• Two Thumbs Up
• Aromas of green apple, pear, orange and vanilla. Aggressive flavors of tart green apple, lemon, lime, honey, cinnamon and clove with a lingering background earthiness and creaminess.
What can we say about Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay? Founded by fluke in 1982, the Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay was a monumental success selling tens of millions of cases, defining what chardonnay means in the United States. But all good things must come to an end [sniff]. Rest in peace, Vintner’s Reserve.
Before you get the wrong idea (and before millions of KJ Chard fans start jumping off bridges), Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay has not gone anywhere. Eulogies are a tad premature. But the world of chardonnay is not what it was three decades ago and the Vintner’s Reserve is showing its age. While still wildly successful, it’s not quite as omnipotent as it once was.
After years of saying they really don’t like heavily oaked, slightly sweet wines, today’s $15-a-bottle chardonnay lovers really are looking for something truer to the nature of this noble grape, which is crisply acidic with notes of green apples, pears and tropical fruit.
But just because KJ V.R. chard may be a little long in the tooth, doesn’t mean it can’t reinvent itself. Enter Avant (French for “before,” ostensibly meaning what chardonnay tastes like before it makes its oaky transformation in the barrel). In the next few months, you won’t have to look too far for KJ Avant Chardonnay. A tidal wave of the stuff will be submerging wine lists and retail shelves soon.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Unlike many wine critics, I was never abjectly opposed to Vintner’s Reserve (its ubiquity may have been a bit grating, but you could do a whole lot worse wine-wise). I like Avant. It is indeed much crisper than the V.R. and more chardonnay-centric, although it still retains a hint of vanilla-laced creaminess, perhaps a fitting homage to the wine that started the Chardonnay Revolution.
(Wines are rated on a scale ranging up from thumbs down, one thumb mostly up, one thumb up, two thumbs up, two thumbs way up and Golden Thumb Award. Prices are suggested retail prices as provided by the winery, one of its agents, a local distributor or retailer.)