Jenny Dawn Cellars is the product of one woman’s passion for wine and pride of place….

CEO Jennifer McDonalad has always been, what she calls, a wine connoisseur. However, her curiosity and interest went past the bottle and into the science of it. She began experimenting with at-home winemaking kits, but swiftly mastered the basics. She moved on to sourcing grapes and other fruits from local Kansas growers, continuing to make wine on a small-scale for fun. But in 2016 her wine world expanded: McDonald began sourcing grapes from some of California’s best wine regions, crafting wines that won many awards and accolades. Though her grapes come from several states away, she insists on keeping her business local to her Witchita, Kansas community.

“Jenny Dawn Cellars is excited to open its brick-and-mortar winery and tasting located at Union Station in downtown Wichita, KS in November of 2018,” says McDonald. “We will be a wine production facility, tasting room and event center.” This will be the first urban winery in downtown Wichita. The dual CEO and winemaker notes that though the city has a thriving downtown, it’s yet to see an influential wine scene. Jenny Dawn Cellars plans to be that influence. McDonald will also be the first African American female wine CEO and winemaker in the state of Kansas. “We are very proud of that fact and excited to bring diversity into the Wichita small business and wine community,” she says.

About the Wine: The Jenny Dawn Cellars 2016 Unoaked Chardonnay is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes harvested from the Santa Rita Hills AVA in California’s Santa Barbara County and created with a partner winery located in Napa Valley, California. The grapes were fermented in stainless steel for 6 months before moving to French oak barrels (100% neutral) to age sur lies.

McDonald developed the blend and final taste of the Chardonnay, but partnered with Napa local Eric Hanson, who acted as head winemaker.

14.1% ABV

Flavor Profile: Out of the Jenny Dawn Cellars 2016 Unoaked Chardonnay is an apple-meets-yeasty kind of smell, letting you know that while this wine is un-oaked, it’s definitely gone through some serious malolactic fermentation action. The wine presents pretty clear on the pour, but settles into the glass with a light, champagne-like glow.

Initial aromas are of apple, lemon and lime zest, orange and apple blossoms — a beautiful bouquet of fruit and floral. Swirl and find a few more additions to that edible arrangement: honeydew melon, nectar. Pull the nose slightly away and find a bit of pollen as well.

The palate has a luxuriously soft mouthfeel. The acidity starts like a pin-prick but slowly rises leaving a lingering tingling sensation. Dominant flavors are of those blossoms, nectar, and the tart-meets-tangy of gooseberries. There’s a constant saline sensation from beginning to end; the finish presents just a smidge of white pepper heat.

Serve this wine just below room temperature to enjoy all of these sensations brought on by the malolactic fermentation. If served chilled, you’ll certainly miss out on the mouthfeel and some of the subtle flavor characteristics traveling throughout the tasting.

Food Pairing: I enjoyed the Jenny Dawn Cellars 2016 Unoaked Chardonnay as an aperitif to my meal of pan-fried black cod with a side of roasted butternut squash, fennel, and shallots served with crispy-kale garnish — which was paired with the Jenny Dawn Cellars 2016 Pinot Noir. Because this Chardonnay has a good combination of both warm and fresh flavors, it worked well on its own. While I enjoyed the wine at just below room temperature as mentioned, one could certainly chill it and experience more amplified fruits while mellowing out the effects of the ML, which would make for a more “traditional” white wine aperitif.

More Info: I received the Jenny Dawn Cellars 2016 Unoaked Chardonnay as a sample for review. (Cheers Jenny!) Retail: $40. For more information about Jenny Dawn Cellars, their wines, and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Jenny Dawn Cellars website.

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