I feel that we often forget what a privilege it is to be invited into someone’s home. Whether grand or humble, for someone to share their private abode is something truly special. Many wonderful hosts grant access even to large groups for charity and political functions, or for mere social events, but then others open their sanctuaries to only a special few. Either way I am always honored when I am welcomed in. So I was delighted when Sandra Jordan offered to conduct the interview for “Tea With Claudia” in her living room and promised a tour of her estate. What a generous “guest”!
After our morning tour of Healdsburg Michael Bello and I met up with Sandra again that afternoon at her home. The gates opened, and we were greeted by three large dogs who followed our car up the circular driveway to reach the lovely white NewEngland-style farmhouse dating back to 1916. After Sandra and her daughter Tatiana introduced us to the dogs the whisked us off for a tour of the property. We walked through a wonderful pergola, past manicured gardens surrounding the house, to reach a more forestlike section that had a lovely creek spanned by magical bridge that connected to a whimsical greenhouse. Sandra mentioned that when she first moved to her home she thought that that was the size of greenhouse she deemed adequate at the time. Well, apparently it became inadequate very quickly as we later saw the big one, which probably the size of my apartment. They don’t mess around in the Wine Country.
As we continued on hilly paths it became more apparent why. Beautiful flowers were planted everywhere, and I imagined how wonderful it must be to just walk around the garden to make a bouquet for a dinner party. We encountered a variety of apple, pear, peach and plum trees, some of which I had never seen before, and we tasted the sweetest fruits right off the tree. We also tried frais de bois (Alpine strawberries), which I remembered fondly from hikes in the mountains of Austria during my childhood. Michael and I also admired the luscious pomegranate trees, the sunflowers that were tall enough to tower even over a basketball player, and blooming artichokes that reached almost equal heights.
When Sandra showed me a Verbena bush I was in seventh heaven, as I love the taste and scent of this wonderful herb. So Sandra graciously changed the tea for our interview to Verbena. Michael’s excitement came from learning about the three varieties bay leaf, which both Sandra and Michael fondly associated with Adobo, the quintessential Filipino stew. Sandra inspected the two hedges to the right of the house. They had beautiful leaves, but I had no idea that they were bay laurel until she tore a leaf from each and crushed them in her hands. Apparently they were not quite right for Adobo, and Sandra would know because her family spent a lot of time in the Phillippines. So she asked Tatiana to go to the very top of the property to get a leave from that special bay laurel shrub. Sandra crumbled it and smelled it. She determined that it was the one, and Tatiana ventured back up the hill and returned with a bunch of branches. Michael was absolutely delighted when she presented him with a huge bag full, all the leaves picked off the stems, gently washed and dried. What a generous hostess! I know Michael was counting in his head how many spice containers that would fill. He owes us all some serious Adobo, we decided. Note to Michael.
Nobody is forgotten in Sandra’s garden. She did not mind sharing a peach with me a bird had gotten to first, and her gardeners have their own garden of Prickly Pear Cactus, also known as Opuntia or Nopales, which they use to make all kinds of Mexican dishes.
Somehow a conversation came up about escargot, and Sandra mentioned that she had a snail farm. A snail farm?! She certainly was not kidding when she said that she lived off the land. But of course Sandra would have to do it with great style, as she also included a sterling escargot tong in her collection. She proceeded to tell me that they had to feed the snails calcium because the shells cracked when they picked them up with tongs. I had never heard that before, so I was wondering if the snails I remembered growing up in Austria perhaps got sufficient calcium naturally from the Alpine water. Besides escargot there were also a couple of goats, which were especially fond of Michael. He wondered if he looked like the person who feeds them. The chickens we learned are currently boarded at Dragonfly Farm.
Fauna and flora aside, the estate also also is home to the showroom of the stunning Sandra Jordan Collection, which occupies a large barn near the cactus garden and contains an amazing array of alpaca textiles, sterling silver accessories, Peruvian artifacts and art.
Sandra is also known for her gracious hospitality and for throwing some of the most fabulous parties in the Wine Country. Her property has many places to entertain large groups of people, one them being the entertainment barn, boasting a full kitchen that opens to a dining room with a table seating fourteen and a sitting room with fireplace. The terrace on the back can seat another hundred, and it would not be complete without an outdoor pizza oven. Also hidden in a room off to the side is Sandra’s own balsamic vinegar collection, which is being cultivated in the traditional methods of Modena. Sandra gets the barrels from Francesco Renzi, master cooper for Modena’s top balsamic vinegar producers. Considering Sandra’s experience with wine at Jordan Winery one can safely assume that the quality of the vinegar rivals some of Modena’s best.
We concluded our wonderful tour in Sandra’s house where after a look around we got ready for our interview over tea. The interior of the home also reflects the owner’s relaxed elegance. Furnishings are comprised of an eclectic mix of European antiques and pieces and textiles from the Sandra Jordan Collection.
The tour of Sandra’s home and the time we spent with our charming hostess was most memorable; and Michael and I were honored to be invited back. Meanwhile the charismatic designer is busy traveling meeting with designers around the country to show the newest additions to the her collection. Currently she is in Richmond, VA at the Richmond Symphony Orchestra League’s Designer House, where an interior designer has used Sandra’s marvelous alpaca fabrics in her showcase room. We look forward to catching up with her upon her return to California. I hope you also enjoyed your visit to Sandra’s estate in Healdsburg.
All photos by Michael Bello for Adeeni Design Group, unless otherwise noted.