Legacy: A Jewel in the Crown of Jackson Family Wines

September is California Wine Month, a time to celebrate the outstanding quality of wines made in the Golden State. Today we are celebrating with two wines from Legacy, a winery that is part of the portfolio of wines from Jackson Family Wines. They are a perfect example of quality California wines and we received both as tasting samples.

Jess Jackson and his family entered the wine business with the purchase of an orchard in Lake County that they replanted to vineyards. For a time they sold their grapes to other winemakers. Their first release, 1982 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay, was an instant success and practically became synonymous with California Chardonnay.

Before his passing in 2011 Jess Jackson, and his family, established additional wineries in California and purchased wineries in California and beyond. Forty wineries are now included on the Jackson Family Wines website from Oregon, Australia, Chile, France, Italy, South Africa and regions all over California.

Legacy was established by Jess Jackson in 1990 to celebrate the past, present and future of Alexander Valley. Alexander Mountain Estate is a 5100-acre site on the eastern edge of Alexander Valley in the Mayacamas Mountain Range. More than 24 soil types along with variable exposures and elevations between 400 and 2000 feet above sea level provide a range of unique sites for Chardonnay and Bordeaux varieties.

Jimtown Vineyard is located close to Jimtown, named for James Patrick who founded a general store and post office there in 1895, at the base of the Mayacamas Mountains. This small block of Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits uncommon aromatics and character according to winemaker Graham Weerts. 

Field Stone Vineyard is a stony site in Alexander Valley was originally planted to Petite Sirah in 1894. Some 70 years later André Tchelistcheff consulted on the selection and planting of heritage clones of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This historic site became part of Jackson Family Wines in 2016 for, as the winery puts it, a new chapter of Legacy.

Legacy wines are crafted by skilled winemaker, Graham Weerts, who hails from South Africa. Weerts made wine in South Africa and Bordeaux before his introduction to the Mayacamas Mountains in 1999 at Vérité. In 2004 he began as winemaker for Stonestreet in Alexander Valley. In addition to making Legacy wines, Weerts oversees winemaking for Capensis, Arrowood, Stonestreet and Matanzas Creek, all of which are part of Jackson Family Wines.

Legacy wines include the flagship Chardonnay and Bordeaux-style Red Wine.

2015 Legacy Chardonnay, Alexander Valley, Sonoma Countymedium yellow in the glass with citrusy, grapefruit aromas lightly scented with toasty notes. Citrusy flavors with melon, yellow apple, a hint of toast and lingering minerality are supported by nice acidity. The body is on the light side of medium. 13.5% abv. SRP $75

Chardonnay is sourced from the Upper Barn and Cougar Ridge vineyards located at between 1600 and 1800 feet above sea level in the Alexander Mountain Estate. The Chardonnay is hand picked and sorted, pressed and fermented in oak with native yeast. Malolactic fermentation is allowed to proceed with monthly lees stirring. After 12 months in 37% new French oak the wine is racked and bottled.

Oak-fermented and aged Chardonnay can instill fear in the hearts of Chardonnay lovers who do not enjoy heavier bodied, buttery Chardonnay. This wine is not that kind of Chardonnay. It is light on its feet, bright and juicy with plenty of fruit flavor. It is a lovely wine.

2013 Legacy Red Wine, Alexander Valley, Sonoma Countybright ruby in the glass with aromas of cedar and red fruit. Rich red and dark fruit flavors include blackberries, tart cherries, pomegranates and raspberries. Fruit and cedar flavors, along with a lingering slate-like minerality, are supported by bright acidity. Tannins are smooth in this agile Cabernet blend.  14.5% abv. SRP $100

Jimtown Vineyard and Alexander Mountain Estate are the source of Bordeaux varieties for this wine. The blend is 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot. Grapes were hand picked and sorted before being fermented in small upright French oak fermenters. After blending the wine is aged in 62% new French oak barrels for 26 months.

Once again, this is a bright, lively wine with delicious fruit flavors and supporting, not dominating, oak flavors. This wine tastes balanced yet youthful.

Admittedly, the cost of these wines puts them in the special occasion category for most wine drinkers, myself included, but they are delicious and they will not disappoint.

We shared these wines with friends a few nights ago over appetizers and conversation. Of the four bottles of wine we opened the Legacy wines were empty at the end of the evening. That’s a pretty good indication of how much our friends, who know wine, enjoyed them.


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