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JFW Trace Ridge, Knights Valley Sonoma County

Another Jackson family from the USA hitting the right note!

Jackson Family Wines.

JFW Trace Ridge, Knights Valley Sonoma County

Forget the fancy footwork and musical gyrations  – Yes, there’s another Jackson family from the USA hitting the right note!

Had the pleasure of meeting Christopher (Chris) and Ariel Jackson of Jackson Family Wines (JFW) recently at a lunch hosted by the ebullient Phil Hude from Armadale Cellars in Melbourne. It was a revelatory eye-opener from a number of perspectives. Firstly I now have a better appreciation of both the size and scope of the JFW global portfolio and an inkling into its modus operandi and philosophy.


Besides North America JFW have wineries in France, Italy, Chile, South Africa and here in Australia.

Secondly the wines I sampled were uniformly impressive from the readily accessible, drink now to the apogee, top end reds which came in snub-nosed, super heavy weight bottles with humongous punts (an obligatory pre-requisite for super premium wines).

I’m a relative novice when it comes to North American wines, however prior to the lunch was aware that JFW helped put contemporary Napa chardonnay on the map, part by accident, part by serendipity and part by assiduous, hard work or as Clint Eastwood would say ‘true grit’. Locally, I knew they had brought the Hickinbotham Clarendon vineyards in McLaren Vale, but beyond that not much more, I had no idea that Yangarra High Sands was part of JFW’s portfolio down under. Perhaps Tasmania will be on JFW’s radar next?

All of which piqued my curiosity and makes the JFW or Kendall Jackson story worth delving into, hopefully with more verve, greater insight and some reflection – in print somewhere – if I can convince an editor somewhere or sometime?

But it was my vinous appetite that was assuaged amid convivial company over a meal of tender, slow-cooked lamb complemented by a melange of vegetables at Jacques Raymond’s L’Hotel Gitan. So to a quick appraisal of some of the JFW wines which hopefully whets your appetite.


Opening the batting were a pair of Stonestreet (Healdsburg, Sonoma County) Chardonnays – a 2013 &’14. Both opened up well with the ‘13’s straw/hay nose, fine fruit, balance, texture and clean crisp acid backbone proving, by consensus, an instant success. WOW factor aside, I found the 2014 more beguiling and of greater depth, complexity and opulence, especially on the back palate, finish and aftertaste.

Both came from slow ripening fruit and at 14.5% ABV have much to offer with bottle age. As Chris put it they were the product of ‘mountains, ridges and hillsides’ and hence an expression of terroir as much as winemaking.

Two down, ten to go and I’m afraid you will have to visit again to savour some ripper reds of which four resonated; namely a spectacular Yangarra High Sands (McLaren Vale) 2006 Grenache, a pair of thought-provoking Cabernets – a Stonestreet Rockfall 2010 and Mount Brave 2012 (and yes, Cabernet invariably exercises the mind like no other).


And last but not least was what American wine writer Jay McInerney would call a ‘Marilyn Monroe’ wine – voluptuous, with beautifully silky, integrated tannins and prodigious length that kept on giving – namely a Bordeaux blend Cardinale 2012 Cabernet with a touch of Merlot and a pinch of Petit Verdot. Even the late Bailey Carrodus of Yarra Yering fame would take to the Cardinale with alacrity!

I’ve refrained from listing the RRP per bottle in the belief that price often unduly influences our appreciation.





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