& … “Jack London Wines“
This property was founded in 1970 by John Sheela and her two brothers Mike and Marty. It was created on the base of an old winery founded in 1906 by an Italian immigrant (Tuscany).
Kenwood Winery is located near the Kenwood city in Sonoma. This small town is famous for the fact that the vast majority of wine estates therein were founded by Italian immigrants in the early 20th century.
Early 1970 the property was limited to producing wines from Chardonnay, Pinot Black and Sauvignon. Today it offers nearly two dozen wines.
“The Jack London Ranch“
In 1860, newly arrived from Hungary, Louis Csomortanyi and Agoston Haraszthy created one of the first vineyards in California (The first was the vineyard of Tolosa Mission, much further south). A vineyard which was extended with time over 40 hectares.
In 1903, following the success of his book ” The Call of the Wild” Jack London came to live in California, and more specifically in Sonoma. In 1905 during a visit to Kenwood he discovered this property and fell in love with it. A year later he decided to buy the property and made it his living place.
It is also in this little wooden house, perfect stereotype of the house trappers, woodsmen and other gold diggers were Jack London later wrote the greater part of his works.
Having a fertile imagination, when we got there (Kenwood winery) and to the building, my mind wondered about scenes of gold rush and other scenes from the movie “White Fang” (adapted from the work of Jack London). Seeing the pictures I think you can understand why!
Well! Let´s return to our story!
In 1906 California experienced the largest earthquake since the discovery of the United States. This earthquake was so large that it destroyed 80% of the city of San Francisco and killed nearly 3,000 people. It was so intense that it was felt in the outskirts of Las Vegas that is more than 900km away. The earthquake with a magnitude of 8.2 on the Richter scale damaged significantly the vineyard.
Decades later, in 1972, Irving Shepard, a descendant of Jack London restored and replanted the vineyard. Four years later, he entered into a partnership with the neighboring vineyard of Kenwood Vineyards to buy grapes. Since then and until today the entire harvest vineyard Jack London is sold under the label “Kenwood Vineyards” but the subject of a distinct vintage wines from the vineyards of Kenwood. Currently the collection “Jack London wines” includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel that.
What are you looking when you produce Kenwood wines every year? (Asked to Mark Stopich, Winemaker of the property)
Foremost diversity. California winemakers regularly seek to cultivate new varieties (for new vineyards). Including planting many Italian varietals, which can be understood because of the strong presence of Italian immigrants in this village.
Specifically they are looking for four things. A non homogenized wine, a nectar that reflects local volcanic rock and the men who work, an unsaturated wine in mostly wooded land to associate with good variety (eg Merlot on the right bank of the Russian River , pinot noir on the rich left).
- Soil: volcanic rock, lava red volcanic loam. Little part of clay
- Production: 20 wines (red, white, rosé, sweet)
- Farming practice “sustainable agriculture.” Using compost, do not use external “input” products.
- Aging: 80% French oak barrels, the rest in American oak barrels and stainless steel barrel. Chardonnay is 8 months in oak barrels, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel 10 months 18 months.
- Grapes used: Sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, pinot noir, zinfandel red and white Moscato, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot …
Wine Anecdote: Kenwood Winery, art label
Each year, since 1975 Kenwood Winery gives the task to an artist (or their descendants) to design the label of their Cabernet. Artists can be local or foreign. You can find labels and signed: Vincent Van Gogh, Rolph Scarlett, Jim Koss, Paul Klee or Joan Miro.
Personally my favorite was the 1978 “Inscape Charles Mingus III.“
You can find the entire collection here.
A glass of wine? Or two? Or more? (2012, September)
- Kenwood Winery – 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (Sonoma County): Fruity aromas of sweet citrus, white flowers, apricot, grapefruit, tropical fruit. Fresh and woody.
To associate with a pad Baked Turbot with Bay Leaves.
- Kenwood Winery – Chardonnay 2011 (Sonoma County) (85% Russian River and 15% Sonoma): A well-balanced wine that develops notes of grapefruit, papaya and green apples. A fresh nectar, mineral that develops final few notes of brioche.
To accompany a recipe of Tandoori chicken.
- Kenwood Winery – Pinot Noir 2010 (Russian River Valley): A well done nectar, well balanced. It develops notes of spice, fleshy red fruits (especially strawberries), associated with toasty vanilla. With a little bitter finish. The tannins are well made but still a bit young.
To drink along with a Lacquered duck with grilled figs.
- Kenwood Winery – Zacchera Moscato 2011 (California): A “sweet wine” sweet notes of pineapple, apricot, nectarine and melon combined with floral notes. A pleasant wine because it does not overload the palace of sugar.
Notice to lovers! Open the bottle with a Tarte Tatin.
- Kenwood Winery – Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Sonoma County): A nectar with fruity aromas of black fruit (cassis) and red (strawberry, cherry) with notes of spices and green peppers. Little hint of chocolate in the end.
For pairing this wine and I suggest a cheese fondue.
- Kenwood Winery – Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Sonoma County): A rounded wine, fleshy, with a good structure. It reveals aromas of blackberry, raspberry and redcurrant associated, in the end, with notes of tobacco and cocoa.
To drink with Wok-fried duck with vegetables and sesame.
- Kenwood Winery – Zinfandel 2009 (Sonoma County): A nectar with aromas of woods, raspberry, blackberry and violet. In the end it develops notes of licorice and spice (pepper).
To open with a Grilled Eggplant Pizza.
Gastronomic advice: If you’re in the neighborhood I recommend the Café Citti. A piece of Italy nestled deep in California. You will find a warm and friendly atmosphere. A generous kitchen of northern Italy (Tuscany), that uses fresh products for their cuisine. A small restaurant founded more than 20 years ago, and the Linda Luca Citti, family still own the place. (To tell you the truth I liked this place so much we went there 3 times in 4 days ….).
The restaurant website
An article on it.
Thanks to Mark Stopich (Winemaker) and his team for hosting.
Choukroun Chicheportiche Jonathan
9592 Sonoma Highway
CA 95452, United States
nb: Photos (humor) to the right were taken in the boutique Winery.