August 26, 2019 | by Lisa Mattson
At Jordan, we have long embraced the farm-to-table ethos, incorporating estate-grown produce, herbs and olive oil into its culinary hospitality and guest experiences. This year, we are taking the concept of terroir a step further with Jordan Garden Plates, custom, handmade clay pottery that features clay from Jordan’s Alexander Valley estate. The one-of-a-kind plates were created in collaboration with Napa Valley-based NBC Pottery, renowned for the rustic yet handmade pottery it crafts for luxury hotels and Michelin three-star restaurants.
The project was born after Todd Knoll, Jordan Winery’s executive chef, and his wife, Nitsa, who serves as Jordan’s director of hospitality and events, spent a few years getting to know NBC Pottery owners, Nikki and Will Callnan, at their annual open house studio event. The two couples discovered kindred creative spirits and philosophies, and the Knolls approached the Callnans in 2018 about working together.
“I wanted a locally made piece that was the ultimate expression of our terroir,” Chef Knoll said. “I couldn’t think of any culinary experience more connected to the land than eating vegetables from Jordan’s garden on a plate that was made from clay in which those ingredients were grown.”
Nikki created a custom mold with curved edges for the rectangular Jordan Garden Plate, sized to fit into a custom bento box Chef Knoll had made for the final food pairing served on Jordan’s Estate Tour & Tasting, a moveable culinary excursion with four destinations across our nearly 1,200-acre estate. The cleaned Jordan clay was applied as an iron-rich, decorative slip to the hand-modeled stoneware clay form before glazing. After the initial bisque-firing, the plate was glazed and fired with a brown glaze that interacted in complement to the saturated slip surface. The resulting plates feature graceful, curved corners and a lush, brown, color glaze with a crystal satin finish.
“What’s great about this project is that between the design and the composition of the natural elements, every piece is slightly different,” said Nikki, whose pottery pieces grace the tables of some of Napa Valley’s finest restaurants, such as The French Laundry, The Restaurant at Meadowood and The Charter Oak. “I like to think of them as fingerprints, each with their own unique signature.”
It takes a particular type of clay to produce artisan ceramics, and there was no guarantee that the varieties found on Jordan Estate would be suitable for the project. After hiking across the property and digging up clay samples from three different locations, Todd and Will found what they were looking for, ironically, near a greenhouse in Jordan’s garden.
With only 80 created, each piece is its own expression of the estate’s unique soil composition. “It is exciting to see how the clay, once cleaned and processed, reacts through the firings and glazing,” Will said. “Sourcing the clay for a project from a specific terroir builds a story around the pottery and creates a deeper connection. It makes a memory between the piece and its origin.”
The Jordan Garden Plate is featured on Jordan’s Estate Tour & Tasting and also makes appearances during Private Tables and Culinary Events in the Jordan dining room. The handmade clay pottery pieces will be available for sale at the winery, or buy online for $100 (this dish is now sold out).