[caption id="attachment_32921" align="alignleft" width="313" caption="Barbara and Jess Jackson in 2006"][/caption]
GEYSERVILLE -- Jess Stonestreet Jackson, the wine visionary who popularized Chardonnay in America in the early 1980s with his immediately-successful Kendall-Jackson winery and then became a pioneering architect of the ascendant American wine industry, died today at his Geyserville home after a long battle with cancer. He was 81.
A one-time longshoreman and police officer, 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.
Note from KJ staff
from The Kendall-Jackson Winery blog
We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Jess Stonestreet Jackson, who died in his sleep today after a long, courageous battle with cancer.
Jess Jackson was that rare individual whose vision, perseverance and work ethic transformed an entire industry. A truly self-made man, his legacy will endure, inspiring all those who believe that being successful in business does not mean that one must compromise those basic values: family, hard work, integrity and stewardship of the land.
Raised in San Francisco during the Great Depression, Jackson started the Kendall-Jackson wine business with the 1974 purchase of an 80-acre pear and walnut orchard in Lakeport, Calif., that he converted to a vineyard.
In 1982, he produced his first bottle under the Kendall-Jackson label using a batch of grapes that went unsold. This decidedly unique wine was an instant hit. Nearly thirty years later, Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay remains America’s favorite Chardonnay and Jackson Family Wines is among the World’s most successful family owned winery groups, comprised of more than thirty five individual wineries.
As so many of you know, this is a family run company. Jess was particularly proud that his children now work actively alongside his wife Barbara Banke. Together they will ensure that his legacy is carried on for generations to come.
We would like to hear from you if you ever met Jess Jackson, have a story, or just loved his wines. Please post a comment on our blog or send us an email at email@example.com.
Take a moment this week to a lift a glass and join us in a toast to our friend and founder, Jess Jackson.
---The Kendall-Jackson Team
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 80-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 today one of the most awarded wineries in the United States.
Jackson’s vision and outspoken manner often ran counter to conventional industry practices. 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.