Jess Jackson, the driven but gentlemanly California vintner who cultivated his Kendall-Jackson vineyards into one of the most successful wineries in California, will receive this yearís prestigious Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competitionís Lifetime Achievement Award. Making the award doubly meaningful, 2007 is also the 25th anniversary of Kendall-Jackson.
Jackson will accept the honor Wednesday, May 16, at the awards dinner at the Collins Center School of Hospitality and Restaurant Management at Cal Poly Pomona.
"Jess Jacksonís contributions to the wine industry, particularly in focusing in on
consumersí tastes and desires, are immeasurable," said Robert Small, chairman of the competition. "His love of the land, his passion for what he does, is reflected in his product."
Small also cited Jacksonís support of direct state-to-state shipments of wine between wineries and consumers. While not directly connected, Jackson supported the Coalition for Free Trade, a non-profit group whose goal was to legalize direct-to-consumer shipments of wine from out-of-state wineries and retailers in those states where it is currently prohibited. In May 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to support interstate wine shipments directly from wineries to consumers, a ruling that thrilled American wine lovers and wineries.
Jackson Family Wines is listed number nine in the top 30 U.S. wine companies by Wine Business Monthly, with sales at five million cases in 2006. Kendall-Jacksonís Vintnerís Reserve Chardonnay is Americaís favorite premium chardonnay.
Although wildly successful as a vintner, it wasnít his first career. Jackson, born in 1930, spent the first part of his professional life as a successful trial attorney in San Francisco, with a specialty in land-use and property rights issues. In 1974, Jackson and his family bought an 80-acre pear and walnut orchard in Lakeport, California. After converting the orchard to a vineyard, he began selling his grapes to local wineries. Jackson began making his own wine from his own grapes, and in 1982, founded Kendall-Jackson, first producing the popular Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay.
"When my family and I founded Kendall-Jackson, I simply wanted to create extraordinary wine from Californiaís best vineyards. In 1983, our Chardonnay won the first Platinum Award ever presented by the American Wine Competition. For over 15 years running now, we have been Americaís favorite wine," Jackson says on his Web site.
"We grow grapes on some 12,000 acres of California Coastal vineyards, and continue to evolve our practices and increase the quality of our wines. My family will always be committed to creating the very best wine we can."
KJís parent company, Jackson Family Wines, holds more than 4,000 acres in Sonoma County and has expanded to other areas of California, with additional holdings in Europe, Australia and South America. Jackson is fond of mountain vineyards, saying that terroir grows the best grapes.
Together with his wife, Barbara Banke, Jackson has grown Kendall-Jackson into an internationally known brand. In addition, the couple has established a group of separate artisan wineries which, along with Kendall-Jackson, are now collected under the family enterprise Jackson Family Wines. Jackson said he is proud of the fact that his family has managed to withstand a challenging business environment, the result being a foundation that will keep Jackson Family Wines ahead of the competition in the future.