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2014 BEST Wine Tasting Room: Kendall-Jackson Winery

Author: Alexandra Russell
May, 2014 Issue

“The staff is always innovating new culinary concepts in the kitchen.” —Tyler Plant

Fabulous wine, gourmet food options, beautiful grounds and a reputation for first-class hospitality: Is it any wonder Kendall-Jackson Winery was voted BEST Wine Tasting Room in the 2014 NorthBay biz Readers Poll?
Located on Fulton Road not far from Highway 101, the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Garden is an elegant-yet-welcoming destination for wine lovers from near and far. “About 30 percent of our traffic is from Northern California, and 70 percent is from out of state,” says Tyler Plant, director of direct-to-consumer operations for the family-owned winery. Depending on the time of year, that means 400 to 700 visitors weekly. It’s a good thing KJ offers so many options for enjoying and learning about its wines.
There are multiple seated wine and food pairing experiences, each recreated seasonally by Executive Chef Justin Wangler and his team, as well as tours of the estate gardens. In the tasting room or on the adjacent patio, choices include a reserve food and wine pairing, as well as pairings that focus on cheese and desserts. “The staff is always innovating new culinary concepts in the kitchen, but perennial favorites include pairings that highlight the seasonal produce from the gardens,” says Plant. Two popular pairings are the pork belly sliders with Syrah barbecue sauce paired with Kendall-Jackson’s Los Alisos Hills Syrah, and caramel corn served with Kendall-Jackson Late Harvest Chardonnay.
The recently renovated gardens are available for guided tours April through October at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., and year-round for self-guided tours. Some spaces are educational in nature (such as the international cuisine, vegetable trial, culinary herb and edible flowers gardens), while some are planted solely for beauty (like the entry, called “blooms of Bressingham,” and seasonal gardens). A special time of year to see the garden is in June or July, says Plant, when most varieties of heirloom tomatoes are at their peak, right before they’re picked for the annual Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival in September.
The Red Wine Sensory Garden and White Wine Sensory Garden are each divided to represent a varietal or group of varietals. Plantings vary seasonally, but may include Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Sangiovese and Italian red varietals, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Viognier. Each wine varietal is represented by both descriptors (plants that mimic the scents and/or flavors found in the wine) and affinities (plants that pair well with the wine). Pinot Noir, for example, could be represented by blueberry, cherry, plum, raspberry, strawberry, tomato, violets and cinnamon (descriptors), as well as figs, squash, pumpkin, leeks, beets, carrots, fennel, coriander and ginger (affinities). And yes, wine tasting is part of the garden tour. The KJ grounds and gardens are family- and pet-friendly—OK, they’re just downright friendly.
“Thank you to all of our customers who voted for us as the BEST Wine Tasting Room,” says Plant. “We’re very honored and will continue to work hard to make your experience at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate and Gardens a superb one!”



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