February 18 – “Blending”

Post image for February 18 – “Blending”

by Grape Stomper Todd on February 18, 2011


Jess made a lot of “Jacksons” blending wine with Kendall

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On this day in 1930, Jess Stonestreet Jackson, Jr. was born.  And in 1974, he bought an 80-acre pear and walnut orchard in Lakeport, California.

Okay, I love pears but I despise walnuts.  Not only am I allergic to them, I also got stuck in a walnut tree when I was 5 years old.  I was sure I was gonna die in that damn tree and the emotional scars may never heal…

But I digress.

Anyway this lawyer decided to rip out the pretty pears and evil walnuts and planted beautiful, beautiful wine grapes.

He sold his grapes to other wineries until 1982 when demand for his fruit fell off.  So he decided to make his own wine with his wife, Barbara Kendall, under the label Kendall-Jackson.  His philosophy was to blend together wines from different grapes and vineyards to get the flavors he wanted. That went against the trend of the time of making wine from a single varietal.

This brings us to our Wine Word of the Day: Blending

Blending is the art of mixing different wines together to create a final wine for bottling.  And winemakers will blend wines for a variety of reasons. Hmmm, where should I start?

A winemaker may blend wines to get the color they want.  A classic example is when making Zinfandel wine.  The Zinfandel grape is notorious for making red wine that’s a little lighter in color.  Winemakers, knowing critics and judges are fools for darker reds, will often add a small amount of the inky Petite Sirah wine to their Zin to to make it darker and more opaque.

“Balance” is also a common reason winemakers blend.  They may blend a high alcohol wine with a lower alcohol one to mellow it out.  Or an overly sharp and acidic wine could be blended with a flat wine to make a new wine that’s both smooth and refreshing.

Not all blends are created equal.  In fact, blended wines can be either the most expensive in the world or the cheapest of table wines.  The famous wines from Bordeaux, France are almost always blends, and the 2010 Wine Spectator “Wine of the Year” was a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre.  High caliber blends are carefully crafted in an attempt to create complex flavors and age worthiness.

On the other hand, some blends are made from whatever wine is left over in the cellar or made from unsold product from financially distressed wineries.  The price tag and the taste usually give away these bland blends.

Obviously, Jess figured out the blending deal.  He parlayed his success into a billion-dollar enterprise and is now the 9th largest wine-business in the world. He’s done so well that he also owns a couple of Kentucky Derby Thoroughbreds.  In fact, I think he’s blending those together to create and even faster and more expensive horse. But in those circles, I think it’s called breeding.

Wineries owned by Kendall-Jackson:

Robert Pecota Winery
Byron Estates
Matanzas Creek
La Crema
Carmel Road
Hartford Family Wines
Vérité, Archipel
Chateau Potelle
Freemark Abbey

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