Sonoma Roots Run Deep
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As we walked from the van to the tasting room, the sign, “the love in the air is thicker than the smoke,” provided a stark reminder of the fires that ravaged Sonoma and Napa. Luckily 95% of Kenwood’s grapes had already been harvested and none of the estate property burned.
Inside the historic barn, we were greeted by hospitality coordinator Joshua Brown and a rare sight: a sparkling Kenwood wine. We sampled some fermented “love,” the first-ever Kenwood Blanc de Blanc, as we kicked off our visit. This is a delicious 100% Chardonnay sparkler.
Layers Of Quality
In an effort to make sense of the conundrum of quality, we grabbed a fresh glass and sampled the special edition 2016 San Francisco Giants Sonoma County Chardonnay. Light and crisp, it has tropical notes.
We ascended to the next quality level with a pair of Six Ridges wines. Grapes from this series are sources from some of the best vineyards in Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Valley and Sonoma Coast. The Six Ridges 2016 Russian River Valley Chardonnay has bright flavors and muted oaks. It undergoes battonage (stirring) every two weeks and has a malolactic fermentation. The result is rewarding complexity. The Six Ridges 2015 Pinot Noir, also from Russian River Valley, is another winner that is aged for 13 months in small European oak barrels.
The wines from Jack London Vineyard are perhaps the best known produced by Kenwood. Since 1976, they have been the exclusive producer of wines from this historic vineyard. The vineyard is on the ranch once owned by author and adventurer Jack London. In case you forget who he is, the wolf’s head on the the bottle will remind you of “Call of the Wild” and “White Fang,” two of his most famous novels.
Other wineries have artist series, but the best I’ve experienced is Kenwood. There is artistry in the bottle as well as outside.
The 2013 Kenwood Artist Series sports an abstract work by Clare Rojas. The shifting shapes and colors are a good match for the wine.
Chief Winemaker Pat Henderson, who has been calling the shots since 2003, selected Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards primarily on hillsides in the Sonoma Valley AVA. To add complexity and balance, 1.5% each of Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc were added to the blend.
We then enjoyed a taste of the Lone Pine Vineyard 2013 Cabernet, which is part of the Single Vineyard series. Josh informed us that this Cab is the backbone of the Artist Series wine. This was rich with ripe berry notes and a whiff of cocoa. It has a luxuriously long finish. At $44 SRP, it was too good a deal for me to overlook.
The grand finale was a taste of a library wine, the 30th anniversary Jack London Vineyard 2006 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. While the other reds we sampled had boldness, this one had finesse that comes with age. The tannins were beautifully integrated in this smooth, elegant wine.
Yes, you can reach for Kenwood Vineyards for a dependable budget-friendly wine – but the Kenwood crew is crafting small lot wines that will delight seekers of premium vino. If you haven’t tried Kenwood in a while, consider this your invitation.