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by Fred McMillin
Winery of the Week
Fermentation is the chemical process by which grapes are converted to money.
Disaster! The fermentation had stopped. They were making the first dry Chardonnay ever to be labelled Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve, but the yeast had quit, leaving the wine slightly sweet.
So, Jess Jackson decided to produce it anyhow. How would the consumer react? It was sold out in six months. That was 1982. Fifteen years later the production was two million cases. Case closed.
Ace winemaker Rick Foreman sweat out that fermentation that wouldn't budge. But even stronger is his recollection of the rangy, hard-driving owner, Jess Jackson. "He's outrageous. He thrives on the game. There are always five deals on his plate."
The Jess Jackson Juggernaut
Those "five deals" have produced incredible growth. Total California vineyard acreage is now around 11,000. Annual production is about four million cases. K-J needs something like 25,000 new barrels a year, so they now have their own French oak firm, and fabricate the barrels in Missouri. Kendall-Jackson also has expanded into Argentina, Chile and Italy. Among the well-established wineries K-J now owns are Robert Pepi, La Crema and the recently-acquired top-of-the-line Matanzas Creek.
The Two K-J Tiers
There are two K-J tiers, a Vintner's Reserve and the upper level Grand Reserve. America's foremost critic, Robert Parker, Jr., feels his way about them.
Vintner's Reserve - Noteworthy for their faithfulness to their varietal personalities, and for their reasonable prices.
Grand Reserve - The most successful group of wines made by K-J. Among the good, recent efforts are the Merlot, the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Sauvignon Blanc.
So Jess Jackson loves the game, and we think you'll love his wines.
About that Sauvignon Blanc, I can recall chatting with Jess about it. At dinner the night before he said it had paired beautifully with herb-roasted chicken. I'm ready!
Contact—(707)544-4000, FAX—(7O7)544-4O13. Ask for the office of P.R. Vice President James Caudill. But be warned, he favors reds; that is, his mother, brother and sister, and three daughters all have red hair, as did James some vintages ago.
This page created June 2000