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Wine-Industry Veteran Jose Fernandez Dies at Age 54

CEO of Constellation's North American wine business called innovative, competitive

Tim Fish
Posted: January 4, 2010

Jose Fernandez, a 30-year veteran of the wine industry and CEO of Constellation's North American wine business, died on Jan. 1 following a yearlong struggle with brain cancer. He was 54.

Fernandez's career spanned several international wine companies, including BRL Hardy, Southcorp and Kobrand. Since joining Constellation Brands in 2003, he played a key role in the company's acquisition and integration of wineries such as Robert Mondavi, Vincor USA and Beam Wine Estates.

"He was a wonderful person with great values and will be missed by everyone across our entire organization," Rob Sands, Constellation Brands president and CEO, said in a statement. "Jose was an enthusiastic leader and an innovator whose vision played a significant role in the growth and direction of the company. A classically trained conductor from the Julliard School, Jose melded his artistic passion with clear business acumen."

Fernandez was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., and graduated from Pace University. He also studied orchestral conducting at the Juilliard School. He started his career in the wine business with the importer Kobrand and was later president of Southcorp Wines North America from 1992 to 2000. John Gay, who became chairman of Southcorp's American arm when it merged with Rosemount Estates in 2001, said Fernandez was "thoughtful, enthusiastic and competitive. I admired him and respected him. He was a good guy."

Fernandez was CEO of BRL Hardy North America from 2000 to 2001, and then for two years led Pacific Wine Partners, a previous joint venture between Constellation and Hardy. He joined Constellation in 2003 when that company bought Hardy, and was appointed CEO of its North American wine division in 2007.

Most recently Fernandez split his time between Rochester, N.Y., San Francisco and Pacific Grove, Calif., where he lived with his wife, Kathy Morell, and children José Fernandez IV, Carla Fernandez and Claire Rosburg.

Steve Mann
Norwalk, CT —  January 5, 2010 10:21am ET
I had the distinct pleasure of working with Jose' early in our careers. I'll always remember his cool and calm demeanor as well as his amazing marketing sense. He was a great individual who will be missed by many.
Dan
Washington DC —  January 6, 2010 9:33am ET
Jose was a true visionary. He could captivate a crowd with his presence and keep them focused on his presentation. You would believe he was talking to each and every person in the room. He has touched more people in this industry than you could ever imagine. At the end of a long day of meetings and presentations, Jose would take his place at the nearest Piano and and lead everyone in song. Elton John was his favorite. They would pass out words to the songs for us hummers. There was no excuse not to join in. He made you feel welcome no matter the setting. In my 25 years in the industry, there has not been a greater influence. He was an industry role model. Good Bye Rocket Man!!

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