Wines for the Roses

For all the Kentucky Derby and wine enthusiasts out there searching for the perfect beverage for this year’s race, don’t reach for the bourbon just yet. Whether you have a taste for white or red, Kendall-Jackson recently unveiled a limited-edition chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon to celebrate the annual Run for the Roses and a new multiyear partnership as the Derby’s preferred wine. These releases are just the first of many leading up to the Kentucky Derby’s milestone 150th-anniversary race in 2024.

Balancing notes of warm vanilla with tropical fruit and citrus, the 2020 Mendocino County Chardonnay is bright, smooth, and complex with a velvety finish. This wine complements Derby menus filled with all-American staples, like fried chicken, hamburgers, and barbecue, as well as French cheeses, asparagus, and cream sauces.

For Derby fans who love a robust red, the 2019 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon’s rich, seamless tannins taste of cedar, toast, and vanilla, finishing with a hint of mocha and scents of dark fruit, cocoa, and cassis. It serves well with hearty menu items, like a juicy steak, grilled lamb, portobello mushrooms and cheesy polenta. 

Known for its top-rated Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay, Kendall-Jackson has been in the quality wine game since 1982. Yet although this winemaker hails from the rolling hills of California’s Sonoma County wine region, it isn’t new to the thrills of high-speed horse racing. The family-owned winery also operates Stonestreet Farm, a Thoroughbred horse breeding and training operation in the Bluegrass region of Lexington, Kentucky.

“Our family’s legacy in winemaking runs deep, and while many wine enthusiasts across the nation recognize Kendall-Jackson as the maker of America’s favorite chardonnay, our family’s endeavors in the horse-racing world are lesser-known,” says Barbara Banke, chairman and proprietor of Jackson Family Wines and wife of the winery’s visionary founder, Jess Jackson.

In 1938, Jackson sat on his uncle’s shoulders and watched Seabiscuit win the Bay Meadows Handicap. That momentous event ignited a passion for horse racing that eventually led to the opening of Stonestreet Farm in 2005. The family winery continued to work its magic in a new arena, becoming one of the top breeders of Thoroughbred yearlings in the country—including the aptly named Good Magic, a Derby champion that finished second in the 2018 race. It’s only fitting that this year’s commemorative bottles will feature an artistic rendering of Kendall-Jackson’s homebred hero.

“It feels like a natural connection to bring our two great passions together on the global stage at the Kentucky Derby. Although Good Magic is now retired, we wanted to highlight his remarkable accomplishments,” Banke says.

Kendall-Jackson’s commemorative wines are now available online and in select retailers. So, step aside mint julep. For years to come, wine-loving Kentucky Derby fans can raise a glass to their favorite American tradition with the same wines being poured at Churchill Downs. 

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Written by Nicole Paskowsky

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