From the Publisher
"Humes makes his charismatic subject’s every venture vividly and intensely dramatic. This book will attract readers of diverse interests, from the law to wine-making to business to horse-racing." Booklist
“A well-rounded, absorbing narrative of entrepreneurship, wine and the extraordinary man who made it all happen.” Kirkus Review, starred
this biography is as well-suited for those interested in people as those interested in wine.” Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A classic American storya man of the people becomes one of the greatest visionaries and qualitative titans the wine world has ever witnessed. Very highly recommended.” Robert M. Parker, Jr., The Wine Advocate
“With dexterity and style, Edward Humes captures Jess Jackson, making his larger-than-life personality come alive and his rollercoaster story jump off the pages. A Man and His Mountain shows the inspiration, boundless energy, and tenacity that Jess Jackson embodied, but also the real man who was in ways like the rest of us, fallible and human. I expected a book about a winery, but what I got was an exciting, motiving, and epic journey of a man with laughs, tears, and surprises.” Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, master of wine, author of The One Minute Wine Master
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.
Read an Excerpt
Jess Jackson wriggled into his half-wetsuit, threw on an air tank, regulator, and mask, and plunged into the vineyard’s dark reservoir. The icy water burned his exposed arms and legs. He could see nothing under the surfacedawn was still hours away. He’d have to feel along the slimy bottom of the pond until he found the weeds and algae that had clogged the irrigation pumps, then rip them loose so the reservoir waters could once again flow to the vines.
His big hands reduced to clumsy clubs by the cold, he tried not to panic as he felt around with numbed fingers. He knew time was not on his side. The banks of drippers and sprayers in the fields could protect the grapes from fatal frost. Liquid water soon froze once sprayed on the vines, but that was good: it insulated the fragile fruit, forming a barrier between the grapes and the much colder air temperature that would burn and ruin the crop. But the vital pumps had clogged, the protective waters were not flowing, it was the middle of the night, and there was no one but this middle-aged lawyer and part-time vintner there to do something about the incessant frost alarm. Jackson knew he either could complete this crazy, bone chilling dive and risk possible hypothermia to save his fledgling vineyard, or he could walk away, go sit by the fire, and lose the farm in a matter of hours. As in, literally, lose the farm.
In truth, this wasn’t much of a debate for Jackson. In a crisis he preferred offense to defense, whatever the consequencespunching rather than rolling with the punches. His years working as a policeman, an ambulance driver, a lumberjack, a gambler, and assorted other risky and dicey careers had convinced him of that mucha resumé that, years later, would make him a unique entry on Forbes’ list of the world’s wealthiest men. So he had raced to rummage through the storeroom where he had stashed his diving rig. No one else in the family had been quite sure why he had hauled all this junk up to the farm. Now it seemed there had been a method to the madness, as he told his wide-eyed daughter, “I’m going in.”