Descendants of pioneer family that owns land near Black Mountain assail &'newcomer' Jess Jackson's proposal to rename peak Alexander Mountain

  • Norman Wilson walks an overlook to Black Mountain. Wilson bristles at the thought of Jess Jackson's proposal to rename the mountain to Alexander Mountain. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2009

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.

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