Kendall-Jackson chardonnay review

18 10 2010

Guess what!!?  In this review, we kick off a feature:  California chardonnay week!

Why?   Because I couldn’t find a hammer to smash myself in the face with?  No, I’m doing this because (1) California chardonnays are incredibly popular, and (2) I dislike them so much, that if I can recommend even one with a straight face, it’s likely to be really damn good.

Our first is the big dog, the mac-daddy: Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve from 2008, which sells for $11.  It’s a big label in the wine world, and therefore a little controversial.  See various opinions:

  • here (“it tastes like fruit juice mixed with oak essence and some vodka” … “I will not finish the bottle”)
  • here (“rarely taken seriously”)
  • here (“yellow colored” … “this chard is extremely popular for a reason”)
  • here (“my favorite chardonnay under $12”) and
  • here (“one of my favorite white wines”).

How does it taste?   Not so great.  But not terrible.  The first word I wrote when tasting this medium-bodied yellow fluid:  “chemicals.”  It’s oaky, and buttery, but not excessively so.  It has strong sweetness with vanilla, pear and melon, and medium acidity with citrusy something-or-other.  The overall message is:  extremely medium.  If I needed a good California chardonnay, I’d definitely spend the extra bucks and get William Hill, which I reviewed right here.

Why is KJ one of the best selling wines in the universe?  I don’t know.  Perhaps Oprah recommended it?  Or perhaps your Wineguider is screwed up, and this is really great wine?  We’ll let the comments sort this out.  So, our first entry in this week’s California chardonnay face-smashing celebration is too medium and too chemical-ish and thus is:

Not recommended.




12 responses

18 10 2010

You had me at “hammer to smash my face with.” I think that Kendall Jackson is just one of those wines that makes people feel secure. They know it’s not Cold Duck or Boone’s Farm and it’s affordable…and they saw someone else order it once. But no oak chips, eh? 😉 Thanks for the fun review.

9 11 2010

I usually like Kendall Jackson buy I find the 2008 bottles I just bought terrible. I’m wondering if it is the year. Just poured a bottle down the drain.

9 11 2010

Interesting – I will try it again when the 2009s come out. It definitely used to have credibility. As for disliking the 2008, you and I have some company: the Portland Wine Review.

18 10 2010
That Girl

Chemicals? Please say more about wine and chemicals.

Enjoyable review, Wineguider. I agree with you and with the previous poster. California Chards are comfortable….because they are like a four year old’s woubie: soft, slightly messy and relate-able. After all, who hasn’t been five? Ever try to take a woubie away from a five year old? Good luck! For this reason, California Chards will remain popular. 🙂

19 10 2010

Chemicals: I never taste them in wine, except when I am drinking California chardonnay. Perhaps this is the result of the famous “malolactic fermentation” process used in these wines, where malic acid is converted to lactic acid during fermentation to soften the very “green apple” tendency of this grape, producing more buttery texture and taste. Or, maybe there’s a Texaco plant nearby, I dunno. See

19 10 2010

I agree expand on the chemical nature of the wine.

19 10 2010

I gave this a shot above, but happy to expand. I’m not making any accusations about added chemicals in any wine, but I am highlighting that some California chardonnays have certain flavors that strike me as altered, unnatural, non-organic, weird, non-wine-like, jacked-up… whatever word you like. It’s just a taste that I get, and I don’t get it with other grapes or regions. It’s the main reason that my palate can’t warm up to many of these huge-selling wines.

19 10 2010

I have a feeling I am going to be a very smart, and some days sarcastic, wine connoisseur now that I’ve found your blog. Thank you for sharing your notes!

30 04 2011

This is the shit my Mother drinks and its shit. I convinced her if she wants to drink crap wine that is over priced, she might as well try barefoot. And really what she needs to do is step to a sav blanc because as the writer said, the chemical taste, actually reminds me of kim crawford.

9 07 2011
Tom Ternus

Somehow I see the preceeding comments as feeding on each other. I started on KJ Chard in the early 90’s and found it to be very enjoyable although somewhat unpredictable from year to year. Then, somewhere along the line it’s characteristics changed – dropped in quality, but became very predictable (manufactured?). I proceeded to try a variety of California chards of which were pricier than KJ), but none were pleasing and whenever I came back to KJ I asked myself why I left. It may be treated with chemicals, it may be manufactured, but I consider it better than most in its price range and it is totally predictable from year to year. I resent the notion that people who enjoy KJ have been fooled by advertising or are Oprah groopies. I think most of us like it because it appeals to our tastes, it is affordable and it is predictable.

14 08 2011
Lou Ann Schafer

I order KJ Chardonnay when I want a predictably acceptable wine for dinner. My favorite from KJ however is the Alisos Hills Viognier. Almost impossible to come by however since it can only be purchased directly from KJ and their website is a horrendous experience.

8 10 2015
Marco Pix

The allure of KJ is that it is an acceptable wine that is served virtually everywhere. I’ve been in restaurants that range from the $10 steak to the $100. KJ is there. It’s featured in a ton of middle market eateries like Olive Garden and Lone Star and is usually the “best” chard on their wine list. Medals should be given not to the vintner but to the distribution agent who set that up.
It’s odd that I saw this write up as I’m sipping a KJ right now. I went to the wine shop and grabbed several bottles, one of which was a KJ. I don’t know why…I just did.It was an automatic choice even though, like you, I don’t really find it all that great. Maybe they’ve got some subliminal thing going
…and that chemical taste…oh yeah. After it hits the back of the tongue before the swallow…there it is.

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