This Young Winemaker Learned From a Beer Brewing Dad — and Discovered Grapes Rule

Meet Jordan Vineyard's Maggie Kruse

BY // 07.16.19

I love to talk about wine with people who share my passion for it. We open bottles, we trade stories about travel and soil types,  terroir and residual sugar, and we talk of taste and food and restaurants. We recommend wines to one another, we drink, and we learn a lot. In Wine Talk, I introduce you to some of my friends, acquaintances, and people I meet as I make my way around the world, individuals who love wine as much as I do, who live to taste, who farm and make wine. You’ll appreciate their insight, and I hope you’ll learn something from them as well. 

One of the first wine dinners I attended upon landing in Houston, back in 2013, was organized by Jordan Vineyard & Winery. The food, and wines, were quite good, and I’ve followed the goings-on at the Healdsburg, California-based winery ever since.

Not long ago, I was invited to taste some Jordan wines, and, in addition to enjoying some great back vintages and new releases, I met Maggie Kruse, who at the time was Jordan’s associate winemaker. I could tell right away that the young (born in 1983) Kruse was serious about her trade, and her response to my question about Riesling sealed the deal for me. Sensible, friendly, and dedicated: Kruse showed me those things, and more, during our conversation.

Kruse, who credits her father and Cathy Corison as inspirations for her entry into the winemaking world (see below), will soon be named the new head winemaker at Jordan, and I predict a long career for her there.

PaperCity: Tell us about three wines you think are drinking well at the moment. What makes them worthwhile? How about a food pairing for each one?

Navarro Gewürztraminer has been one of my go-to summer beverages for a while. I love Indian and Thai food, and the Navarro Gewürztraminer has always been a solid pairing.

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I recently had a 2012 Paul Mathew Bohemian Vineyard Pinot Noir that was delicious. The wine was so beautifully balanced and the fruit from that vineyard is always incredible. This wine is made in more of a Burgundian style, so it really pairs with all kinds of cuisine. I enjoyed this wine with a simple roasted chicken, and it was an excellent pairing.

I’ve also been drinking more of the 2013 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon since we just released this vintage in magnum. It’s one of my favorites. It has so much dark fruit, but still a lot of acidity and silky tannins. The 2013 will age for decades. It’s got the structure to stand up to steak, but we like to pair it with grilled lamb or seared duck with blackberry sauce.

Heaven: You can have these bottles, for a price.

PC: If cost was no consideration, tell us the one bottle you would add to your personal collection, and why.

2009 Chateau Pétrus. Our winemaker (Rob Davis) and I visited the chateau in 2010 and tasted this wine from barrel. It was such an unforgettable experience, because while we were tasting the wine, some of the aromas and flavors were familiar to me from our barrel tastings at Jordan.

I know they are totally different wines, but I could taste similarities between the tannin and the fruit. It was definitely a validating moment for all of the hard work we’ve been doing since 2005 to acquire vineyards with the best fruit and match that juice with the best barrels for Jordan’s house style.

Maggie Kruse inspects barrels at Jordan (Photo courtesy Jordan)

PC: What is your favorite grape, and why?

I really love Petit Verdot. We grow about 23 acres of it at Jordan, and even though it makes up only about 5 to 7 percent of the master blend of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine wouldn’t be as good without Petit. It brings this blueberry character and floral aromas that we love.

PC: How about one bottle that our readers should buy now to cellar for 10 years, to celebrate a birth, anniversary, or other red-letter day?

I would buy the 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s the first vintage in Jordan history aged entirely in French oak barrels, which integrates beautifully with the dark fruit in Jordan Cabernet. It’s a very balanced vintage that will be in its sweet spot in 10 years.

PC: Where is your go-to place when you want to have a glass or bottle?

I love to imbibe at Barndiva. It’s a local bar and restaurant in Healdsburg, California. Not only is the venue beautiful, the food and cocktails delicious, but the wine list is incredible. Barndiva’s list has the perfect blend of locally crafted wines and incredible international wines. (They also have 1977 and 1989 Jordan on their bottle list!)

PC: If there was one thing you wish everyone would keep in mind when buying and drinking wine, what is it?

Throughout my career in the wine industry I have seen a number of amazing family-owned wineries be purchased by larger companies and investment groups. The true family-owned wineries are becoming harder and harder to find. I am proud to work at a company where I see our owner every day. I would encourage people to try to drink more wines from family-owned wineries.

PC: What is your “wine eureka moment,” the incident/taste/encounter that put you and wine on an intimate plane forever?

My father brewed beer for a living, but enjoyed drinking wine outside of work. He took me on a vacation to Napa Valley during high school, and after smelling a 1997 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon and hearing about the career path of winemaker Cathy Corison, I knew I wanted to make wine — not beer. Dad was happy to see me follow in his fermentation-science footsteps.

Maggie Kruse, head winemaker at Jordan Vineyard & Winery, is a fan of Gewürztraminer. (Photo courtesy Jordan)

PC: What has been the strangest moment/incident involving wine that you have experienced in your career?

I have a confession to make: Sometimes when I travel early in the morning and I get the sense the person I am sitting next to on the plane really wants to talk, I tell a white lie about what I do for a living. When you tell people you are a winemaker it always turns into a great conversation, but sometimes I just need to sleep before I arrive at my destination.

One time in particular, I was traveling back to San Francisco after a long sales trip and I just needed to get some rest, so I told the man next to me I was in data entry. We talked for a bit, and it turns out he was a big-time wine collector. I loved listening to him talk about wine and it was so hard for me to keep my mouth shut, and I really just wanted to nerd out about wine with him, so I finally came clean and told him I was a winemaker. He laughed, and said he understood, so we proceeded to talk about wine for the remainder of the four-hour flight.

PC: Your favorite wine reference in a work of literature (fiction, film, poem, saying, etc..)?

In wine there is wisdom. In beer there is freedom. In water there is bacteria.

-Benjamin Franklin

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