The Difference Between Kendall-Jackson Avant and Vintner's Reserve Wines
In this series of highlighting the differences between the varied collections of Kendall-Jackson wines, we’ve come to a 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 Kendall-Jackson collections. One is that this word is meant to signify what wine tastes like before - and so without - new oak impact. (New oak aromas and flavors typically come across smelling like toast, vanilla and caramel layered over the fruit flavors inherent to the white wine.)
The exclusive use of steel tanks creates a distinctive style for the K-J Avant Chardonnay that is fruit-forward and expressive. The K-J Avant Chardonnay can be both an entry point to the Kendall-Jackson range and a counterpart to the Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay, which undergoes oak fermentation and aging to create a different aroma and flavor sensation 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 gentle 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 Chardonnay is meant for casual gatherings in which drinkability is key as well as for lighter, more delicate dishes that mesh best with freshness and youthfulness rather than oak and tertiary characters.
The Avant Chardonnay's front label is as clean and easy-breezy as the wine's style. The screw-cap closure gives it easy accessibility in yet another but very different way. In contrast, the Vintner’s Reserve cork-closed bottles nod toward the traditional side.
And still, these two Chardonnays from different collections have similarities. Obviously, they are both varietal wines. 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 K-J Avant Chardonnay sibling offers 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.