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The Jess Jackson formula: Premium wines without a premium address

April 26, 2011 |  9:18 am

Here's a sneak peek at what's coming in this week's Food section: An appreciation of Jess Jackson, who founded Kendall-Jackson Winery in 1982 and died last week at the age of 81, leaving an almost incalculable legacy on the California wine industry.

Wine and spirits writer Patrick Comiskey says Jackson made his mark by establishing a "fail-safe formula for his wines: premium wines without a premium address, vintage wines that betrayed no vintage variation, a brand as consistent as Lipton's tea. He did this by drawing from vineyards all over California to gather what amounted a "palette" of California flavors with which to craft his blends — marrying the citrus notes of Monterey fruit, say, with the more tropical notes of Santa Maria, resulting in a more complex, satisfying wine. Kendall-Jackson's Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay became a kind of masterpiece of quality-for-price, a fruit-forward wine with soft, honeyed flavors and a pronounced hint of sweetness, as luminous as California sunshine. Not everyone cared for this simple, overtly confectionary style, but it became a huge success, setting the style for American Chardonnay for decades and converting millions of Americans into wine drinkers.

Read the rest of Comiskey's appreciation here:


--Obituary: Jess Jackson dies at 81

--$15 wine: The new normal

--113 wine picks

Photo: Jess Jackson; credit: Associated Press