Jess Jackson possessed a great deal of influence and wielded a good deal of power in California’s North Coast wine country.
The late impresario of Jackson Family Estates and the Kendall-Jackson wine empire helped change the way people thought about Chardonnay, which made his K-J bottling of that variety among the best sellers in restaurants year after year.
A former employee of Jackson’s once told me that Jackson wasn’t one to take “no” for an answer, or settle for the status quo. When it was discovered that the quality of the French oak barrels he’d been purchasing was inconsistent, he got into the cooperage business — both in France and Missouri. When he felt that distributors weren’t doing a good enough job of selling his wines, he established his own distribution company.
Of course, it was much easier to make changes within his own company than with government bodies. Jackson’s one famously large failure in the latter realm came in 2002 when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms turned thumbs down on his proposal to create an American Viticultural Area known as “California Coast,” which would have encompassed some 22,000 square miles and 68 existing AVAs.
Prior to his death in April, Jackson was hoping to make a different mark on the viticultural map by renaming the mountain that shaded his estate in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley.
It’s not known when Black Mountain was named, but historic records show the name being used as far back as 1875. Several years ago, Jackson filed a request to rename it Alexander Mountain, in honor of Cyrus Alexander, the pioneer for whom the surrounding valley already is named.
Last summer, the California Advisory Committee on Geographic Names recommended rejection of the proposal. Last week, the United States Board of Geographic Names followed that recommendation, denying the request by a vote of 11-0.
Jon Campbell, who sits on the board, told the Press-Democrat newspaper: “When a name’s been in use for a long time… then our predisposition is to keep the name.”
And so, Black Mountain’s name will remain Black Mountain.
Jess Jackson accomplished a great deal during his 37 years in the wine business. Nobody can deny that.
But, as it turns out, not even Jesse Jackson could move mountains.
What’s in a name? Should the U.S. Board of Geographic Names have ruled differently on Jackson’s proposal? Your thoughts are welcome in the comments box below.