Wonder where the 2011 vintage of Kendall-Jackson wines are right now? So did I, which is part of the reason you may have seen the pictures of the numerous wines tasted by the Kendall-Jackson winemaking team over the course of a Quarterly Inventory Tasting (QIT). We do a separate QIT for each variety of grapes we use to make our wine.
The recent Photo of the Day was for one day of Cabernet Sauvignon tasting. Since then, I’ve also had the chance to taste all of the Zinfandel, Syrah and non-Bordeaux blenders (Grenache, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Carignane and one lonely Sangiovese).
My impression of the 2011 vintage continues to be that it is a very different vintage for California. We had very moderate temperatures throughout the summer, with none of the extreme heat spikes that often punctuate a Californian vintage.
The wines are very approachable with fresh fruit characters and moderate structure. This bodes well for consumers that are tired of high alcohols and jammy, overripe fruit. We have never really played into that style of winemaking. We always seek to deliver approachable, delicious wines that are varietally correct and that express the terroir, or place, where they are from. Balance is the key for us.
How’d we learn this? Well, by going through these marathon tastings. Some may doubt that we are able to taste so many wines and distinguish the difference in their quality. It is a difficult task, indeed, especially when it comes to evaluating so many young and tannic red wines at one time. But, through years of practice and, of course, some skill, we are able to differentiate between the wines.
It is at this stage, that we often make recommendations on tactics to improve them and start to get a glimpse of how the blend is going to come together.
The Bordeaux wines still have at least six months or more to stay in barrel, improving and softening with age. With these wines, we will make subtle adjustments, mostly limited to additional rackings (to soften and clarify). The Zinfandel, Syrah, and non-Bordeaux blenders I work with will come out of barrels just before harvest. In general, these young wines have less tannins than the Bordeaux varieties and require less maturation time to get them ready for bottling.
But the 2010 Vintage is doing well, which is what you can get your hands on. In fact, we were recently called the “Wine of the Week” from Dan Berger, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, for the 2010 Vintners Reserve Zinfandel. His praise of the wine echoes what I have just mentioned. High praise indeed!
So what does this all mean? It means we’re on track for another unique and interesting vintage of Kendall-Jackson wines. People often ask me how we manage to make them consistent. My reply is that we don’t try to make them the same, year-in-year-out. That comes largely from the consistency of the land that we farm to make our wines. We do, however, strive to make them consistently excellent. Enjoy!