How a midrange California chardonnay captured the market and transformed the wine industry.
Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Humes (Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash, 2012, etc.) explains how Jess Stonestreet Jackson (1930–2011) became “one of the four hundred richest men in the world,” quoting Jackson's own estimate of his astonishing success as a vintner: “We did in wine what [Starbucks] did in coffee.” The author tells the quintessentially American rags-to-riches story of this remarkable man who worked from the age of 9 and put himself through college and law school and was still working 14-hour days when he died at age 81. Humes describes a man who loved taking risks, but his admiration for his subject does not prevent him from presenting a rounded portrait of this quirky, sometimes-ruthless man, a loving but demanding husband and father who arrogated all decisions to himself. Jackson had an enormous capacity for hard work and a brilliant mind capable of absorbing a massive amount of detail without losing the bigger picture. He began a legal career in 1955, working for the California Highway Department to establish a fair market price for condemned properties. From there, he reversed gears, going into private practice as the representative of developers. He became an expert in assessing real estate and accumulated a considerable fortune from his own investments. Twenty-five years later, he bought a small vineyard as a retirement property. After finally achieving a bumper grape crop, a glut in the California grape market threatened to wipe him out. Rather than give up, he opened a winery, mortgaging his assets in order to expand. Jackson positioned Kendall-Jackson to capture the middle market by mass-producing a quality line of blended wines, and he worked further to become expert in viticulture and in marketing.
A well-rounded, absorbing narrative of entrepreneurship, wine and the extraordinary man who made it all happen.