In this series of highlighting the differences between the collections of Kendall-Jackson wines, we’ve come to the moment of putting the cart before the horse. Kind of.
“Avant” means “before” in French. There are several ideas behind using “avant” as the header of one of the latest collections. One is that this word is meant to signify what wine tastes like before and without new oak impact. (New oak aromas and flavors typically come across to the sipper as smelling like toast, vanilla and chocolate layered over the fruit flavors of the wine on its own.) The use of steel tanks and neutral oak create a distinct style for K-J AVANT that is fruit-forward and expressive. Each wine in the K-J AVANT collection, a Chardonnay, Red Blend, and Sauvignon Blanc, has a counterpart in Vintner’s Reserve that is a bit more complex.
Here is where the cart pulls in front of the horse. Because, when Jess Jackson created the Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay back in 1982, he was following the same, visionary strategy but in a totally opposite way. That first Vintner’s Reserve was a varietal wine (a wine made from a single grape variety) that proudly bore the name of its grape on its label. Most wines at the time were blends of varieties with either fantasy names or names piggy-backing on famous French wine regions. Also unique, the first and the subsequent Vintner’s Reserve wines were made with the kiss of hand-crafted, French oak barrels. In fact, these hand-crafted barrels are so important to the original Vintner’s Reserve wines of Kendall-Jackson that Jess ultimately purchased a stave mill in France.
The fresh, drink-now style of the K-J AVANT wines is meant for casual gatherings in which drinkability is key. Each front label gives three descriptors of what to expect in that wine – perfect for today’s fast-paced, 140-character, thought-pattern world. Their screw-cap closures give them as easily accessible in another and different way. In contrast, the Vintner’s Reserve cork-closed bottles nod toward the traditional side.
And still, the two collections have similarities. The whites are all varietal wines. The reds are trendy blends. Both are great leads into the premier collections of the Kendall-Jackson portfolio. However one prefers to skip and sip through the portfolio, between the Vintner’s Reserve and Grand Reserve wines or the Grand Reserve and Jackson Estate Wines, the siblings of the K-J AVANT array offer the imbiber the same family genetics of high quality extracted and crafted exclusively from California’s rare, coastal vineyards.
Christy Canterbury is a Master of Wine, journalist, speaker and judge based in New York City. In 2014, she was short-listed for the Roederer Online Wine Communicator of the Year Award. Her work has been published in Decanter, Wine Enthusiast, Edible Green Mountains, Wine Searcher, Food Arts, Snooth, Beverage Media, TimAtkin.com, Civiltà del Bere, Wine Business Monthly, TASTED, Selectus Wines and in other outlets.