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by Fred McMillin
for June 2, 2000

 

Winery of the Week

The Accident


Prologue

Fermentation is the chemical process by which grapes are converted to money.


Dang It!

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

Kendall-Jackson 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.


Conclusion

So Jess Jackson loves the game, and we think you'll love his wines.


Postscript

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!

Sources:
Dan Berger, Wine Enthusiast
November 1, 1996 WineDay of June 23, 1998 titled "Gangway for this Chardonnay".

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.

 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 
 


This page created June 2000

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