"Great wines come from vineyards with great views." It's a phrase you'll likely hear repeated if you spend any significant amount of time with Randy Ullom, veteran winemaster and Chief Operating Officer of Kendall-Jackson Vineyards and Winery. Of course, when you're looking down at the sprawling patchwork quilt of vineyards that cover the Alexander Valley's rolling slopes, a glass of the winery's finest in your hand, it's not exactly a tough sell.
Still, there is a lot more than stunning views to credit with the caliber of wines being produced under the Jackson Family umbrella. A passionate, tight-knit network of winemakers and employees, for one. But also an overarching small winery mentality that has resulted in wines produced with an acute attention to detail and individuality — not an insignificant feat when you consider the size of the Jackson Family umbrella. Aside from the well-known Kendall-Jackson label (which is represented by an impressive five tiers of brands, no less), other properties include Stonestreet, Arrowood, and Matanzas Creek.
Between them you'll find 100-percent chardonnays that aren't covered up with oak, food-friendly sauvignon blancs, big cabernets with round, lush tannins, and pinot noirs rich with dark fruit flavors, just to name a few. There's even a superb merlot on the roster that aims to keep naysayers quiet (thank you, Matanzas Creek).
But perhaps some of the most surprising finds at Jackson Family Wines are the side projects that have stemmed from its dedication to sustainability. A newly planted truffle orchard, for example. Or a boutique grape-seed oil and flour business. We got a behind-the-scenes look at all of this and more on a recent tour of the renowned Sonoma winery's properties.