Barbara Banke, the widow of California 'titan' Jess Jackson, is overseeing the launch of her three top cuveés in the UK.
Jackson Family Wines is about to release the 2008 vintage of the Vérité from Sonoma, and Lokoya and Cardinale from Napa, all of which retail at £90-£200 per bottle.
Lokoya is 100% Cabernet, Cardinale is a Cabernet-Merlot blend, while the three Vérité wines are Bordeaux blends based on Cabernet, Merlot or Cabernet Franc.
This is the first major launch under Banke’s sole chairmanship, after Jess Jackson, described in obituaries as a ‘titan of the California wine industry’ died earlier this year at the age of 81.
Banke told Decanter.com that wine styles in California were undergoing a subtle change away from the heavily oaked styles of the 1980s.
‘We’ve got to the point where we try to showcase the terroir and have a more refined sensibility – so when we gravitate towards a winemaker, we gravitate towards someone with that refinement.’
Banke, who described the proprietor’s role as that of ‘circus ringleader’, stressed that although the three Vérité wines – La Joie, Le Désir and La Muse – are made by a Frenchman, Pierre Seillan, they are not apeing the Bordeaux style.
‘Pierre is from Bordeaux, but these are not French wines by any means. They have a different profile, different harvest times, different ripeness, different acidity, pH, minerality, character. We are standing by the California terroir.’
The wines are well-received in the UK – ‘this is top-end California – they have the pedigree,’ Simon Davies of London merchants Fine & Rare told Decanter.com.
Fine & Rare first offered the wines on the 2007 vintage, which ‘went really well’, he said.
‘We are delighted to get availability of top American wines. These things are normally sold on mailing lists and by the time we can buy them they would be far too expensive to sell on.’
Davies said that his customers ‘overwhelmingly’ bought Bordeaux and Burgundy but were very receptive to fine California wine, ‘especially when they have high points from Robert Parker’.
When Vérité was first released in 2001 at US$150, the stated aim of the Jackson Family Wines was to make ‘one of the world’s great Merlot-based wines from a group of extraordinary mountain vineyards’.
Seldom reviewed in the UK, the three estates are highly-regarded by US critics, regularly winning 95 points and more.
The three Lokoya Napa cuveés come from Howell Mountain, Diamond Mountain and Mount Veeder, while Cardinale is a blend of vineyards from all those appellations.
The wines will also be available from Corney & Barrow, Farr Vintners and Jeroboams in the UK.
Written by Adam Lechmere