Why “Estate” Matters

In previous posts, we’ve explored the three new appellation-series wines from Kendall-Jackson’s Jackson Estate collection (Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay). We’ve seen how these regions are some of the best growing areas on the California coast. But what’s up with that word, Estate?

By it, we mean to suggest a couple things that all contribute to the wines’ quality, and to assure people that Kendall-Jackson is doing its utmost to create the finest wines possible.

The Federal government, in the form of the Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB) of the Department of the Treasury, is in charge of most legal things concerning wine. They use the word “estate” in the context of the term “estate bottled.” That’s a phrase some wineries put on their labels, if they’re able to. Consumers believe, rightfully, that a wine marked “estate bottled” is likely to be better than one that’s not.

According to the TTB, “estate bottled” can be used only when “100% of the wine came from grapes grown on land owned or controlled by the winery.” This is important; you can easily see that if the winery owns or controls the vineyard, it has much more influence over the way the grapes are grown and harvested than if the control is in the hands of someone else. The fact is, growers and wineries that buy grapes sometimes have far different and competing objectives in mind.

But with Jackson Estate, we actually own 100% of the grapes that go into the wines. Having absolute control — over viticultural practices like pruning, trellising, irrigating and harvesting — means that our winemakers can translate their vision of the ultimate wine into reality, dependably and consistently. This sounds routine: you’d think it was the case with every winery and every wine. But it’s not. That’s the huge advantage of having estate-grown grapes.

Jess Jackson, our founder, understood how important it was to own his own grapes. He acquired quite an extensive network of estate vineyards in his lifetime, a process now being continued by Barbara Banke. Having those vineyards and that land is the foundation stone, not only of Kendall-Jackson, not only of Jackson Estate, but of all Jackson Family Wines.

Steve Heimoff is one of America’s most respected and well-known wine writers. The former West Coast Editor for Wine Enthusiast Magazine and a contributor to Wine Spectator, he has also authored two books on the subject of California wine, including “New Classic Winemakers of California: Conversations with Steve Heimoff,” published in the fall of 2007.