The Ranch has great wine list, O.C.'s best sommelier
For years I’d been hearing about Michael Jordan – the O.C. sommelier and wine expert, not the former NBA star – but I’d never met the man.
Others raved about his knowledge and customer-oriented approach when he worked as the manager of wine sales and wine education at Downtown Disney’s Napa Rose restaurant. He was responsible for its memorable wine list.
Jordan later served as president of the Beachcomber Restaurant Group. He also put his wine skills to good use at Pinot Provence in Costa Mesa and Pavilion at Four Seasons Hotel Newport Beach.
Jordan first worked with Michael Rossi when the talented chef presided over the menu at Napa Rose. Now they’re working together at O.C.’s newest gotta-try-it restaurant, The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon in Anaheim. Rossi is executive chef and Jordan is V.P. of food and beverages.
My wife and I went to The Ranch last weekend for dinner, and we were as impressed as everyone else seems to be. I won’t bore you with an inexpert restaurant review, but the highlight of the evening for me was meeting Jordan.
Our server was no slouch about The Ranch’s voluminous 500-label wine list, but we asked her a few questions she couldn’t answer, so she brought Jordan over.
The first thing he asked us about was the food we had ordered. (It was going to be a tricky pairing – my wife was having barramundi and I had ordered the duck confit.) He decided to steer us in the direction of Italy.
The second thing Jordan asked us was our price range. This floored me. In the history of my sometimes uneasy relationship with sommeliers, I have been asked that question perhaps twice. And here was one of O.C.’s best-known high-end somms, determined not to force us to break our budget. You could have knocked me over with a limp angel hair noodle.
Jordan recommended a wine, then discovered (to his horror more than ours) that it was more expensive than he’d remembered and slightly above our limit. He’d talked us into his selection through the sheer enthusiasm of his description, but insisted that his first obligation was to get something within our price range that would impress us. (Fortunately, we discovered he’d misread the price when looking at the tiny type on the menu and following the name across to the wrong price. It was actually at the low end of our price window. A humble suggestion, Ranch folks: a tad more lighting or bigger print on the menus for us aging Boomers, please.)
Another thing I like about The Ranch is the wine prices. Overall, they’re surprisingly reasonable – there’s none of the gouging that you see at many tony restaurants, where it’s not uncommon for wine of any quality to be tripled or quadrupled over its store cost.
Clearly, The Ranch has gotten the message that this is a pet peeve with many diners.
The 2007 Arrowood “Reserve Speciale” from Sonoma County (a Robert Parker 94 pointer), about $35 online, is a reasonable $68 at The Ranch. A 2008 Ghost Block, the cultish Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, is $53 online and only $98 on Jordan’s wine list.
On the low end, they keep things in check as well. Example: A 2010 Bridlewood Estate Vineyards Chardonnay is $13 in the store and $29 at The Ranch.
In my opinion, The Ranch has an unbeatable combination for wine lovers: sommelier Michael Jordan and some of the lowest markups I’ve seen in an upscale O.C. restaurant. Just remember to bring a magnifying glass or your flashlight.