By Shawn Nesaw | Special to The Sun — We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Jordan Kivelstadt – businessman, winemaker, father – to discuss the his numerous business ventures, winemaking and the future of wine.
Jordan might be best known for his winery and tasting room, Kivelstadt Cellars in Glen Ellen, California but as you’re about to hear, he’s aiming to make an even bigger mark on the wine industry.
Jordan stumbled into wine, as he puts it. After graduating college and landing his first job as a management consultant, Jordan decided consulting wasn’t what he wanted to do forever. He moved back to California in 2006 and started working at a vineyard doing manual labor. It was during this job when his interest in wine really began growing. Soon he found himself traveling to Australia to help with harvest.
His plan was to participate in as many harvests as possible, so for the next several years he bounced back and forth between the northern and southern hemispheres, harvesting, working and learning. Besides Australia, he’s worked in Chile and Argentina but always made his way back to NorCal. Eventually, Jordan started making his own wine that would later develop into the brand you know (or will know) today, Kivelstadt Cellars.
Kivelstadt Cellars (KC) brings the fun to wine. Made to be approachable, affordable and awesome, the eclectic family of wines at KC are wine the way Jordan wants. From the grapes, to the minimalist process he takes to create his wines, to the label art and the choice to have wine on tap, KC is “not your parents’ wine,” says Kivelstadt, “and that’s the point.”
On a recent Colorado radio show, Jordan’s Wayward Son “Orange” wine was reviewed. On the show, they classified the Kivelstadt wine portfolio as “natural.”
“Our wines aren’t true natural wines, more like minimalist,” he says. “I aggressively try to do nothing to the wines, I use native yeast and do very little to manipulate the wine in any way. However, I will not release a bad wine so I’ll do what’s within reason.” said Jordan.
Most recently, Jordan has been developing a new line of small batch, experimental wines called KC Labs. Their first release was a partially carbonic zinfandel that should be served chilled, unlike traditional Zinfandel. “KC Labs allows us to experiment and offer customers some really interesting choices of wine, ones they might not be able to get anywhere else. People want to see the weird and KC Labs allows us to do that, create fun, playful wines to allow people an opportunity to explore California wines more.” said Jordan. KC Labs Zinfandel was a huge success this year. People absolutely loved it so the future of KC Labs looks promising. Jordan shared the KC Labs release schedule with me so if you’re reading this, you’re getting a real sneak peek here!
First on the list is a KC Labs, carbonic Syrah followed up with an earthy, almost iron-ore tasting Mourvèdre. The Syrah comes out this August. Keep an eye on their Instagram for more details.
Jordan is quite the businessman and entrepreneur. Besides creating Kivelstadt Cellars, he has two other companies: Free Flow Wines, a packaging and logistics company, and Essentially Geared, a canned wine company.
Free Flow Wines provides kegs of wine to restaurants, bars and tasting rooms across the U.S. Just after starting KC, Jordan saw a need for kegged wine. The need was two fold, “Glass wine bottles create a lot of waste and once opened, don’t prevent oxidation of the wine,” says Jordan. “My goal was to create a cost effective, environmentally friendly way to ensure wine drinkers were always drinking the best possible version of the wines they love.” At the time, there was a lot of room to grow the category. Not surprisingly, Kivelstadt Cellars tasting room provides wine on tap and is one of the few wineries in the area to do so. “The wine on tap feature certainly sets us apart from other wineries. It provides a unique tasting experience for customers who step into our rustic tasting room in downtown Glen Ellen.”
His latest endeavor is canned wine. Now before you stop reading because you think wine in a can is straight blasphemy, hear the man out. On the whole, most people think of canned wine right up there with boxed wine, cheap in price but also in quality. In recent days, that’s becoming further and further from the truth. Essentially Geared, provides quality wine in a can. “While it might not be the next big thing, canned wine will be significant in the coming years.” says Jordan. Essentially Geared uses California grapes to produce a Chardonnay, a red wine blend of Merlot, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir and a rosé of Pinot Noir.
To finish up our conversation I figured I’d ask Jordan some quick-fire questions.
Favorite wine? “Old Rhone wines. 15 – 20 years old Gigondas or Cornas. Classic.”
Most underrated wine? Eastern European wines. There are some great wines coming out of Greece and Georgia.
Favorite Sonoma restaurant? Tie between Glen Ellen Star and The Girl and the Fig. Both have amazing food.
Most recent book you’ve read? I read Inc. magazine religiously. As for an actual book, Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type which he reads to his two-year old.
Favorite Podcast? Jordan loves podcasts! When in doubt he listens to Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! Other favorites include Freakinomics Radio and Revolutionist History by Malcolm Gladwell.
We’d like to thank Jordan for taking the time out of his busy schedule to speak with us.
Shawn Nesaw writes for Somethingaboutsonoma.com, where this piece originally appeared.