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.