Meet the Winemaker Working to Put Fine Wine on Your Table—Every Night
Entrepreneur Sam Jordan teamed up with his father to launch a new winery that aims to break down the barriers.
T Bar T vineyard climbs up into the hills of Sonoma’s Alexander Valley like a painting. That’s Sam Jordan’s first memory of his family’s wine country property, which they acquired in 2015. Fast forward to 2022 and the entrepreneur isn’t just marveling at the beauty. He’s utilizing the grapes, which you may have already sipped in vintages from popular brand Iron Horse, to craft Cabernet for his own Red Bear Winery. In partnership with his father, Oakland real-estate investor Wayne Jordan, the co-founder hopes to create wines that appeal to a younger generation. Here’s what he’s up to this harvest season.
When did you make the decision to utilize the T Bar T vineyard grapes for your own wine after years of selling them to others?
2018 was an exceptional year for grape yield at T Bar T; essentially, we had more grapes than we could sell at the premium rate. Instead of lowering our price point or not fully utilizing our crop, my father and I decided to bring on a great local winemaker in Drew Damskey and create our own boutique brand.
Can you compare Red Bear to other Alexander Valley wines?
It’s comparable in that some of your favorite Alexander Valley wines are made with the exact same grapes. But that’s where the comparison stops. We have a fresh, new look and taste with Red Bear. We’re the new guys on the block and want to embody that.
You became fascinated by the culture surrounding wine on trips to Spain and Italy. What piqued your interest?
For me, it was the accessibility [of] great wines. One doesn’t have to go to fancy restaurants, wine bars, or a specific wine store to find great wines. This made wine approachable to a broader audience, something we want to achieve with Red Bear.
How do you characterize a wine that “can be drunk in any scenario?”
Fine wine can sometimes be so snobby. It can intimidate people. We want to offer a high-quality wine that’s accessible and enjoyable no matter if it’s for a special dinner or a summer day at the beach. I think this will help to break down some of the hesitation for young people in purchasing fine wines.
What was the biggest challenge throughout the process of crafting this first Cab? What did you learn that you’ll take into the next vintage?
No year is going to be the exact same as the previous. People always talk about some years being “better” than others, but now I’m starting to really understand that. There are so many factors with rain, temperatures, and then throw in fire season. It makes regulating the crop very difficult.
What’s next for Red Bear?
Restaurants. Currently, we’re only available online but will soon be in restaurants in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. From there, keeping the momentum going.