Battle of Sonoma Cab’s: Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve vs. Rodney Strong

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Battle of Sonoma County Cab’s: 2008 Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve  vs.  2009 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon

Somehow this Cab “event” just happened over the last week. Originally I was going to write about these in separate posts but realized, as the empty bottles kept staring at me on my desk, that not only had we drank two Cabernet Sauvignon’s back to back [not on same day] but they were both from California’s Sonoma County.

Although I did buy both at a grocery store [Winn-Dixie] and because I realize many if not most grocers do not sell $20.00-$30.00 bottles of wine I have decided not to classify them as such for this post.  As usually happens lately I was attracted to both wines because of their pricing. Not their retail price which runs from close to $20.00 for the Rodney Strong and $28.00 for the Kendall Jackson but their SALE prices.  When I have the opportunity to drink $30.00 bottles of wine @ close to 50% off you bet they get my attention. Heck it actually makes my mouth water if I am being honest. Now if only I could find some $70.00+ wines on sale 75% off… I can dream can’t I?

Notes from the tastings:

2008 Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve  Dark purple almost black in color. On the nose; a very rich overall aroma, very appealing. Noted; vanilla, cedar, tobacco, spices as it opened with berry [casis] coming through. Minerality [clay soil?], leather and mocha were also detected as the wine opened. Tasting added dark fruit [plum, fig] along with black pepper.

2009 Rodney Strong  Purple dark garnet in color. Aroma; abundant.  Interestingly this wine was thought to be a Zinfandel upon decanting by a fellow drinker. On the nose we detected; caramel/molasses, wood [cedar], vanilla, tobacco, pepper, dark fruit [currant], and raisins [dried fruit]. Tasting added an earthy minerality, mushrooms, anise, chocolate with a lingering finish and the wine becoming more tannic as it opened instead of the usual reverse. I would better describe it as a long tannic finish.

Rating tidbits found: Wine Enthusiast rates the Rodney Strong at 87 and the KJ at 90 points. Wine Spectator and their vintage chart rates the 2008 Sonoma vintage at 86 with a Hold suggestion for drinkability and the 2009 vintage although not finalized is estimated to be in the 83-86 range. I found this information after drinking the wines,  I do enjoy researching my wines but prefer to not look too deeply into the ratings until I have my say 🙂 The WS vintage chart ratings seem a bit low to me but that could just be due to the saturation of the market with marketing campaigns quoting 90 POINTS! or higher from all types of sources out there. That said, if any organization out there wants to quote my rating on a wine you know how to reach me LOL.

My opinion on these two wines is close to the Wine Enthusiast rating.  The Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve was bold and consistent throughout the evening, delicious. Something interesting happened with the Rodney Strong. It was incredible out of the bottle and by itself but as soon as we paired it with food [camembert & goat cheese to start with mushroom pesto pizza later] the flavor of the wine deadened. At first I blamed the pairing but interestingly enough about 1-1.5 hours after decanting the flavor of the wine came back close to its original intensity. I had never experienced flavors fading and then returning as the wine breathed.  I should also point out that the KJ being a 2008 may have a maturity advantage over the Rodney Strong.

I have to say I enjoyed both wines. In a blind tasting I probably would have picked the Kendall Jackson but who knows; the Rodney Strong was delicious straight out of the bottle too.  Would I buy these again? Yes! But hopefully at great SALE prices.  ¡SALUD!

Kendall Jackson winemaker notes:

This Cabernet has distinct flavors of blackberry, blueberry, black currant and cassis with enticing fragrances of mocha and nutmeg. Subtle notes of smoke, cedar and tobacco leaf round out the lingering finish.

Grand Reserve is a winemaker’s blend of our mountain, ridge, hillside and benchland grapes grown along California’s cool coastal appellations. We hand select grapes from our best estate vineyards and then monitor, taste and hand-hold each individual lot throughout the winemaking process. Each lot is kept separate, barrel-aged and handcrafted – boutique winery style. Our winemakers have an unmatched palate of flavors, toast levels and terroir nuances from which they masterfully blend these exemplary rich, deep and complex wines.

Blend: 98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec

alcohol by volume:14.5%

Rodney Strong winemaker notes:

Aromas of blackberry, cocoa, and currant lead to a rich, layered mouthfeel, replete with black cherry, cedar, and cassis, and structured with lush, mature tannins. Enjoy this seductive Cabernet Sauvignon now and over the next several years.

alcohol by volume:13.5%

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11 responses »

  1. I’m not sure why, but I always think of whites when I think of Kendall Jackson. Maybe because it’s normally out of my usual price range. We drink a lot of the Rodney Strong in our house, though. It’s a favorite. I’ll keep an eye out for the KJ on sale, though. That sounds really good.

    • Interestingly I noticed their Vintners Reserve which sells a lot lower then their Grand Reserve scores higher in taste tests often. Who knew? Next on my KJ list is the Grand Reserve Merlot. yes on sale 🙂
      Thanks for the visit and comment.

  2. I’m curious about your comment on the RS becoming more tannic as it opened? I have never experienced this happening (or perhaps I wasn’t paying attention?). How common is this? I find that wines usually become less tannic to me as they open. Curious in Vermont….

    • Dear curious in VT, I was intrigued by the same. It may also have something to do with the wine being robust at decanting, fading somewhat and then bouncing back. This wine also did not have much of a finish at first but with exposure to air the finish and tannins materialized or increased. Will keep my eyes and ears open for more info on this.
      Thank you.

    • VT this could also be a factor, found on-line researching tannins:

      “The effect of tannins in your red wine may further be noticed when they interact with certain foods rich in protein and fat (such as meats and cheeses). This is because the tannins will bind to and precipitate (basically means to draw out and form) certain proteins.”

  3. Thanks for the review; I’ve been wanting to try the 2008 KJ Grand Reserve Cab Sav (and chardonnay). I hope that I can also find it on sale! I will also say (and this could just be me), but I’m enjoying 2008’s over 2009’s from that area in general (even vertically within a brand). I want to say that I heard that there was a big weather/temperature differential between the years. Have you heard anything along those lines?

    • Thank you for the visit and comment. I would have to agree with you in reference to 2008 over 2009. That said, it seems that the 2009 vintage is being graded just as high or even a bit higher than its predecessor. Of course the reviewers may not be comparing apples to apples when it comes to the variables. If you gave me the choice I’d stick to 2008.
      Regards.

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