July 29, 2014 | by Lisa Mattson
Among the things you expect to see on a winery tour are vineyards, tanks, barrels, and of course, bottles of wine. But cows? Maybe not until recently at Jordan.
In 2011, we added a small herd of cattle—moms and their calves—to the estate. They happily live and graze in fenced pastures around the 1,200-acre ranch–across from our garden and in the rolling hills below Jordan Vista Point. The herd has grown from six to 24 in three years.
Cattle roaming the open pastures at Jordan Estate signifies a return to our past, a tribute to the agricultural history of our land. Before Tom and Sally Jordan purchased the estate in 1974, two well-known farming families in the region, Foppiano and Passalacqua, ran cattle on rolling, grassy pastures that covered three-quarters of the estate. Cows remained at Jordan into the 1980s.
Ranch Manager Brent Young comes from a family of dairy farmers and expressed interest in bringing cattle back to Jordan. When John Jordan received a designer cowboy hat as a gift from a Texan friend, he considered it a sign. He couldn’t bear the thought of being all hat and no cattle.
To start our herd, Young turned to a good friend in Oregon for help—a breeder with 1,500-2,000 head of cattle. He chose an intriguing crossbreed of Texas Longhorn and Mexican Corriente cows. The Corriente breed originated in Spain and was brought to the Americas in the 1400s.
Similar in appearance to a Texas longhorn, Corriente cattle are lean, and the females especially tend to stay small—a trait that comes in handy for a breed some call escape artists due to their penchant for breaking free from their pastures. Estate Tour & Tasting guests are pleasantly surprised to see our cows with their impressive horns and spotty hides.
On a more practical note, Corriente require little attention. They eat and drink little. Still they are hardy and bred for a wide range of purposes, including use in rodeo competitions. Young decided to start our herd of Corriente with six cows, three heifers and three calves. Those numbers have increased each spring. Heifers were bred with a Black Angus bull, giving birth to a triple crossbreed of calves. (Full Black Angus cows have been joined the herd as well.)
Young has put another newly acquired skill to work—branding. He received his branding certification from the State of California in 2011, which included designing and sourcing a unique brand, learning how to apply a brand and passing inspection.
While we aren’t too worried about needing the branding to ward off rustlers, our cows do get a lot of attention. They also enjoy a delectable diet of native grasses, as well as corn husks and herbs from our garden during harvest. As the herd expands, Young and Executive Chef Todd Knoll plan to develop our own beef—another key component of our sustainable farming estate. Corriente cattle are known for their leaner beef, while Black Angus for its fatty flesh. Our chef believes crossing these breeds will yield a beef that strikes a balance in flavors, just like Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon.
Now, the only question that remains is will cheese be next?