Wine isn't Jess Jackson's only passion these days. Last November, the founder of Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates purchased more than 80 thoroughbred horses at a Kentucky breeding stock sale, including a $1.5 million mare named Got Koko. Then in February, the California vintner closed a $17.5 million deal on a 469-acre Kentucky farm described by Blood-Horse magazine (the Bible of the horse-racing set) as "a Lexington showcase property." Jackson renamed the property--formerly known as Buckram Oak Farm and owned by Saudi racing enthusiast Mahmoud Fustok--Stonestreet Farms after his late father, for whom Jackson also named Stonestreet Winery in Sonoma's Alexander Valley. Jackson, who now owns some 150 thoroughbreds, says he's more interested in the breeding than in the racing. Given that he was No. 124 on the 2004 Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, he's got the dough to build a thoroughbred empire to rival his vast wine holdings in California, but he told Blood-Horse that, like his wine, his venture is more about quality than quantity.
Pinot Noir lovers wept along Highway 121 in Sonoma County on Monday as about 2,000 gallons of the cherished red leaked from a jackknifed big rig. Officials were clueless as to who owned the wine, but the semi was reportedly headed to Sebastopol or Guerneville. (Since the tanker was carrying 6,400 gallons, it's doubtful that it was top-grade California Pinot.) The truck was heading west on 121 when the driver swerved to miss a car and tipped over a few hundred yards from the Schell-Vista Fire Department. The driver was treated for minor injuries, and state officials closed the highway--a main artery between Napa and Sonoma counties--for about 11 hours. Wine, in a case like this, is actually considered hazardous waste. State specialists, fearing the wine might reach nearby Sonoma Creek, built an earthen dam and vacuumed up the spilt Pinot. Miles from Sideways would surely have gone into hysterics at the sight!
|Howell Mountain vintner Randy Dunn saves the forest for the trees|
Last summer, several Napa Valley producers suffered estimated losses of more than $500,000 when their 2004 crops were damaged or destroyed by an herbicide sprayed at a nearby state park in St. Helena. The toxic (and now restricted) Garlon 4 spray drifted over to their vineyards in the wind, shriveling grape clusters and leaves and forcing the wineries to destroy the affected fruit. It took months of investigation, but the Napa Valley agriculture commissioner's office determined that the California State Parks service was indeed guilty of carelessness (for not following the spraying directions and spraying when there was a possibility of damage to other properties) and fined the department $8,000. The State Parks folks appealed the decision, and a hearing commissioner reduced the fine to $4,000 last week; State Parks now has 30 days to file an appeal with the state's Department of Pesticide Regulations or ante up. In the meantime, four producers--Turley, Etude, Vineyard 29 and St. Clement--have moved ahead and filed claims with the state Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board in hopes of recovering some of their losses.
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