Why Vintner’s Reserve is America’s Favorite Chardonnay

I recently went on a weeklong sales trip for Jackson Family Wines, and while I always come home from my travels learning new things, this time I was struck by how many people I met who said that Kendall-Jackson is their favorite wine.

This was especially true for Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay, but there also were people who told me that red is their favorite wine. I had an invariable reply for them: “You’re in good company.” There’s a reason why Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay is now going onto its 24th consecutive year as America’s favorite Chardonnay.

Because it’s good.

I remember, when I was a wine critic, tasting Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay blind alongside other Chardonnays that cost far more. It always more than held its ground. It’s true that I gave Grand Reserve Chardonnay, on average, slightly higher scores. But Vintner’s Reserve always was in the game, not only the Chardonnay but the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel, all of which scored in the low 90s or high 80s, very good scores indeed — and those good scores have continued to pile in at Wine Enthusiast, with my successors liking the wines a great deal.

How Kendall-Jackson and Winemaster Randy Ullom pull off this feat is no mystery. A common saying in our industry is that “The wine is made in the vineyard,” and while that may not be entirely true (I suspect the talented winemaker has something to do with it!), it’s certainly a fact that Randy and his team are fortunate to have our extensive vineyard holdings from which to choose their grapes. As we all know, our vineyards are only in prime coastal growing areas; I can’t emphasize that enough. The vineyards that provide grapes for Vintner’s Reserve are so high in quality that many wineries would kill to have access to them.

This is an example of Jess Jackson’s decision to always provide consumers, whom he loved and felt responsible towards, with wines that have a great price-quality ratio. Jess was serious about that, and Kendall-Jackson remains committed to fulfilling his vision.

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.