Brian Jordaan was growing roses in Zimbabwe in 2004 when he was forced off his father's land by political rebels. He, along with his wife, Carien, and their four children — who were 7, 6, 3 and 2 at the time — escaped with a dozen quickly packed suitcases.
Their destination: Of all places, Oregon.
Today, the Jordaans grow merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon grapes on a three-acre vineyard in Ashland and sell the fruits of their labors as Eliana wine ($30). The 2008 Bordeaux blend debuted at the 2010 World of Wine Festival, earning a silver medal, and has since garnered recognition at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Taste of Harry & David, the Portland Seafood and Wine Festival, McMinnville Sip and the Oregon Wine, Food and Brew Festival.
Whew. What a turnaround. The wine represents not only uncountable hours of the Jordaan family working together on new land, but a new beginning.
"It's a chance to start over," says the 40-year-old Jordaan, who is always smiling when pouring tastes of his wines at Harry & David County Village and wine festivals. "And we feel incredibly lucky to be here."
For Jordaan, producing wine is an extension of his longtime farming, his father's sacrifices to buy land in his native Zimbabwe and his father-in-law's encouragement to start a new business. Making and selling the Eliana label also reassures Jordaan that on that one frightful day, he made the right call to flee his home.
The Jordaans named their wine "Eliana" because it means "God has answered" in several languages. The label on the back of the bottle states that Jordaan "manicures" the 2,300 vines producing his grapes. A visit to the Bella Vista vineyard proves this.
The 13-year-old vines benefit from steady sunshine, fine Carney clay, well-draining Brader-Debenger soils and Jordaan's hawk-eyed attention.
Retired attorney Stan Shulster and his classical musician wife, Katie McElrath, own the vineyard near their Ashland home and leased it to Jordaan in February 2008. Jordaan, Carien and the kids — Jana, Kaylyn, Johan and Bryonie — have spent long hours in the sun, rain and frost, babying the vines.
They and their friends harvested on three different days in 2008, and Brian and Carien Jordaan drove a truck full of grapes each time to Eola Hills Wine Cellars in Rickreall, which provides custom-crush services. There, winemaker Steve Anderson aged the 56 percent merlot, 28 percent cabernet franc and 16 percent cabernet sauvignon in neutral oak, then bottled it in May 2010.
The Jordaans sell their very limited 400 cases in Ashland at Ashland Wine Cellar and Chateaulin, in Medford at Harry & David Country Village, Pacific Wine Club, 38 Central restaurant and Downtown Market Co. and at www.elianawines.com.
They are making 60 cases of tempranillo to be release is 2014.
"Everything I had in Zimbabwe was just money and memories," says Brian Jordaan. "It was a great life, and we're grateful for what we had, but it was time to move on. If being forced out had not happened, we wouldn't be here making wine."
For more information, call Jordaan at 541-690 4350, email email@example.com or see www.elianawines.com.