Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Kendall-Jackson sources the grapes for this excellent effort from Sonoma (88%) and Napa
(12%). These numbers are only the beginning of this wine's math; their reputations aside,
these two California counties produce a wide variety of grapes. However the further
math—84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, and 2% Petite Verdot—is impressive in that it
qualifies the wine as a Bordeaux-style blend, and this is a sensible thing. Cabernet shines as a
leader so much more than it does as a solo player.
The $25 Grand Reserve is a step up from the company's Vintner's Reserve and yet less expensive than the Highland Estates and Stature lines; yes, huge Kendall-Jackson strives (probably successfully) to offer a wine for most major price points and sophistication levels. The wine is aged 15 months (more math) in 97% French (34% new) and 3% American oak; we can call that one-third new French oak for convenience, which gives the wine some toast and smoke both on the nose and in the mouth, but no real issue of oak abuse. The oak, in other words, works.
The nose of this wine is mainstream black fruit: blackberries, blueberries and cassis. The
cocoa note is no surprise, and there is also some earthy spice: black pepper primarily with a
lesser degree of nutmeg and vanilla. On tasting, the wine is dry, medium bodied, with more
of the black fruit, and perhaps a hint of tobacco and cedar. The 14.5% alcohol level is well
integrated without perceptible heat. The acidity works, the tannins work hard, and yet the
wine—more math—is young and could use a little time off. That said, the finish is satisfying,
and cellaring the wine the year, two or three it wants means you don't get to drink it now.
The ultimate math on this may yield a difficult choice. A bottle now and a few bottles later
may well be the solution.
Bordeaux blends should always be more art than math; the grand tradition is worth following, and worth developing.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman