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BERGER: High volume, high quality

When a wine company makes a lot of wine and sets a high standard for the grapes it uses, the logistics can be daunting.

Finding high-caliber grapes in sufficient quantities is tricky. Are they planted in the right soils and climates? Can they make it to the winery in time to be turned into fine wine?

Then there's the task of dealing with lots of wine on a year-to-year basis that provides consistency in the style of wines that large brands must deliver, especially in the face of differing vintages.

Although they differ in the amounts of wine they produce, two of the best larger wine brands in America are Kendall-Jackson and Bonterra. The parallels are interesting, and the wines are pretty much stellar and excellent values.

Both wine companies are environmentally sensitive. Since last year, Kendall-Jackson's 10,500 acres of vineyards have been 100% certified sustainable by two groups, Sustainability in Practice and the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.

And the wines of Bonterra, a brand of Fetzer, are 100 percent from organic grapes.

Moreover, at the head of each winemaking team are longtime industry veterans with great track records for making wines of impeccable balance, varietal character, and real personality.

K-J's Randy Ullom not only handles the majority of final decisions from a large team of top-rate winemakers, but he also spearheads a major international effort that deals in wines from many other countries.

Bonterra winemaker Bob Blue, who has long worked with Fetzer's brilliant Dennis Martin, now handles a line of wines that has grown to nearly 350,000 cases a year and has improved the quality of every wine in the line despite some of the most nightmarish scenarios an organic grower can face in the last three very cool years in California's north coast.

Ullom is blessed to be beneficiary of the late Jess Jackson's vision that only coastal fruit can make great wine. That idea led Jackson to acquire vineyards in Lake and Mendocino counties in the north, Santa Barbara in the south, and virtually every wine-growing region in between.


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