Wine visionary Jess Jackson remembered

6/5/2005: 24: After a brief retirement, Jess Jackson, shown with his dog, Robbie, is back at the helm of Kendall-Jackson Winery. PC: Charlie Gesell/The Press Democrat Jess Jackson sits on the patio of his redwood house with his dog, Robbie.


Memories of Jess Jackson poured in Thursday as word of his death at the age of 81 spread across Wine Country. A sampling:

"Jess Jackson was a force to be reckoned with. He was a tough guy but on the other side he was a straight-shooter — very honest and he directed the people in his company to do things in an honest way ... So often in the industry you get the posers, but Jess Jackson really talked the talk and walked the walk." — Richard Arrowood, co-founder and winemaker of of Amapola Creek Vineyards

"Jess was man of very strong principle who stood up for what he believed in. There won't be another one to come along like Jess Jackson for a long time." — Fred Furth, friend, attorney, and former owner of Chalk Hill winery.

"Jess Jackson introduced an audience to the premium and super-premium level that no one knew existed. Once they got there, they continued to try other high end brands. That's how he benefited so many of us in our industry, and for that we will always be grateful. People who taste and learn about good wine tend to keep buying up." — Christopher Silva, president, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards

"He was a guy that just didn't accept the status quo. He said &‘If I can do it better, I'll just do it myself,' and he did." — Jon Fredrikson, wine industry analyst

"One of my fondest memories is I was up early one Sunday morning photographing the sunrise over Alexander Mountain and he comes around the corner in his Land Cruiser and I asked him &‘How come you're not in church?' He had this big grin and surveyed his vineyards and said, &‘This is my cathedral.'" — George Rose, former vice president of corporate communications for Jackson Family Wines.

"On behalf of the Gallo family and our company, I want to extend our sincere condolences to Jess Jackson's family and his employees. Jess embodied the American dream and he had a significant impact on our state's wine industry." — Joseph Gallo, CEO and president, E&J Gallo Winery

"Jess made an enormous contribution to our wine industry and we've all learned much from him." — Fred Franzia, CEO, Bronco Wine Co.

"Many people knew him as this big personality in the wine industry. But we knew him as a great father ... He imparted his roots in his children, who grew up to be grounded, hard-working people. That is their family ethos." — Janet Durgin, head of Sonoma Academy

"He was the most holistic wine man in the industry, certainly of his day and potentially of all time ... He knew viticulture, oenology, marketing, sales and finance. He was a complete wine expert." — John Grant, former president of Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates

"He frankly put chardonnay on the map, so we've all benefitted from that." — Gary Heck, owner of Korbel Champagne Cellars

"It's such a great loss to the wine industry. It's very similar to losing Robert Mondavi in Napa for what Jess Jackson has done in Sonoma County." — Merry Edwards, co-owner of Merry Edwards Winery

"When Jess Jackson got into the wine business, it wasn't what it is today ... He hit it just right when everything started moving to wine and, being the smart business man he was, he created an empire. It was great for us growers to have another source to sell fruit to." — George Martinelli, co-owner of Martinelli Winery

How do you remember Jackson? Post your comment below.

— compiled by Press Democrat Staff Writers Nathan Halverson, Kevin McCallum and Peg Melnik