JESS JACKSON, 81
An icon of the wine world has passed away. Jess Stonestreet Jackson, the man who revolutionized the Chardonnay industry in the US during the early 198Os with his extraordinarily successful Kendall-Jackson winery and went on to become a pioneering architect of the burgeoning American wine industry, passed away on April 21 after a long battle with cancer. A self-made man who put himself through University of California Berkeley’s Boalt Hall law school, Jackson became one of the best-known figures in American viticulture, as Kendall-Jackson became the best-selling Chardonnay in America for over two decades. Raised in San Francisco during the Great Depression, Jackson worked as a farmer, policeman, and land-use lawyer. He started the Kendall-Jackson wine business with the family’s 1974 purchase of an 8O-acre pear and walnut orchard in Lakeport, California that he converted to a vineyard. In 1982, he produced his first bottle of wine under the Kendall-Jackson label. In 1983, the wine won the first double Platinum Award ever presented by the American Wine Competition. Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates remains one of the most awarded wineries in the country. Some of the wines in the collection are Cambria, La Crema, Carmel Road, Murphy Goode and Bryon Estates, among many others. Jackson’s vision and outspoken personality set him apart from the much of the convention of the industry. When he realized that the quality of the French oak barrels used to age his wine was inconsistent, he invested in his own mill in France to provide barrel staves, and became a partner in a cooperage located in Missouri. He created his own California distribution company to remain free of industry consolidation there. He was a leader in the sustainable farming movement within the wine industry, implementing dozens of environmentally-friendly farming innovations throughout the vineyards of Jackson Family Wines. As a philanthropist he and his wife Barbara Banke quietly donated millions of dollars in support of local and national charitable organizations. Jackson’s passion for farming and horses led him into horse breeding and racing later in life. In 2OO7, he became majority stakeholder in the racehorse Curlin who then won Horse of the Year for two consecutive years. The next year, his filly, Rachel Alexandra was the first filly to win the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in 85 years. Rachel Alexandra also won 2OO9 Horse of the Year. A leader in the reform of racing, Jackson won the Sportsman of the Year 2OO8 Insider Award. Jackson was a founding member of Family Winemakers of California. In 2OO9, he was inducted into the Vintner’s Hall of Fame. At that time he remarked, “Wine is entirely different from liquor and beer, and I’d like to see our industry free itself from the images that are used to sell those products. Wine is a part of our cultural heritage. It has always been the traditional partner with food. Wine celebrates friends, family, and love – all of the best things in life.” Jackson Family Wines is one of California’s few remaining family-owned winery groups, with family members working full-time in a variety of positions.