Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2005
Sourced two-thirds in Santa Barbara and one-third in Monterrey County, Kendall-Jackson's
Grand Reserve Chardonnay comes in as drier than previous vintages. The Grand Reserve is
K-J's second-tier offering among its better Chardonnays, and at $15, brings some real
quality-to-price ratio to the table.
Just as the Grand Reserve modifies the tendency to associate Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay with a “higher-than-purists-will-accept” level of residual sugar, the wine also pushes aside the “over-oaked” moniker. The barrel-fermented Chardonnay is aged on its lees in mostly French oak, only one-quarter new. It is clear these people have captured the oak demon, tamed it, engineered it and otherwise combined art and science to get the most out of the stuff. We knew it could be done.
The wine brings a nice combination of citrus and tropical fruit (soft pineapple and cantaloupe) to the nose, but it also pleasantly surprises with an aroma of ripe apples. The aromatic intensity is notable; you don't have to stick your nose into the wine. I feel a good Chardonnay should allow you to enjoy the aroma on a stand-alone basis, and not just as a starter for the palate; this wine accomplishes this. The citrus is lemon to be sure, but on reflection you also get a very warm orange that melds nicely with the apple, along with hints of spice and toast.
The fruit sustains itself on the palate even though the wine brings only a medium level of
acidity. It is crisp enough, but the key facet in the mouth is its creaminess, undoubtedly a
function of the lees aging. The spice and vanilla toast from the nose come out a bit more
strongly on the palate, and they persevere through to a finish that although a little forceful is
refreshing and pleasant. This is a wine that commits to a definite direction, but it is a
direction nearly all wine fanciers can appreciate. At the price, this Chardonnay is poised to do
yeoman work for those looking to buy more than one bottle at a time.
Verdict: A lot from the grape
Chardonnay—yet one more time—can be a burden or a delight, but remember similar statements are made about love.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman