A highlight of each year's Unified Wine & Grape Symposium now under way in and about the Sacramento Convention Center is wine consultant Jon Fredrikson's unveiling of his "Winery of the Year."
Basing his decision largely on achievements in marketing and sales, Fredrikson earlier today said his choice for this year's honor is resurgent Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates, whose sales in 2006 rose 19 percent to a total 4.1 million cases.
All the more remarkable is that Kendall-Jackson took the risky step this past year of upgrading, repackaging and repositioning its signature wine, its Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay, as a totally estate-grown wine, noted Fredrikson. Despite that, and despite an accompanying slight increase in its retail price, sales of the Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay rose $9 million last year, thereby holding its position as the single most popular wine in U.S. supermarkets, with annual sales double its closest competitor, said Fredrikson.
Several other wineries and brands also were unusually "hot" during 2006, including four in this region: Bogle Vineyards of Clarksburg, Michael David of Lodi, McManis of Ripon, and Gnarly Head, a brand of Delicato Family Vineyards at Manteca that uses strictly Lodi grapes.
Incidentally, if you want to see how strongly passions can run when it comes to Kendall-Jackson's Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay, check out wine columnist Mark Fisher's recent blog on changes to the wine at the Dayton Daily News.