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Direct Chat with Wine Spectator: Barbara Banke of Jackson Family Wines

September 3, 2021

Wine Spectator editor-in-chief MaryAnn Worobiec recently spoke to Barbara Banke, president and owner of Jackson Family Wines, as part of Straight Talk with Wine Spectator magazine’s Instagram Live interview series. Banke, whose husband and business partner Jess Jackson died in 2011, oversees a portfolio that spans Chile, France, Italy and other countries, in addition to many national brands such as Kendall-Jackson, Cambria, La Crema and Murphy-Goode, among many others. Prior to his winemaking career, Banke practiced constitutional law with an emphasis on land use cases. During their conversation, Banke and Worobiec discussed industry representation, portfolio expansion strategy, and sustainability initiatives.

Worobiec noted that Jackson Family is a remarkable company when it comes to employing women as winemakers, citing statistics that say women make up 10-15% of winemakers in California, but 61% of Jackson Family. Banke cited other industry pioneers such as Signe Zoller, Zelma Long, and Eugenia Keegan, who were active as early as the 1980s. “As we went along we seemed to have more and more female winegrowers who came to the fore, ”Banke said. “And the women have good palates, and so do the men, but there are a lot of very qualified women in the business, especially in production. There are many more opportunities now than there ever have been, and that’s something we’re proud of.

Regarding the acquisition strategy, Banke explored the company’s cellar choices in Oregon and Australia. The Oregon portfolio now includes Gran Moraine, Zena Crown, WillaKenzie and Penner-Ash. Banke had always had doubts about Oregon’s vineyards due to the excessive rains in the area, she said, but those areas were too attractive to be left out when the opportunity presented itself. Fortunately for her, due to changing weather conditions in the American West, the company has not had a bad harvest in Oregon since entering the state. “I love going to Oregon and the wines are just going to gain importance across the country as we go along,” she said.

In Australia, continued Banke, Jackson Family has a 20-year history with its Yangarra Estate Vineyard. After finding success with his Grenache plantations from old, old vines, Banke tasked Yangarra winemaker Peter Fraser to find additional opportunities, which ultimately led them to purchase Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard in the McLaren Vale. “We’re not really going to expand it in volume, but we’ll likely innovate, assuming COVID cooperates, on a new wine estate on the Sexton Vineyard within the next year or so,” she said.

On sustainability, the Jackson family’s Rooted for Good initiative will see the company implement a ten-year sustainability plan that includes halving its carbon footprint by 2030, among other things. social responsibility goals. The company’s multidimensional approach also involves a multi-year partnership with UC Davis to study sustainable practices and co-found the International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA) with the Torres family in Spain to lead collective action in l ‘industry. “It’s a long term strategy because we are a long term business and we are a family business. It is very important for my children and grandchildren that we continue on this path.

New episodes of Straight Talk air Wednesdays at 3 p.m. on Wine Spectator’s Instagram channel.—Danny Sullivan

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Tagged: Jackson Family Wines, Wine Spectator

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