect the workers,” said Eppie Ordaz recently during a #WineStudio twitter chat.  “He didn’t want to expose himself or his crew to unsafe vineyard chemicals.”

In these very troubled and fearful times, it is important that we recognize and honor the accomplishments of wine industry leaders like Chuy Ordaz and remember that wine is make first and foremost in the vineyards.  Our leaders come to us from many places and in many ways. We are stronger in the United States when we unite and invite others to join us and reap the benefits of our capitalist democracy.

The Ordaz family is committed to “producing single-vineyard wines that are as majestic and prized as the vineyards from which they originate. With a firm belief that the essence of great wines are formed in the vineyard the majority of our time is spent at these locations, as we strive to create wines that transport you to a special place… wherever that may be.”

In February 2017, the online twitter based educational program #WineStudio visits with Eppie Ordaz and on February 21, we tasted the very limited production (135 cases!) 2014 Ordaz Pinot Noir from Placida Vineyard from Gold Ridge in the Russian River Valley (SRP $38). And tonight, February 28,  join us from 6-7 PST as we’ll taste their Malbec which I plan to write about and post in honor of Cesar Chavez’s birthday on March 31.

During last week’s twitter talk, Eppie Ordaz shared that, “First and foremost, I have to say that the work my family does has been the foundation of the wine quality. Dad started working for Kenwood vineyards in 73. Twenty-three years later they sold. Family vibe lost so he started his own company.”

He wants us to know that “the wines are a labor of love from my family” and that they are “big on vintage variation and just wine making.” Single vineyards offer challenges but he is up to the task as a sign of respect to his family and what they have created in tending the vines for so many years.

Importantly for consumers, a major goal of Ordaz Family wines is to offer us “solid wines that aren’t going to break the bank.”

Ordaz – Family Wines – Pinot Noir – Placida Vineyard – Russian River 2014 13.7% alcohol – $38.0

This Pinot Noir comes from the nine acre Placida Vineyard in Sebastopol using root stock of 3309, Clone 777, Swan, Dijon, 667, 115 & a proprietary clone as well.

“Placida was a site my dad created about 15 years ago,” said Eppie on twitter. “Perfect soil on a small knoll just outside of Graton” he continued describing the soil type as sandy on Gold Ridge and that when you dig into it, it is just like striking gold on the shovel — and it’s gold in the glass as well.

We enjoyed this wine very much; it is very approachable, and accessible. The color is a very pretty reddish pink, very much like a rose. While translucent, it does not look thin. The fresh, bright, inviting nose offers baking spices and roses that is complemented by lots of bright fruit on the palate, with balanced acidity that rolls across the tongue with plentiful engaging and enticing raspberry.

The Ordaz Pinot Noir went beautifully with the St Andre triple cream brie and truffle pate. The smooth earthy flavors enhanced the beauty of this wine made with 30% new french oak but not defined by it — the oak is subtle yet perceptible. Sue prepared stuffed squash with rice, mushrooms, squash, kale, pancetta, and tension; this could easily be a vegetarian or vegan dish and is an instead favorite. The fresh flavors of the strawberry salad with field greens and blueberry chevre as also a stunningly simple and delicious pairing; I used Trader Joe’s cranberry gorgonzola salad dressing but balsamic and oil also works. It also paired well with a roast chicken the next night; I had to fend my husband off to have some for myself. Bottom line is this is an exquisite food wine, and we are grateful and privileged to taste it.

An avid gardener in his spare time, family patriarch Chuey Ordaz loves flowers and wanted to merge that love with the family’s Mexican heritage on the label. Hence the elegant label depicting a Dahlia, a flower native to Mexico that “symbolizes the cultural beauty that continually shapes our lives. Universally, the Dahlia expresses diversity, elegance, dignity, personal expression, and the eternal bond between two people, all things that are inherent in any great bottle of wine.”



2014 Placida Vineyard Pinot Noir
Sebastopol, California
Root stock: 3309
Clone: 777, Swan, Dijon, 667, 115, and a proprietary selection.
Planted: 2003
Named after Eppie’s grandmother and youngest daughter, this 9 acre vineyard sits in the heart of the Russian River Valley appellation. The selection of clones provides great fruit characteristics needed to create well layered and balanced Pinot Noirs.

Curious? Join us tonight from 6-7pm for a conversation with Eppie Ordaz, winemaker of Ordaz Family Wines as we taste and tweet and review the Ordaz Malbec.

And if you’ve just come here for the Pinot, I hope to see you at World of Pinot Noir March 3 and 4 at Santa Barbara’s Bacarra Resort where, while you will find yourself drowning in some of the best Pinot Noir from around the world, you unfortunately won’t find this wine but you will find others that I will be writing about soon so stay tuned and SUBSCRIBE! And get your tickets soon because World of Pinot sells out!

PS Did you know that Rex Pickett wrote a sequel to Sideways? Yep! I read a review copy of Vertical: Passion and Pinot on the Oregon Wine Trail and it’s a lot of fun plus the first chapter takes place at World of Pinot! I’ll tell you more soon!

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