“There is truth in wine, but you never see it listed in the ingredients on the label” — Josh Stern
I’ll get to that quote later. For now, let’s talk about the wine. More specifically, let’s talk about the winery, Kendal Jackson / Jackson Estates and the wine: their Alisos Hills Syrah. The estate is grand: near the vineyards are rows of walnut trees and areas in which organic produce is grown and used in preparing dishes made in their kitchen.
Sitting outside under a patio umbrella and enjoying a glass while also enjoying the view is a joy anyone experiencing will want to experience again. Problem is most of us don’t visit vineyards. We don’t tour wineries. Problem is, Kendall Jackson, as a brand, is so available it’s become commonplace in our minds and, in the process, devalued. We want something different, something exotic or assumed to be expensive - especially when entertaining - perhaps to impress? And perhaps it’s true that “success breeds contempt.” Yet the brand being as successful as it is speaks to the fact that lots of people are buying it. So is it an issue of image regarding how we project ourselves when discussing the wines we admit to drinking? Gee, you’d think 1976 would have erased all that nonsense. Quality has always been about what’s inside the bottle; not the front label on it.
I’m proposing that we remove that veil of snobbery that we wear in public and let the truth of the marketplace’s private reality be admitted. This is some delicious wine. And that it’s commonly available and at budget friendly prices should be celebrated, not secreted.
|One of the Walnut Trees|
|The "Mizer" with Chef Matthew on the|
patio in Oct. 2014
Syrah is noted for being high in tannins and low in acidity. But with site selection, blending and meticulous vinification by Kendall-Jackson (and six years from vintage), I found the tannins silky and with sufficient acidity to make the wine food friendly and its pairing versatile. In cool months, it begs for beef stew or braised beef. Great with lamb and Osso Bucco, it can also be casually enjoyed with sausage and barbecue or grilled steaks. Enjoy it with smoky blue cheese melted on a hamburger, or alone against an English styled Cheddar.
Inky purple in the glass, the wine gifts aromas that (for me) are strong with blueberry and black plum, then blackberry and cola with spicy hints. Complexity, I find, starts in vineyard selection. And while the wine is 100% Syrah, grapes are selected from special blocks
within two of their many estate vineyards: (1) In
the upper Southeast corner and a separate Southwest facing bench of the Barham
vineyard having mixed soil of clay, sandy loam and gravel. Clay brings density and structure to the
grapes. The lightness balancing this is
from the very sandy soil of (2) the upper Northeast beach corner of the Neely
Vineyard. These cool coastal vineyards of Santa Barbara are dotted with warmer blocks
that hold heat better than others – ideal for Syrah. Alisos Hills is a blend of those special
blocks. Grapes from these two vineyards
grow at elevations of 700 to 1100 feet from “mountain” tops, ridges, hillsides
and raised bench land.
|Alisos in the Glass|
Syrah is noted for being high in tannins and low in acidity. But with site selection, blending and meticulous vinification by Kendall-Jackson (and six years from vintage), I found the tannins silky and with sufficient acidity to make the wine food friendly and its pairing versatile. In cool months, it begs for beef stew or braised beef. Great with lamb and Osso Bucco, it can also be casually enjoyed with sausage and barbeque or grilled steaks. Enjoy it with smoky blue cheese melted on a hamburger, or alone against an English styled Cheddar.
|Loin Lamb Chops, Baby Broccoli,|
Fresh Herbs and Alisos
|Just as good with Split Peas soup with|
diced bits of smoked Ham Shanks
On the palate, the wine is smooth and luscious and super “malo-mellow”. Medium plus bodied but rich and palate coating enough to be considered full. Black cherry, vanilla, dark chocolate; hints of blackberry and currant and baking spice and herb notes. Dry, but fruit rich, yet restrained and in balance, its only threat is its roundness and easy drinking quality which makes it too easy to enjoy.
And finally, to that quote: As only one among a very few wineries, Kendall-Jackson makes a practice of providing information about each wine on its back label. Imagine! No stories about why a wine is named after a neighbor’s pet bird or other similar nonsense. Useful information. Respectful of the process, as we should be of this wine.
|The Back Label of their Los Robles|
|Back Label of 2013 Alisos|
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Kendall-Jackson Vineyard Estates https://www.kj.com/
Varietal: Syrah, 100%
Source: Los Alamos, Santa Barbara County
Appellation: Santa Barbara County
Vineyards: Barham and Neely
Elevation: 700-1100 Feet
Aging: 13 Months, 88% French Oak (34%) New 1
TA: 0.57 g/100ml
ARP: $37.00 U.S.
Current Vintage: 2019
1 Changes are made as needed for vintage. 2016, for example, was 11 Months, 100% French and 28% new.
Note: This wine was previously labeled as “Highland Estates.” Names are changed to confuse the innocent,
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