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by Fred McMillin
for June 23, 1998
Gangway for This Chardonnay
In 1982 Jess Jackson's Kendall-Jackson winery burst onto the scene with its Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay, opulent, juicy and a little sweet. Employing grapes from a number of California regions, the blend soared to 400,000 cases a year. It was one of the great marketing success stories of the 1980's.
...James Laube, California's Great Chardonnays
1974—Jess converts his family's Clear Lake property from orchards to a vineyard.
1978—The vines were bearing but he couldn't sell the grapes, so he turned to winemaking, with the help of top winemakers like Chuck Ortman (Meridian).
1980—Jess's first Chardonnay is produced under the name Chateau du Lac.
1991—Kendall Jackson is now using its ultra- premium grapes to produce a Grand Reserve Chardonnay. top of the line...priced above $20. My tasters just tried the 1996 Grand Reserve and found it dazzling.
1996 Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay
That $26 is a fair piece of change, but look at the costs behind those Sonoma and Santa Maria grapes. The press reported that one of Jess's Sonoma purchases ran eight mill, while the 1,200 acres in the Santa Maria Valley cost a cool $12 million!
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