Kenwood 3-way red action – Review

By Duane Pemberton
Winery website:

Kenwood Vineyards is one of the most iconic producers in the greater Sonoma region of California. It’d been a staple, go-to-brand for millions of red wine drinkers from all over the world. There’s no doubt that it has played a large role in contributing to California’s success as a premium wine producing state.

While I’m aware there is a certain perception of it being only a “grocery store brand” – I can tell you that after tasting through these three Jack London wines, Kenwood has really stepped up it’s game in making food-friendly wines.

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data:

  • Composition: 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot
  • Appellation: Sonoma Valley
  • Harvest Date: 2007
  • Acid: 6.6
  • pH: 3.65
  • Aging: 25 months in 65% French oak and 35% American oak barrels
  • Alcohol: 14.5%
  • Price: $35

Nose: Red clay-laced cherries, currant, black licorice, pipe tobacco, wet cedar and forest floor with crimini mushroom.

Taste: Nice red-fruit component coming through for me in the way of cherry, raspberry and some nice strawberry action as well. Bright acids and good tannin structure make this a very likable cab – it begs for a grilled steak or burger with blue cheese. The overall mouthfeel isn’t as “lucious” as I know many fans of California cabs look for but personaly, I feel it’s a step in the right direction in that the oak isn’t overpowering the fruit and it lets it maintain a more food-friendly structure to it.

2008 Merlot – W.E.P. Rating: 95%

Technical Data:

  • 99% Merlot 1% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Appellation: Sonoma Valley – 100% Jack London Vineyard
  • Acid: 6.30
  • pH: 3.73
  • Aging: 21 months in French and American oak barrels
  • Alcohol: 13.5%
  • Price: $22
Nose: Currant, blackberry, licorice, plums, tar, milk chocolate, casis and peppercorns.

Taste: Layers of dark chocolate, black licorice, plum sauce, blackberry compot, black pepper and tar-bubble. Some vanilla notes on the mid-palate but not overkill at all – rather laid-back quite nicely in fact. The finish lingers well with good acidity, fruit and tannin – a solid merlot, overall.

2009 Zinfandel – W.E.P. Rating: 80%

Technical Data:

  • Composition: 94% Zinfandel, 4% Syrah, 2% Petite Sirah
  • Appellation: Sonoma Valley
  • Region: Harvested from the historic Jack London Vineyard located on the west side of Sonoma Valley on Sonoma Mountain
  • Aging:  19 months in French and American oak barrels
  • Alcohol: 14.5
  • Production: 5299
  • Tasting Notes: Cherry, Fig, Vanillin, Pepper
  • Acidity: 6.30
  • pH: 3.65
  • Price: $25

Nose: Rose hips, raspberry, peppercorns, milk-chocolate, tobacco, cherry 7-up, leather and vanilla.

Taste: Dried cran-raspberry, white pepper, leather, spiced bubble-gum, twizzlers and cocoa. Nice spiced fruit-forward action with a mid-palate mouthfeel that has notes of cranberry, spice and braeburn apples. The finish is good but not stellar – overall a decent Zin that goes well with fajita’s and other mexican-inspired foods.

If you’re an ongoing fan of Kenwood then these wines shouldn’t disappoint you and if you’re on the outskirts – kind of dismissing them as a mainstream brand then I’d high encourage you to revisit them.