For father and son Norman and Gary Wilson, Black Mountain is like a part of their family, stretching back to the Gold Rush days when their pioneer relatives hunted grizzly bear and deer on its flanks.
Generations of Wilsons and their cousins have used an old hunting cabin nestled on a creek between Geyser Peak and Black Mountain, which loom more than 3,000 feet above the Alexander Valley floor and Geyserville.
So they find it offensive that a comparative newcomer would want to change the name of the mountain, especially if he happens to be Sonoma County's wealthiest man.
Vintner and attorney Jess Jackson, through his company Jackson Family Enterprises, is proposing it be changed to "Alexander Mountain," to help establish a new grape-growing designation of the same name that would encompass his property.
The company in May asked the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to rename the mountain.
"It's serving one individual's purposes. None of the property owners were notified what was going on," said Norman Wilson.
Together with with his sons and other relatives, Wilson owns more than 400 acres on both sides of Black Mountain, stretching to its peak.
"It's been Black Mountain ever since I can remember it," said Wilson, 83.
"Almost all the old-timers are against it, except the ones who are selling to Kendall-Jackson," he said, referring to Jackson's flagship wine label.
Pete Downs, a vice president for Jackson Family Wines, said Friday the name change is part of the company's intent to bolster the case for a new American Viticultural Area for the grapes grown on Jackson's 5,400-acre estate.
"We think there is an area just below Alexander Mountain — what is now Black Mountain — that should be recognized for growing superior grapes and making superior wines," Downs said.
After Jackson bought the property in the 1990s, he changed its name to Alexander Mountain Estate.
But that is no reason to change the historic name of Black Mountain, said Gary Wilson, 53. "Why change something that our pioneers coined?" he asked.
He is related to settlers that include Ira Bidwell, a hunter in the 1850s who one early historian described as "an excellent shot, and during those early days many grizzly bears fell before his unerring aim."
These days grizzlies are extinct in the area. But the Wilsons are armed for bear in another way, saying they have have collected approximately 300 signatures against the name change.
They plan to lead a "bus load" of people to Sacramento on Jan. 15 when the California Advisory Committee on Geographic Names weighs the name change request before forwarding its recommendation to federal officials.
"Most are opposed to it being done for commercial purposes," said Harry Bosworth, owner of Bosworth & Son general store in Geyserville, who has gathered more than 140 of the petition signatures.
"Others said if he (Jackson) wants to change the name, he should negotiate with the community and give something back — donate a little park, or give people permission to traverse some of his Black Mountain territory in return for changing the name," Bosworth said.
Jackson Family Wines several years ago applied to federal alcohol regulators for a special "Alexander Valley" subappellation, but there has been no decision.
When the company applied to the U.S. Board on Geographic names earlier this year to change the name of the 3,128-foot peak to Alexander Mountain, it did not mention the previous bid for a special wine designation.
Schools back in session next week
Santa Rosa City Schools reopening Oct. 27:
—Brook Hill Elementary
—Hidden Valley Elementary
—Maria Carrillo High School
—Piner High School
—Proctor Terrace Elementary
—Rincon Valley Middle School
—Santa Rosa Accelerated Charter School
—Steele Lane Elementary
Districts reopening schools Monday:
— Bennett Valley
— Oak Grove
— Roseland (It’s temporarily moving its Roseland Collegiate Prep students to two of its elementary schools)
— Sonoma Valley (except Dunbar, which opens Oct. 24)
Districts reopening schools Tuesday
— Kenwood (tentative)
— Rincon Valley
Districts reopening schools Wednesday
— Geyserville (tentative)
SOURCES: Santa Rosa City Schools, Sonoma County Office of Education