Jess Stonestreet Jackson, 18 February 1930 - 21 April 2011

Jess Stonestreet Jackson, 18 February 1930 - 21 April 2011

The founder of Jackson Family Wines and one of the leading figures in California's early wine industry, Jess Stonestreet Jackson, has died aged 81.

Jackson Family Wines announced today (21 April) that Jackson has died at his home in Geyserville, California. He died from complications related to cancer, the group said.

His death will be considered a significant loss across California's wine industry, which Jackson helped to promote in its early struggle for recognition on the world wine scene.

A law school graduate and former police officer, Jackson turned his hand to wine in 1974, when he converted an 80-acre pear and walnut orchard in Lakeport into a vineyard. In 1982, he produced his first bottle of wine - a Chardonnay - under the Kendall-Jackson label.  

"When my family and I founded Kendall-Jackson in 1982, we simply wanted to create extraordinary wine from California's best vineyards," Jackson wrote in his biographical notes. In addition to the winery, Jackson created his own distribution company in California, built his own mill in France to provide barrel staves and became a partner in a Missouri cooperage. He also helped to found Family Winemakers of California.

Today, Jackson Family Wines owns and operates more than 35 individual wineries located around the world, in addition to its original Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates business.

In 2009, Jackson was entered into the Vintners Hall of Fame. He is survived by his wife, Barbara Banke, as well as five children and two grandchildren.