Jess Jackson, visionary winemaker and founder of our company, was noted for popularizing Chardonnay with his Kendall-Jackson Winery and was one of the most successful independent winery owners in the world.
Known for his fearless, iconoclastic approach to business, Jackson became one of the world's most successful self-made men by taking chances in businesses that were anything but a sure thing. He started first by selecting grapes from the best vineyards in California and turning them into a small bottling of Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve that soon became the most popular Chardonnay in America.
A one-time longshoreman and police officer who put himself through University of California Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law, Jackson became one of the best-known figures in American viticulture, as Kendall-Jackson became the best-selling Chardonnay in America for over two decades. He went on to found Jackson Family Wines, a winery holding company that, in addition to Kendall-Jackson Winery, owns and operates more than 35 individual wineries located around the world.
Raised in San Francisco during the Great Depression, Jackson worked as a farmer, policeman, and later as a land-use attorney. The law firm he founded went on to argue several cases before the Supreme Court. He started the Kendall-Jackson wine business with the family's 1974 purchase of an 80-acre pear and walnut orchard in Lakeport, California that he converted to a vineyard. In 1982, he produced his first bottle of wine under the Kendall-Jackson label. This decidedly unique Chardonnay was an instant hit with consumers. In 1983 the wine won the first double Platinum Award ever presented by the American Wine Competition.
Jackson's vision and outspoken manner often ran counter to conventional industry practices. When he realized that the quality of the French oak barrels used to age his wine was inconsistent, he invested in his own mill in France to provide barrel staves, and became a partner in a cooperage located in Missouri. He created his own California distribution company to remain free of industry consolidation. He was a leader in the sustainable farming movement within the wine industry, implementing dozens of environmentally-friendly farming innovations throughout the vineyards of Jackson Family Wines. As a philanthropist, he and his wife Barbara Banke quietly donated millions of dollars in support of local and national charitable organizations.
In 2009, Jackson was inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame. At that time he remarked, "Wine is entirely different from liquor and beer, and I'd like to see our industry free itself from the images that are used to sell those products. Wine is a part of our cultural heritage. It has always been the traditional partner with food. Wine celebrates friends, family, and love -- all of the best things in life."
Jess Jackson’s passion for life, his love of family and hard work, and his integrity and vision combined to make him one of the wine industry’s great men. With each bottle of Kendall-Jackson, we strive to honor his legacy, which inspires us each day as we work together to create some of the finest hand-crafted wines in the world.