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visiting jordan vineyard and winery

Recipe: meatball sandwich

On our quick 2-day trip in California’s glorious wine country, our first stop was Jordan Vineyard and Winery just over a mile north of Healdsburg off of beautiful Alexander Valley Road. I had met Jordan’s director of communications, Lisa Mattson, at IFBC in Seattle this past summer. Lisa was spunky and hilarious company during dinner. When she gave me her card, I only registered that Jordan was in California.

the lovely grounds at jordan winery

old oaks grace the patio

A couple of weeks before I left for BlogHer Food, I tweeted that we’d be spending a few days near Healdsburg after the conference. Lisa tweeted back that I should visit Jordan – perhaps attend their Harvest Lunch. The dates and locations all matched up, except that Lisa was going to be away on travel the day we arrived. But she made sure we were in good hands. Laura greeted us and walked our group through the stunning grounds to the incredible Harvest Lunch spread that their resident chef created. It was like being transported back to summer (California does that to you).

our table for harvest lunch

What I noticed and loved about Jordan was how all of their employees came in from the fields, the buildings, and gathered at the tables across the lawn to share lunch. Every day, Jordan’s chef prepares lunch for everyone at the winery to eat. There was a nice family feel to it. Laura told me she was excited about the mac and cheese (it was deliciously fancy mac and cheese) they were serving at lunch, but I was completely enamored with the vegetables – most of them straight from the garden, bursting with flavors of summer. Our lunch was served with Jordan’s crisp and bright Chardonnay. The winery is known for two types of wines: Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chardonnay grapes are harvested from the Russian River Valley, but the Cab grapes are harvested in Alexander Valley.

tomatoes picked from their gardens that morning – still warm from the sun!

just a fraction of the beautiful dishes on offer

jordan chardonnay on ice

During lunch, we learned that Jordan was founded in 1972 by the Jordans – two petrologists who moved from Colorado to California. Petrologists are a flavor of geologist and so I was delighted to hear that the winery recently began incorporating soil mapping into how they grow their grapes. The property itself spans over 1,500 acres of rolling hills adorned with majestic California oaks and 75% of that is left natural and wild. As Laura led us down to see the chef’s garden after lunch, she explained Jordan’s commitment to sustainability and ecological balance of their land. The business is certified carbon-neutral and they implement several policies to minimize their impact on the environment. The garden was an enormous plot with tomatillos, all manner of herbs, precious heirloom tomatoes, several varieties of peppers, strawberries, figs, beans, onions, corn.

strawberries down at the chef’s garden

Because it was the harvest, we could see large stainless steel containers being loaded with hand-picked grapes and then transported up to the winery. We watched the operations as each container was tipped and emptied of its contents. The grapes fell into the hopper and then moved via conveyor belt past inspectors who removed debris and lesser-quality grapes before speeding into the building to be processed further. Meanwhile, the stems and leaves that were separated were trucked out to their compost (I love that!). The sheer volume was mind-blowing.

petit verdot grapes pouring into the hopper to remove stems and leaves

sooooo many grapes!

picking out burned grapes and other plant matter

On the way back to the reception area, I couldn’t help but admire the architecture and all of the trees and plants growing in courtyards and on the structures. Grand walls were blanketed in ivy which helps to keep the buildings cool from that hot hot sun. It’s the kind of place – with all those idyllic little nooks in the shade – that makes you want to grab a book, some cheese and bread, a glass of wine and go sit down and forget about everything else. Our sincerest thanks to Lisa and Laura for such a special visit at Jordan Vineyard and Winery.

persimmons ripening

a quiet courtyard with a statue of bacchus, roman god of wine

Full disclosure: Our group of four received complimentary harvest lunches and tours from Jordan Winery with no obligations.

It’s a small world, you know. When I was photographing lunch at Jordan, Laura asked me if I knew Matt Armendariz because he had been there not too long ago for a photo shoot. Are you kidding me? I love that guy! I just hugged his adorable self at BlogHer Food not five days ago… Food connects everyone in some form or another, but food and the interwebs bind us all like The One Ring. Not long before I flew to San Francisco, Jeremy informed me that the first year graduate students in his department gathered and took turns cooking for each other every weekend. He told me that the coming weekend they were going to make my recipe for Italian meatballs. Somehow, someone found my blog. I asked Jeremy if he thought it was weird to have these separate worlds colliding. He shrugged. I don’t think it phases him anymore. Okay, but where was I going with all of this? Those meatballs are not *my* recipe, they are Lorna’s recipe and when I saw her at the Queen Anne farmers market last month, I promised her I had another post on those meatballs coming.

i made meatball sandwiches

I must confess that I have always had a problem with meatball sandwiches. I began to discuss this with Jeremy because I had never had one before and he asked me why not. I’ll tell you why not. Because meatballs are spherical and they don’t stack nicely between two planar surfaces, that’s why not. Who the hell thought up such horrendous design mechanics of a sandwich? Also, they are discreet spheres rather than a continuous filling in the sandwich space. Ultimately, you know what this means, don’t you?

*inherent structural instability*

Jeremy watched in amazement as I railed against the meatball sandwich for a good five minutes. The reason I had never had one before was because the cognitive dissonance of this disastrous construction overpowered any desire to eat a meatball sandwich – no matter how “good” it was. I recall watching suspiciously and carefully as my pal Beth ate a meatball sandwich once. “Is it good?” She looked up, smiled, and nodded “mmm hmm!”. I was still skeptical. So messy…

place the meatballs on the bread

top with some sauce

Despite the obviously flawed build integrity, I felt I needed to overcome my issues. I mean, what is better than pairing super tender and saucy meatballs with pasta? Pairing super tender and saucy meatballs with bread! I asked Jeremy, “Doesn’t it fall apart on you?” He reflected on his past experiences with meatball sandwiches and told me that it can be a messy ordeal, but you just sort of hold the entire sandwich together and consume it quickly before it disintegrates – which it inevitably will. So I gather this sandwich discriminates against people with small hands.

add basil to the sandwich after melting the cheese

squash it down with the top half of bread

It started out well enough. I was able to manage it on the first bite, but this isn’t the kind of sandwich you hang out with while taking your sweet time. It’s a scarfing kind of sandwich. You scarf it down because it will otherwise wind up in your lap. But it’s worth it.

messy, but good

Meatball Sandwich
[print recipe]

Italian bread
Italian meatballs
Italian meatball sauce
Provolone cheese
fresh basil leaves

Oven: 400°F. Slice the bread in half lengthwise. Set meatballs on the bread and ladle some of the sauce over the meatballs. Top with cheese. Bake both pieces of bread until the cheese begins to bubble. Remove from oven and top with basil and the remaining half of bread. Serve and eat immediately.

33 nibbles at “visiting jordan vineyard and winery”

  1. M @ Betty Crapper says:

    I love California wine country. We were in California last month and made a last minute trip from San Francisco the day before our flight home because we couldn’t bare being so close and not visiting again. So worth it. Thanks for featuring Jordan winery. I’ve added it to my winery wish list for our next trip to wine country.

    That one ring, quite dangerous. Huge LOTRs fan here.

  2. Jen C says:

    Oh hell, I eat it open faced with a knife and fork. I abhor messy food! Bonus is I can take my time enjoying it.

  3. Rosa says:

    Thanks for the wonderful visit. That meatball sandwich is just irresistible!



  4. Russ says:

    As someone who has eaten many a meatball sandwich, I can tell you there are two effective ways to deal with the inherent structural instability that is the meatball sandwich.

    If you cut the meatballs in half and lay them flat side down the structural stability of the sandwich increases dramatically. You should double the size of the meatballs to compensate for them being cut in half though.

    Alternatively you can scoop out some of the bread, making little pockets for the meatballs to sit into. A word of caution though, if you chose this method the bread should have a hearty crust or it might disintegrate in your hands giving you an even bigger mess than you would have had.

  5. Annie says:

    Oh Jen, I already loved you so much but the fact that you posted a diagram demonstrating the structural instability of a meatball sub makes me love you so much more. Of course, I also love meatball subs – and now I’m hungry…

  6. Jeremy says:

    Nice! The only thing missing from the diagram are some sideways shear vectors on the bread slices.

  7. Stephanie Schamban says:

    You. Are. Hilarious.

  8. Andrew says:

    mmm… interstitial space…

    my friend refers to it as a “tomato-y palate cleanser before attacking the next meatball” :P

  9. Bridget says:

    Hmm, Jeremy has a point about the shear vectors – you definitely end up with some fault action going on when the top crust sides away from your bite.

    But – two possible solutions. The first is the one I was expecting you to say that you did.

    1) You made these meatballs, and thus you are in control. Who says that have to be spheres? Make this more patty-like! Besides, that would make them easier to pan-fry.

    2) I confess I don’t eat many meatball sandwiches either these days, but back in high school, I had a Subway habit. This was before they started slicing their sandwiches in half horizontally, when they still made little boats by cutting out a section of the bread, filling the base, and then putting the top back in. Much more efficient for keeping all that sauce in!

    Okay I just read Russ’s comment, and now I realize that I might as well just delete mine because they’re almost identical. Phooey.

  10. Diana Banana says:

    i like the taste of meatball sandwiches, but it’s not the structural problem that bugs me. (i used to just keep the sandwich wrapped in the paper it came in. it’s the same principle as the peel-foil-and-eat-burrito method.) i dislike having inconsistent bites throughout the meal. i mean, the first bite is always more bread than sauce, then the next bite is almost all meatball, and the one after that is sauce + bread. it’s irritating. i usually end up smooshing the meatball into a patty-like shape, but that irritates me as well because why should anyone have to work hard at EATING a sandwich?

    oh and another thing i dislike (pre-meatball smoosh) is when you think you’ve got a good bite going, and then you chomp down and the meatball slips away and you’re left with this unsatisfying mouthful of bread and sauce. you’re lucky if you got some cheese in there, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that the slippery little bugger managed to escape. (don’t even talk to me about when the meatball slips out of the sandwich, grazes your shirt with sauce, and falls on the floor)

    alright, i think i should stop…… :)

  11. Wei-Wei says:

    Ah, sandwich science. Ever heard of the Sporkful podcast? They have a whole episode devoted to this! I think that the cheese should be an effective fuser.

  12. Andrea says:

    Science girls are soooo cool! I love hearing physics descriptions of food. I too have always been sceptical about the meatball sandwich, but this looks too good not to try.

  13. Allison says:

    Oh man, your problem with meatball sandwiches are exactly my problem with them! I don’t think I’ve ever even tried one, because that whole structural integrity thing just *bothers* me. And I just *know* it’ll fall apart on me, and I hate it when sandwiches do that…

    Although I do like Bridget’s idea of making square meatballs. Or even just make long, flat slices of meat (not unlike meatloaf slices, but still cooked like meatballs so you get that crust) and then you won’t have to worry about anything falling apart at all! Bwahaha!

    Okay, I’m definitely overanalyzing this.

    Long story short… I *heart* you, I *heart* your explanation of the problems with meatball sandwiches… and your pictures of that meatball sandwich actually make me want to make one for myself, so I can finally try one. :D

  14. The Italian Dish says:

    I had to call my husband over and show him your diagram of the instability of the meatball sandwich. Too funny! Nice photos of Jordan – we love their wines.

  15. Debbie Cunningham says:

    Too funny; that’s exactly how I feel about meatball sandwiches. I never order them (or make them) for just those reasons…Fabulous pictures though… as usual.

  16. Lisa says:

  17. Lisa Mattson, Jordan Winery says:

    Hi Jen,

    Great post! Thanks so much for visiting Jordan and sharing your experience. We love the pictures too. Might contact you down the road about using them on our website.

    Sorry that we didn’t get a chance to meet. Hopefully next year at IFBC or BlogHerFood.

    Lisa Mattson
    Journey of Jordan: a wine and food video blog

  18. Melissa says:

    Dude. I feel the same way about meatball sandwiches. Never been a fan. And I never understood the logic of putting round things between the two pieces of bread. You can’t be sure you’ll get the same layers of flavors in each bite and it’s just too damn messy. I do make them from time to time, though, for Steve and I can’t say they aren’t very tasty.

    Jordan sounds like a special place. Glad you visited. Nice remarks on the whole six degrees of food thing too. So true. Happens all the time.

  19. Margie says:

    I must confess, I’ve never eaten a meatball sandwich. I always thought the combination was odd…meatballs belong in my spaghetti. ;)

    Now I have to go and research this winery. One more to add to the list of many. So much wine, so little time. ;) Actually, it’s not the wine that I’m interested in, its the facilities and the showcasing of the harvest proceeds. Is there anything more beautiful than a vineyard rolling along the hillside? Nope.

  20. Hande says:

    I love how you discuss the structural instability of a meatball sandwich. But there is a solution: scoop out some of the dough in the middle, making canoes out of the bread halves. Then the meatballs sit absolutely secure!

  21. Hande says:

    Oh, hit submit too early, sorry. My second suggestion is to change the shape of your meatballs and make them more like Turkish meatballs (köfte), flatter:

  22. Susan says:

    Hilarious, and beautiful post, Jen.
    Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would read the term “interstitial space” in a food and photography blog.
    You could cut down on this “dead space” by cutting the meatballs in half, and placing them cut side down :)

    Now I’m in the mood for meatballs :)

  23. Kim says:

    Made me laugh! But they look and taste so good, I’m willing to go with Hande’s suggestion….maybe tomorrow!

  24. Jessa says:

    You’re my hero. Or perhaps my soulmate. Your diagram and subsequent diatribe on meatball subs’ structural challenges possibly made my entire weekend. Also enjoy the fact that interstitial space was included…

    Love your blog!

  25. Debbe says:

    Oh, you made me laugh so hard with your diagram! That’s exactly the reason why I never looked favorably on meatball sandwiches and you demonstrated it perfectly!!

  26. Ruth Ann says:

    Lovely post and great photos at the vineyard. Must have been great to have those tomatoes right off the vine. Meatball sandwich looks a bit messy, but also looks definitely worth it! Yum!

  27. Caitlin says:

    You just made my day with the intersticial spaces – it’s so true! Poor engineering, which is why if I want something like it, I always go for a meatloaf sandwich. Much better design.

  28. Kellen says:

    I’ve been a chronic lurker on your blog for some time now… It took the meatball sandwiches to get me out of the woodwork (okay, the doughnut contest got the first actual post, but hey, that book is calling my name!).
    I wanted to recommend using fresh garlic bread in this recipe. Nothing beats a meatball sandwich with buttery garlic bread, and oozy cheese!
    Thanks for making such a beautiful, fun blog, I’ve enjoyed every bit of it!

  29. Hope says:

    If your sandwich is falling apart maybe you need more cheese. Cheese is the glue that holds a meatball sandwich together.

  30. Rich says:

    You know how sometimes you go to photograzing to look for inspiration (I assume I’m not the only one that does that)? Well, this is today’s fantastic find for me. That sandwich looks absolutely incredible! I’m making it this weekend. Without a doubt.

  31. swan says:

    jen, i love you. really nothing else to say except for that. you rock. your whole being rocks. i’ve been reading you almost daily for over a year and everything you do is amazing. just thought i’d tell you now, my nephew is named kaweah and he and his family tries to spend most of their time at the family cabin near sequoia nat’l forest. i know you just went to jordan vineyards, so i felt i was at home, as my dad was a winemaker in forestville…

    just had to write and thank you!

  32. jenyu says:

    Russ – I think I’d prefer to cut the meatballs than scoop the bread, but cutting the meatballs for a blog post on Italian meatball sandwiches just felt a little lame :(

    Annie – hey lady! :)

    Bridget – but I think the bread actually stays put and the meatball is what slides away from my bite (that’s probably b/c I have a big mouth) ;)

    Wei-Wei – there isn’t enough adhesion or strength in the cheese to fuse the meatballs and the bread together. I’ll have to look up the Sporkful show – never heard of it! Thanks :)

    Allison – that’s because you’re so ladylike, you eat politely. I think part of the meatball sandwich requirement is that you must eat like a barbarian.

    Lisa Mattson – thank you so much! Yes, feel free to email me, I’d be happy to share the photos. xo

    Hande – it’s true, but what about all that lovely bread?! ;)

    Kellen – omg, that is sinful! Must try it now!! Thanks for the tip.

    swan – wow! your nephew is named Kaweah? How cool is that? Don’t tell him I named my dog Kaweah though ;) Don’t want him to feel bad – just really liked the Kaweahs in the Sierra Nevada.

  33. MaryW says:

    I made these over the summer, and they are/were fantastic…I’m getting ready to make another round tomorrow :) Thanks Jen!

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