Kendall-Jackson was founded in 1974 when Jess Jackson, a San Francisco attorney, bought an 80-acre orchard in Lake County and replanted it into a vineyard. His first commercial release was the 1982 Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay which was immediately popular and critically acclaimed. Today the estate includes 10,545 acres and it produces numerous collections of wines. Though still known for its Chardonnay, it also produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and red and white blends. The long-time wine master at the estate is Randy Ullon. This estate is a major producer and Jackson, who died in 2011, went on to purchase other wineries in the region and around the world. Despite being part of a growing winemaking empire, Robert M. Parker Jr. wrote that the quality of the Kendall-Jackson estate wines is very high: “This is certainly an example of bigger being better.”
Mendocino AVA was established in 1984 and amended in 1989. It includes numerous sub-appellations. Mendocino AVA is entirely within Mendocino County, and the AVA is known for its Mediterranean climate. Vintners successfully grow Carignan, Charbono, Grenache, Zinfandel, Petit Sirah and Syrah. In cooler parts of the region Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are also grown. Mendocino County is home to nearly 600 vineyards, and many have been certified organic for decades, thanks to the region’s famous “green and sustainable” approach to agriculture and nearly everything else. Mendocino was named for 16th century explorers, a pair of brothers whose last name was Mendoza. Winemaking, however, didn’t start until the 19th century when some would-be gold miners decided it was more profitable to make wine than to pan for gold. Italian immigrants in the late 19th century continued to establish winemaking ventures.
The Merlot grape is such a deep blue that it is named for the blackbird. It’s an early ripening grape and one of the primary varietals used In Bordeaux. Merlot is also grown in the "International style," which is harvested later to bring out more tannins and body.