Our second stop of day one in Sonoma was a remarkable visit to the Kendall-Jackson Heritage Center in northern Sonoma County. There are few people who have contributed to the growth and development of Sonoma wine than KJ founder Jess Jackson.
KJ was built on the back of their famous Vintners Select Chardonnay, which was one of the first wines from Sonoma to make an national splash. KJ is now a part of Jackson Family Estate, which is global wine empire with holdings in most major wine producing countries.
Valley residents should know that there is also a strong local connection to Jackson Family Estate. Valley native and Cardinal Mooney graduate, Larry O'Brien is one of the principle managers of the JFE brands worldwide. O'Brien is one of only 250 Master Sommeliers in the United States.
The team at Kendall Jackson greeted us warmly upon our arrival. Wine Educator Pedro Rusk took us on a guided tour of the incredible gardens surrounding their Heritage Center. The KJ team grows an amazing collection of fruits, vegetables, herbs and other things used in their culinary center. We were able to taste and smell some things right out of the garden and then taste them during our wonderful 6 course tasting lunch with pairings.
Here's a look at what we tasted:
- 2016 Grand Reserve Rose' - Sonoma County
Paired with Hog Island Sweet Water Oysters, Red Shiso Mignonette, Watermelon Radish
- 2015 Jackson Family Estate Camelot Chardonnay -Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County
Paired with Dungeness Crab & Cauliflower Soup, Estate Romanesco, Fennel Fronds & Oil
- 2014 Outland Ridge Pinot Noir - Anderson Valley, Mendocino County
Crispy Maitake Mushroom, Red Wine Tempura, Sweet Soy, Dashi, Estate Radish (this was absolutely one of the coolest wine pairings I've ever experienced!)
- 2014 Grand Reserve Merlot - Sonoma County
Seared Lamb Chop, Estate Beets and Carrots, Toasted Pine Nuts and Pomegranates
- Grand Reserve Port, Non Vintage - Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
Chocolate Budino, Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Roasted Chicory Meringue, Huckleberry Jam
We also had the chance to taste two outstanding cabernets after our lunch. The 2013 Hawkeye Mountain Cabernet has been personal favorite of mine for a couple of years. I got my first taste of the 2013 Napa Mountain Cabernet and it did not disappoint. Both wines show good cellaring potential of 3-10 years for those of you who collect.
In closing, everyone in our group would like to say special thanks to Chef Steven who brought each course to our table and presented it with an energetic style that was contagious to all who enjoyed his food. Chef Steven, you have some seriouas fans in Ohio and New York now. Cheers to you!
The trip continues today with a live blog from the Mumm Napa tasting room at 230PM, then we're onto Spire and Andrew Geoffrey. Its gonna be a great day!