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Battle over Black Mountain name change shifts to Sacramento

  • 9/2/2009: A1: Jess Jackson would like to rename Black Mountain, background, to Alexander Mountain. The road to his mountain vineyards off Geysers Road has already been named.

    PC: Jess Jackson would like to rename Black Mountain, background, to Alexander Mountain. The road to his mountain vineyards off of Geysers Road has already been named. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2009

SACRAMENTO — Wine magnate Jess Jackson's bid to rename one of Sonoma County's highest mountains is primarily for commercial reasons, opponents of the name change said Wednesday.

Property owners on Black Mountain near Geyserville said it should not be renamed Alexander Mountain as part of what they called a "corporate branding" strategy by Jackson's company.

"It's Black Mountain historically. The name is older than any of us in the room," said Scott Wilson, whose family owns about 1,200 acres near the summit of the 3,128-foot-high peak.

Wilson's comments came at a meeting of the California Advisory Committee on Geographic Names, which will make a recommendation to its federal counterpart responsible for the ultimate naming decision. A recommendation won't come until January at the earliest, when the state committee meets again.

Pete Downs, the vice president for Jackson Family Wines and the official applicant for the name change, downplayed any link between his request and the wine company's bid for approval for a special grape-growing area called "Alexander Mountain."

"This is really about Cyrus Alexander. It's not about Kendall-Jackson, Jess Jackson, or Pete Downs. It is about Cyrus Alexander," he told the five-member committee.

He said the pioneer who settled near Black Mountain in the 1840s was a historic figure and it was fitting that the mountain be named in his honor.

Downs noted there is confusion about the origin of the Black Mountain name more than a century ago, and whether it was called that for its dark appearance, or for George H. Black and L.S. Black who owned property in the area in the late 1800s.

But David Gilbreth, an attorney with Artesa Winery, which has vineyards in Alexander Valley, questioned Downs' motivations.

"This is about commerce. This is not about history," he said.


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