“I just got back from Napa last night,” Gloria Jordan-Cabral practically squeals as she answers the phone. Not hello. Instead, she launches into a spontaneous eruption of joy about her trip to visit vineyards and winemakers. The charismatic chef is decidedly enthusiastic about wine and thrilled to have a new outpost to share her passion. The Cuban transplant, owner of La Trattoria Café Napoli, opened Jordan’s Wine Bar & Cellar in Fort Myers in March. The space is as lively as she is. Rich walls glow in Gucci green around an eclectic collection of her finds from her many world travels: gilded mirrors from Paris, figurines from Tuscany, elaborate gold frames from Barcelona and vintage photos of her family in Cuba. When there isn’t live Latin jazz filling the space, guests can bring vinyl to spin on the record player. And, a plush blue velvet sofa anchors the 50-seat wine bar. “This place can feel like Paris, like a little hidden gem in Florence, or even being in your own home—if you are eclectic,” Gloria says.
It’s the ideal spot to immerse yourself when discovering new wines. And, for Gloria, discovery is the name of the game. She’s stocked the cellar with 100 wine varieties—including many small-production labels with limited availability—from crowd-pleasing California pinot noirs to lesser-known wines such as South African pinotage and French and Spanish reds from the Gigondas or Priorat regions. “People are scared to order things they don’t know,” she says. “So, I say, ‘Try it, and if you don’t like it, I’ll drink it.’ Everything on the menu is what I love.”
She offers wine seminars and tastings every month to give guests gentle guidance and help them dive deeper into her stockpile. And, her oenophile vocabulary extends well beyond the standard wine geek mumbo jumbo. Gloria, always a chef, describes the bottles in lush terms that evoke immediate sensory memories: white flowers, plum, leather, mesquite, coffee, honey, tea. “I want to make it sound delicious and help people understand the flavors inside the bottle,” she says.
Of course, there’s food. Gloria’s primary wine education happened when she was living in Europe. After leaving Cuba in the ’90s, she lived in Sweden and Spain and traveled the whole continent. “I’m a total European freak,” she pronounces. She takes her cues from the little enotecas in Italy and taperias in Spain, where bites like thinly sliced Serrano ham, marinated olives, and bread come standard with your wine order. “Wine is inspired by food,” she says. And her tapas-style menu encourages exquisite snacking to accompany any glass you sip. The deceptively simple picadera section of the menu delivers intense little flavors bite by bite, from roasted almonds with oregano and sea salt to delicate white anchovies to silky Parma prosciutto with grapes. The deeper in the menu you go, the more Gloria’s finesse shines through. The roasted beet carpaccio with burrata and pistachios in a light orange vinaigrette stimulates every part of the mouth, making it a perfect companion to just about any wine tasting. Her sandwiches provide sustenance while checking every food-lover’s box. Take the medianoche Cubano, a smaller version of the traditional Cuban sandwich made on challah bread from Yessy Cuban Bakery in Fort Myers, or her sweet-and-spicy take on a bocadillo with chorizo, roasted peppers, orange marmalade, and Manchego cheese. “Food helps because you don’t get drunk, and you can taste the wine better,” Gloria says. “And we serve a lot of bread with tapenade and a little cultured butter, a combination made by angels in heaven.”
As much as Gloria’s wine roots are in Europe, the New World has her positively giddy these days. “Winemakers in Napa and Sonoma are doing these bold European vinifications, like Bordeaux-style or Super Tuscan-style, that are focused on things like minerality instead of big fruits,” she says. “And [these bottles] cost a fraction of what you pay to bring wines from Europe.” In the last five years, she’s become more and more enamored with California wines—her wine list reflects this newfound passion. “My palate is changing,” she says like a girl with a new crush. She’s fallen hard for the garage-style winemakers in California, small producers who buy grapes from other vineyards and then create their expression of the land through the winemaking process. (Think of those producers as the microbrewers of the wine world.) She prides herself on having an ever-changing stock of wines at Jordan’s from these California mavericks. “Drink something fresh. Drink something where you support someone who is a dreamer like you,” she says.
So what was she doing on that trip to Napa? Tasting, of course—but for a slightly different project. Gloria is working with some boutique winemakers to produce her own label. The plan is to start with a red, then a white. Cabernet, merlot, petite sirah, petit verdot, pinot noir, syrah—she’s not quite certain yet what the wine will be. “It’s about finding the perfect blend of what I want to produce,” she says. But one thing is sure: Jordan’s will be the only place where you can try it—which just gives one more reason to keep this new little gem in your regular rotation.