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2018 BEST Tasting Room: Kendall Jackson Wine Estate and Gardens

Author: Bo Kearns
May, 2018 Issue

“Our team is devoted to bringing the farm-to-table story to life for visitors. There are engaging, interactive experiences, thoughtful food pairings and, of course, delicious wines.”—Brad Ingram, estate director

At the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens in Fulton, visitors walk from the parking area along a path bordered with bright blue and white flowers, passing through a courtyard and the soothing sounds of a bubbling fountain. And on entering the stately chateau, they’re greeted by a friendly, knowledgeable tasting room staff.  Many who visit are familiar with Kendall-Jackson’s Vintner’s Reserve, the most popular Chardonnay in America. They’re surprised to discover the Jackson Estate wines, which are limited production made from grapes grown in select California coastal vineyards, many of which and are only available at the winery or online. 

“What sets Kendall-Jackson apart is our commitment to wine and food education,” says Brad Ingram, estate director. “Our team is devoted to bringing the farm-to-table story to life for visitors. There are engaging, interactive experiences, thoughtful food pairings and, of course, delicious wines.”

Kendall-Jackson’s tasting room is unique in that, in addition to wine, there’s also a wine and food pairing available with the same frequency and convenience of a restaurant. The pairings, at $55 per person, are served from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily. On beautiful sunny days, guests can sit on the patio and sample five wines along with sumptuous dishes prepared by Executive Chef Justin Wangler and his culinary team. Wangler previously worked at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa as well as several restaurants, and has won multiple gold medals. Another favorite offering is the combination of chocolate truffles and other decadent desserts paired with four wines.

In keeping with Kendall-Jackson’s commitment to education, there’s a small demonstration vineyard planted with 27 winegrape varieties. In season, the proliferation of large green leaves, and the reds, greens and dark purples of the grapes, simulates an artist painting. It’s the perfect place to sample and compare the different grape varietals. In the sensory garden, guests can enjoy a tour and then gather around a table within a Victorian-style cupola. They experience the subtle nuances of a selection of wines— Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and a Cabernet Sauvignon. “With the Sauvignon Blanc we swirl, sniff, sip and observe hints of grapefruit or lemon balm or lemon verbena on the palate,” says Bryan Morrell, tasting room supervisor. “And on sampling the actual fruit or herb grown in the garden, it’s an “aha” moment. It’s a similar experience with the other wines.” 

From May through October during the monthly farm-to-table dinner series, guests dine under the stars in the approximately 4-acre culinary garden. At a shared table, wine experts, culinary staff and the master culinary gardener host the event. The family-style dinner can include fresh-caught salmon, lamb, Kurobota pork, American Wagyu beef or Liberty duck. The main dish is served together with the day’s culinary garden harvest.  The farm-to-table dinner series sells out well in advance.

“I enjoy working at Kendall-Jackson,” says Morrell. “I get to meet interesting people from all over the world. Being here is a dream for many of them. And after experiencing our special estate wines and food pairings, they can hardly wait to come back.”




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