The winery in California's Sonoma Valley (North Coast region) was founded in 1906 under the name "Pagani Brothers Winery". The run-down business was taken over in 1970 by Martin Lee (now deceased), his son-in-law John Sheela and his two sons Marty and Mike. It was named "Kenwood Winery" after the nearby town. The "family association" caused a real revolution and caused a sensation with the wines. The winery was bought in 1998 by the famous sparkling wine house Korbel (Gary Heck), both companies then became the property of the beer company Anheuser-Busch in 2002. The vineyards cover 112 hectares of vineyards with the white wine varieties Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, French Colombard, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as the red wine varieties Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan Noir, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel.
Varietals (varietal wines) are produced in particular. The wines are produced in six lines: "Vintage" (lower price segment), "Sonoma Series" (Varietals from Sonoma County), "Yulupa" (especially for restaurants), "Reserve" (Single Vineyards), "Jack London" and "Artist Series". For the "Jack London" line, grapes are used that come from the former "Beauty Ranch" of the famous writer Jack London (1876-1916) near Glen Ellen. The cultivation of this ranch was (besides writing) his main occupation from 1911 until the death of Jack London. Today vines are cultivated on the ranch. Kenwood buys grapes from there and presses the three pure varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel.
The Kenwood "Artist Series" is a successful combination of art and wine and is often referred to as Château Mouton-Rothschild of America. This red wine has been produced from the best Sonoma Valley grapes since 1978. However, the style has changed over time. Originally, the wine was made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and aged in oak casks. Then it was converted to a Bordeaux style with smaller portions of Merlot and Cabernet Franc and more subtle barrique ageing. The label is designed annually by an artist. For the first vintage in 1975 the local artist David Lance Goines was commissioned. The work showed a naked woman lying in a vineyard. When the label was submitted to the BATF (now TTB) for approval in 1978, Kenwood received the unequivocal negative reply: "The image must be removed, more precisely the BATF considers it obscene and indecent under regulation 27cKR".
Only 80 boxes with the "naked woman" were allowed to leave the winery. A second ironically meant label, which represented a skeleton in place of the naked woman, was also not allowed. The finally approved label showed a grassy hill with a river, titled "Hilly Landscape". In 1997, the "naked woman" was again submitted to the BATF and was also approved and used for the label of the 20th anniversary edition of the 1994 vintage as a sign of how times change. The artworks to date represent many periods and art movements from impressionistic to modern. The best known are 1979 "Sea Wolf at the Lighthouse", 1981 "Golden Gate Bridge" and 1989 "Jacqueline" by Pablo Picasso.