It’s Easy to See Wide Appeal of Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay

FREDRIC KOEPPEL | Special to The Memphis News

One understands the appeal of the Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay, the best-selling chardonnay in America. Sipping the 2009 version, the current release, a few days ago, I felt the immediate draw of its sunny ripeness and blatant tropical scents and flavors; it feels almost optimistic.

Though Randy Ullom is Kendall-Jackson’s winemaster, the Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay was shaped by the fledgling winery’s first general manager and winemaker Jed Steele, who conceived it as a wine that would entertain the American palate for a touch of ineffable sweetness. (Steele left Kendall-Jackson in 1991.) That factor has made the wine controversial, and, in fact, in the past five or six years, with a slight drop in the wine’s alcohol content – the 2009, for example, is 13.5 percent – the wine feels a bit drier, but no less ostentatiously flirty and fruity for that.


It’s available practically everywhere, but here are three geographically
diverse locations:
Joe's Wine & Liquors
1681 Poplar Ave., $14
Buster’s Liquors
191 S. Highland St., $14
Kirby Wines & Liquors
2865 Kirby Parkway, $13

The wine is not intended to be a reflection of a particular region; it carries a general California designation since the grapes derive from Monterey (54 percent), Santa Barbara (38) and Mendocino (8) counties. Rather, it conveys a broad sense of, well, if Showtime had not pre-empted the name, “Californication.”

Whata you get? Roasted lemon and lemon balm, mango and guava, baked pineapple and grapefruit, a touch of honeysuckle, a hint of vanilla; a lush and juicy texture just saved from shamelessness by sufficient acidity and a mild pass at limestone-like minerality. Nothing spare or elegant, but sheer (and slightly wearying) gorgeousness.

For more about wine, check out Koeppel's blog at