Saturday, July 20, 2013

Kenwood Winery: Rich Cabernets from the Sonoma Valley

I last wrote about sipping Syrah in El Dorado County as an off-the-beaten-path kind of experience. Well, sipping Cabernet at Kenwood in the Sonoma Valley may be the epitome of being on the beaten path.

It was hot and dry at Kenwood, but these old vines seemed to love it. 
Located right off Highway 12 in the town of Kenwood, the winery of the same name is a high-traffic kind of place. On a recent Saturday afternoon, the parking lot was packed with cars baking in the sun and tourists with pleasantly buzzed smiles. The surrounding area is, of course, beautiful: knotted and gnarly old vines clinging to the earth, perfectly cropped rows of as far as you can see, hills rising up on both sides of the long valley.

The Kenwood tasting room is housed in an old barn-like building that’s rustic on the outside and manicured on the inside. The tasting room is loaded with all the usual wine-related knick-knacks for sale (and then some). They sell enough T-shirts and jackets that they could clothe a few Kenwood Winery softball teams. To taste wines, you buy a $5 wooden token from a counter and then cash it in for five sips from the bar at the other end of the building. When I asked for two tokens so I could taste ten wines — I wasn’t driving — the woman behind the counter stared at me like I had an upside-down face.

I don’t have extensive experience with Kenwood’s wines, but I’ve enjoyed several vintages of the Jack London Cabernet Sauvignon in the past, and perhaps the fond memory of those bottles is why I chose to visit Kenwood instead of some others nearby (St. Francis, Chateau St. Jean, Ledson). I was also excited to taste several vintages of Kenwood’s Artist Series Cabernet, a wine I’ve never tried before. Turns out, the Artist Series Cabs were definitely the highlights of the tasting. They’re beautiful wines (by far the most expensive), although I think I’d prefer them with some more age.

Here are some thoughts on the wines…

2011 Kenwood Chardonnay Reserve Russian River Valley - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley ($25)
Aromas of buttered pear, hazelnut and toast. On the palate, medium acid combines with lemon zest and rich pear fruit. Notes of hazelnut and toasted almonds. Rich, but also showing some verve. (87 points)

2010 Kenwood Gewürztraminer - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley ($14)
The nose shows lychee, sugar cane and some nice spicy and herbal notes. On the palate, this wine is semi-dry with lots of white peach and nutty flavors. The lower acid and somewhat flat mouthfeel keep me from getting too excited about this wine, but it’s OK. (84 points)

2011 Kenwood Pinot Noir - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley ($20)
Roses, cherry sauce and spice on the nose. Juicy, sweet red fruit on the palate with some serious oak. Medium tannins and acid. Overall, this is pleasant, but not very memorable. (85 points)

2011 Kenwood Pinot Noir Reserve - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley ($25)
On the nose, I get a lot of toast, nuts and rich strawberry jam. On the palate, really jammy, like cherries and raspberries. Easy tannins, a decent amount of toast and hazelnut. Pretty basic stuff but a decent Pinot for $25. (86 points)

2009 Kenwood Syrah Jack London Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley ($20)
Aromas of blackberry and raspberries, along with some pepper and savory tones. Medium-bodied and plush on the palate with fine tannins and medium acid. Nice notes of blackberries and plums, along with some meaty, peppery aspects. 95% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. (87 points)

2010 Kenwood Cabernet Sauvignon Jack London Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley ($35)
A really solid Jack London Cabernet, but I think this needs some time in the cellar before it shows its best. Aromas of berries, currants, roses and green pepper. Firm tannins, medium acid, with lots of currant and black cherry fruit. Savory meat and earth tones provide complexity. Very nice and full, but I’d decant if drinking in the near term. Otherwise, this could reward cellaring for four or five years. But I tend to like the Jack London Cab with some age on it. Includes 3% Merlot. (90 points)

2008 Kenwood Cabernet Sauvignon Artist Series - California, Sonoma County ($75)
Smells jammy and rich on the nose, with sweet raspberries and plums. Lovely nose. Full and packed with plum, cherry compote and fig. Silky tannins along with creamy vanilla and tempered toast. Rich but balanced, all that I love about Sonoma Cabernet. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. (90 points)

2007 Kenwood Cabernet Sauvignon Artist Series - California, Sonoma County ($75)
What a gorgeous nose: sweet blackberry and plum, earth, hazelnut and vanilla bean. Silky and pure on the palate, with fig, raspberry preserves and plums. Notes of vanilla, cedar and tobacco. I’d love to try this again in three or four years. 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec and 3% Merlot. (91 points)

2006 Kenwood Cabernet Sauvignon Artist Series - California, Sonoma County ($75)
Another awesome vintage, maybe my favorite between the three I tasted. Nose of cassis, fig and charcoal. Like velvet on the palate, with roasted plums, fig and black cherries. Notes of charcoal, tobacco leaf and mineral match the fruit wonderfully. It seems ready to drink yet capable of more development in the cellar. 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec, 7% Cabernet Franc and 6% Petit Verdot. (91+ points)

I’d recommend this tasting room to wine tourists in the area, although be prepared for a crowd. (Or perhaps try to visit on a weekday?) If you’re hungry afterward, there’s a wonderful Italian restaurant called Café Citti that’s located a minute north on Highway 12. Delicious pasta, a nice mix of salads, reasonably-priced daily specials, a homey atmosphere, Pliny the Elder on tap — what’s not to love?

See you in Sonoma...

1 comment:

  1. Thats really a great blog which which i had ever read and give a suitable info about Sonoma County Vineyards for Sale.I would like to thanks to share such a great blog with us and want to continue with your blog.................