La Crema Paired with the Kentucky Derby

Conversation with Chris Jackson, Proprietor for
Jackson Family Wines in Sonoma County, California


By Elizabeth Scinta
Photos provided by Jackson Family Wines


In the heart of Sonoma County, California lies La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. La Crema Viñera, meaning “best of the vine,” is one of Jackson Family Wines’ many wineries scattered throughout the world. In 2021, Churchill Downs Racetrack announced a four-year partnership where La Crema and Kendall-Jackson wines are the Preferred Wines of the Kentucky Derby. The partnership also brings to light the Jackson family’s connection with the horse world through Stonestreet Farm, their successful equestrian racing and breeding stables in Lexington, Kentucky. So, with the 148th Kentucky Derby around the corner, we asked Chris Jackson, the proprietor for Jackson Family Wines, to help our readers become more familiar with the wine they’ll be imbibing during the fastest two minutes in sports.

What benefits are there from having the La Crema vineyards in the Russian River Valley?

The home of La Crema and the heart of Sonoma County Wine Country, the Russian River Valley American Viticultural Area, is one of the premier wine-growing regions in the world. One unique element of the area is the Pacifi­c Ocean’s maritime influence which moderates the warm days of the growing season, allowing grapes to ripen and develop slowly. The unique weather patterns combined with a diversity of well-draining soils make the appellation well suited to produce cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, a focus of La Crema wine production for over 40 years.

What are the prominent flavors in La Crema Chardonnay and Pinot Noir?

Both wines are vibrant and concentrated with juicy yet balanced acidity and have a lingering finish. You’ll find flavors of pear, tangerine and honeydew melon on the Chardonnay, while the Pinot Noir offers notes of strawberry, boysenberry and sassafras.

For those celebrating the Kentucky Derby at home this year, can you tell me about some pairings that would fit well with the wines included in the Kentucky Derby Wine pack?

The wines from the Russian River that you’ll enjoy in the Kentucky Derby wine pack are all incredibly food-friendly. For the Kentucky Derby, we scoured the Jackson Family Wines Season Cookbook, created by our executive chefs Justin Wangler and Tracey Shepos Cenami, for recipes that closely celebrate traditional southern fare. Our recommendations include:

• A Cheese plate and accompaniments and
deviled eggs with Russian River Chardonnay
• Fried chicken tenders or pork belly sliders
with Russian River Pinot Noir
• Dark chocolate budino or dark berry
cobbler with Russian River Brut Rose

How will the Kentucky Derby experience be elevated by having a glass of La Crema throughout all the Derby festivities?

The Kentucky Derby is the most prestigious horse race in the world. As the preferred wine of the Kentucky Derby, La Crema is a perfect fit for this event that brings together the best of the best. Beyond the fastest two minutes in sports, the Kentucky Derby is a mecca of entertainment, fashion and behind-the-scenes storytelling. Visitors of the legendary Churchill Downs Racetrack on May 7 will be able to enjoy the La Crema Experience, a newly renovated traveling tasting salon. This elevated and interactive experience will offer an opportunity to sample La Crema’s expressive Sonoma Coast and Monterey wines in an elegant and welcome setting reminiscent of La Crema’s estate property in Sonoma County.

For more information on La Crema, visit lacrema.com.