We decided to make a trek up to Sonoma County to visit with a few personalities from the Kendall-Jackson stable of wineries.
Our first stop was to visit with Melissa Stackhouse, winemaker for La Crema. The love for farming came naturally for Melissa, having spent summers on her grandparents’ farm in rural Minnesota. But, it was a visit to Washington State’s San Juan Islands that actually introduced her to wine. And, as they say in fishing, the hook was set. A UC Davis education was next on the agenda, followed by several internships which finally led her to La Crema in 2001 as assistant winemaker. By 2003, she was running the place.
Next, we were off to meet with Don Hartford at Hartford Family Winery in the Russian River Valley. Don attended University of Massachusetts at Amherst, obtained his law degree from Santa Clara University, and his legal career has included a Tokyo law firm, a large San Francisco-based firm, Jess Jackson’s practice of Constitutional law, and work at the California Supreme Court. The law notwithstanding, Don has immersed himself in winemaking and winery management over the past 20 years. He also owns and farms a small vineyard of old-vine Zinfandel behind his home. This 90-year old vineyard is located on seven acres and is head-pruned to produce annual yields of about 1.5 tons an acre. Almost by itself, stewardship of this property has returned Don to his Massachusetts farming roots.
Then, we spent some quality time with Randy Ullom, of Kendall-Jackson Estates. Randy was originally hired in 1993 by Jess Jackson as the winemaker at Camelot Vineyards. That same year, Jackson also put him in charge of heading up a new Chilean operation as founding winemaker and general manager of Viña Calina. Then in 1996, Ullom helped Jackson establish wine production in Argentina with the Tapiz label. In 1997, Ullom was made winemaster for Kendall-Jackson Winery. In 2006, he also became the company’s Chief Operating Officer, reflecting his intimate involvement in the both the viticultural and winemaking programs of Kendall-Jackson.
Finally, we talked with Alex Réblé, winemaker for Matanzas Creek. Originally from the Bordeaux region of France, Alex was educated at the Agricultural School of Libourne and Blanquefort and mentored by Jean-Claude Berrouet (then winemaker at Pétrus and La Fleur-Pétrus). After working at Chateau La Tour Carnet for a year, Alex turned his attention to the New World. Wanting to try his hand with Burgundian varieties, he took a job at Willamette Valley Vineyards in Oregon, working with Joe Dobbes. Then, he was on to the Napa Valley in 1998, to work with Luc Morlet at Newton Vineyards, Ken Deis at Flora Springs Winery, and Daniel Baron at Silver Oak and Twomey. Finally, he joined Matanzas Creek in 2001 as cellar master, becoming its winemaker in 2010.
For more information on Jackson Family Wines: www.kj.com
Sponsor: VinAssure, Wine Preservation System : www.vinassure.com
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