By Robert Parker Twenty-five years ago, Jess Jackson's fledgling winery produced its first Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay. The popularly priced wine was an immediate hit with both critics and consumers, and now Jackson produces 2 million-plus cases a year.
The chardonnay's bountiful cash flow allowed the company to amass more than 12,000 acres of prime vineyards, introduce other inexpensive Vinter's Reserve varietals, and develop a portfolio of premium wines. Some of Jackson's best wines and best values:
Kendall-Jackson 2005 Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay Jackson Estates
89 points. Loads of tropical fruit, medium body, and wonderful purity result in a crisp, elegant chardonnay that is ideal for drinking over the next one to two years. $12
Kendall-Jackson 2005 Grand Reserve Chardonnay
90 points. With a bouquet of orange marmalade and orange oil, the Grand Reserve has brilliant texture and a heady finish. Pricier than the Vintner's Reserve, it's still a bargain. $18
Kendall-Jackson 2004 Vintner's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
87 points. Sweet red and black currant mix with spicy vanilla in an elegant, medium-bodied cab. Tasty drinking for the next four to five years. $18
Matanzas Creek 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
89 points. Revealing notes of honeyed grapefruit, figs, and crushed rocks are in this medium-bodied, food-friendly white. $19
Atalon 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
90 points. This deep ruby/purple-hued wine has a sweet bouquet of cr?me de cassis, spicy new oak, and licorice. Full-bodied, powerful, and long in the finish, it will benefit from one to three years of bottle aging and should last for 12 to 15 or years or more. $33
Hartford Court 2005 Chardonnay Stone C?te
93 points. This wine is a mineral-dominated effort revealing notions of limes, lemons, tangerine oil, and flint. Rich and full-bodied, drink it over the next five to six years. $46
V?rit? 2004 Le D?sir
94+ points. Jackson's take on a St.-Emilion boasts a plum/purple color and a big, sweet nose of black currant jam, sweet cherries, incense, allspice, licorice, and herbs. Full-bodied and opulent, it needs two to three years of bottle aging. Then you will be able to enjoy it over 15 to 20 years. $115
Wines rated from 96-100 are extraordinary; 90-95, excellent; 80-89, above average to very good.
Robert Parker is the world's most influential wine critic. Visit www.eRobertParker.com to see tens of thousands of tasting notes, buy his books, or subscribe to his newsletter, The Wine Advocate.