When I researched recently to find a winery with nice gardens, Kendall-Jackson popped up everywhere…and now I know why.
We went at 11:00 a.m. on Labor Day hoping to catch the garden tour. We expected a quick tour and maybe a few plant ID’s. Wow, were we wrong! Then, since we were the only two there, I thought maybe they’d tell us to wait for the next tour….but Heather, the tour guide for this walk, was happy to take just the two of us. First we were given some lovely Rose to taste. That was a nice surprise followed by a complete history of the winery, incredible wine and plant information and four more tastings! What an interesting and fun way to spend a morning!
Heading out for our tour we heard a little about the building itself and the surrounding vineyards…it’s all so beautiful!
We learned about Jess Jackson, the winery founder. He had a fascinating life and his children carry on his tradition today. He kept the first bottle of each of his first thirty seasons which are beautifully displayed in the entry.
The entry to the demonstration vineyard is flanked by bricks showing those who supported Kendall-Jackson wines right from the beginning…
I’ve always wondered why some grape vines seem to be pruned into two tiers so I was interested when Heather explained it is to allow more sun to reach the fruit, which has an effect the flavor. There are 25 vines in this section and visitors are encourage to taste!
We also learned that kendall-Jackson ages all their wine in 55 gallon oak barrels. (When you take the tour be sure to ask how Jess Jackson figured out a way to get all the oak barrels he needed from France…it’s a great story!) While citrus or melon flavors in wine come from the soil, chocolate or smokey flavors come from the oak so the barrels are important!
I had no idea how much work goes into making a fine wine. They have monitors to check how much sun hits the fruit and bat houses to house bats so they can fly out at night and devour insects. Then there are the owl houses so owls can live there and take care of rodents…and that’s all before a grape is picked!
We also learned grape vine roots can go down 40 feet looking for water. They dry farm at KJ which means the grapes do not receive irrigation. In fact, they haven’t been watered during the entire drought. If the drought goes on much longer though it could become a problem since the harvest is already down 25%. Though the vines are lazy and would love lots of water and great soil… apparently stress is part of what produces a great grape!
Entering the garden area is beautiful…
We rested by a shady gazebo, one of two in the garden, and tasted another wine before entering the sensory and vegetable/flower gardens.
Smelling scented leaves and then sipping wine helped us discern flavors we didn’t know were there! Signs guide the garden wanderer to select the right wine for the right food…Did you know sage and Pinot go together well and corn enhances Chardonnay?
Our first glimpse of the huge garden, tended by Tucker Taylor, formerly of the French Laundry in Napa, was a jaw dropper! This garden is not just tidy, it’s manicured. Rows are neat and even, pathways are covered in straw…I don’t think we even got any dust on our shoes! Oh I love a tidy garden! The plants are lush and healthy from the mature red beans to the new baby lettuce plants.
The flower gardens run along the sides and they are gorgeous!
In the center of the garden sits a huge “hops house” planted all around with hops. I’d never seen them growing and they are quite interesting…
Off to the side of the garden area is a huge area full of heirloom tomatoes growing in preparation for the 19th Annual Tomato Festival to be held Sept. 26th.
The tour ends at the back of their building where we were invited to sit in the shade while Heather went to get us a lovely treat! We had Late Harvest Orange Muscat dessert wine (my new favorite!) along with some caramel corn the chef made…it was amazing!
Sitting on their elegant patio I just had to capture a few more images….enjoy…
If you would like to be educated about wine, if you love a beautiful garden and if you’d love to feel pampered and taste some truly wonderful wine head over to Kendall-Jackson! The garden tour is available daily at 11:00 am, 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm.
For more information go to : http://www.kj.com/the-wine-estate-gardens
*Cost is $25.00 per person