Jackson Family Wines — On Top of the World, Part I
An unrivaled, premium collection of wineries and estate vineyards
Today, Jackson Family Wines is a multi-generational, family-owned wine company that has grown into an unrivaled, premium collection of wineries and estate vineyards across California, Oregon, Italy, France, Australia, Chile and South Africa. Founded in 1982 by the late genius and indefatigable worker Jess Jackson, the family eye is still constantly focused on providing the highest quality and care in the wineries and the thousands of acres of some of the greatest, cool, coastal mountains, ridges and benchland vineyards in the world!
in Sonoma County
This winery is celebrating its 25th year as America’s No. 1 selling Chardonnay. The Jackson family members consider themselves farmers and caretakers of the land first. They utilize certified sustainable farming practices and clean energy, the result being that every single bottle of Kendall-Jackson wine is vinted and bottled using 100 percent renewable energy!
In the early ’90s, the Jackson family brilliantly partnered with a French family and created an oak stave mill in northeastern France, enabling them to guarantee exactly where — region and forest — the oak is grown. Among other things, this precise barrel forest sourcing allows them to not only select the best oak, but also pair vineyard and wine styles with forest selection and coopering techniques, such as the various toasting regimens.
One of the most intriguing books I’ve read is A Man and His Mountain, a book about Jess Jackson, “America’s Greatest wine Entrepreneur.” Award-winning author Edward Hunes captures the breadth and scope of one of the great business minds in the history of this nation. After all, how many people have become billionaires making Chardonnay? And at one point in his incredible life, he even entered the almost impossible-to-break-into world of thoroughbred horseracing, and brought that business to its knees! Fascinating!
The Kendall-Jackson Winery in Fulton is certainly one of the premier destinations in northern California wine country. The various, enjoyable choices for a visitor — no reservations required — include a tour of the totally knocked out, beautiful 3-½ acre garden, which is tended by the former gardener at the iconic French Laundry garden in Yountville. There also are one-hour garden and wine tours at 11, 1 and 3 paired with hand-picked goodies for $25 apiece. And there are wine and food pairings on the beautiful patio or inside — from the executive chef, his staff and even a cheese expert — with six or seven bites with different wines from $25 to $55. And every couple of months (and you will need a reservation for this), is a fabulous Farm to Table Dinner with seating for around 100 guests under the stars — an unforgettable experience — for $120 each.
Kendall-Jackson makes nearly 50 different wines in Sonoma, divided into collections showcasing different winemaking styles and expressions of the land: Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Collection, Kendall-Jackson Avant Collection, Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Collection, Jackson Estate Collection and Kendall-Jackson Stature, which represents the pinnacle of Kendall-Jackson’s winemaking excellence.
Although I’ve never had a wine at Kendall-Jackson that wasn’t a great value in its price range, my most recent recommendations are the Avant Chardonnay (basically unoaked) 2015, $17;Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay 2014, $17; Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2014, $22; Jackson Estate Camelot Highlands Chardonnay 2013, $35; and a Le Montrachet look-alike, Stature Chardonnay 2013, $100.
In Part II, which will be published here in February, I will discuss some of the gems of the family portfolio, including Cardinale, Vérité and Lokoya, each a wine I would include in the top 25 Bordeaux-styled wines in the world! And I shall attempt to describe the profundity and world-class effort this family faithfully performs each day, in many instances in memory of Jess Jackson, to continue to be the best of the best!
Mark your calendar for February 1, to visit fortbendlifestylesandhomes.com and click on “Wine, food and travel” for Part II, and many more of my previous articles.
Denman Moody was the Editor and Publisher of Moody’s Wine Review for six years and Contributing Editor on Rare Wine for International Wine Review in New York for six years. He has published or had published over 400 articles on wine, including The International Wine and Food Society Journal in London, Revue du Vin de France in Paris and The Robb Report in Malibu. He is or has been a member of The International Wine and Food Society, Confrerie Saint-Etienne d’Alsace, The German Wine Society, Commanderie de Bordeaux, Chaine des Rotisseurs, Les Amis d’Escoffier and The Knights of the Vine.