Chances are you’ve probably heard about Kendall-Jackson Avant Chardonnay, our newest offering. It’s a lightly oaked Chardonnay, and a whole new take on the varietal. By now you’ve probably enjoyed a bottle or two, but I want to give you more information on how it is made.
To make Avant Chardonnay Randy Ullom, the Kendall-Jackson winemaster, creates two separate blends and combines them together just before bottling. The first blend consists of wine fermented in stainless steel tanks. We use stainless steel to create bright up-front fruit flavors. When wine is made with 100% stainless steel fermentation, the fruit is so intense that it smells and tastes like pineapple juice. To make sure that the fruit does not overpower the wine, Randy has to strike a balance between this blend and the second.
The second blend consists of wine fermented in used oak barrels, which have less flavor influence than new oak. New oak barrels typically impart flavors of vanilla, spice and toasty notes during the aging process. Used oak, on the other hand, adds a nice mid-palate that softens the edges and rounds things out. Fermenting wine in used oak creates a rich texture and softer perception of acidity while still allowing the fruit to shine through. This second blend also goes through 100% malolactic fermentation, which helps soften the acidity while adding a subtle amount of richness.
The final blend is a blend of 50% stainless steel and 50% used oak wines. This creates a Chardonnay that’s light and crisp that will remind you of summer fruit. The mid-palate bursts with pineapple, juicy pear, crisp Meyer lemon and sweet lime that lingers with finishing notes of vanilla. By combining stainless steel fermentation into the blend, Randy’s found a way to bring out the fruit and preserve the crisp acidity.
For fans of lighter white wines such as Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc, Avant Chardonnay is a refreshing new blend that supplies a new style of the varietal to people who don’t usually drink it. Ideal for hot days, this refreshing and crisp wine can also be appreciated by Chardonnay fans who want to experience something new.
I asked Randy whether he preferred Kendall-Jackson Vintners Reserve or Avant. “Both are great for different occasions,” he said. “Avant with oysters is spectacular. And Vintners Reserve Chardonnay with Dungeness crab is spectacular. It all depends upon the moment and what you’re eating.”