Charming, well-rounded, with loads of depth and a touch of earthiness. I could be describing a wine, but it is also an apt description of Julia Jackson, daughter of legendary wine entrepreneur, Jess Jackson, who in her own right has become something of a legend herself.
And lest you think the “earthiness” comment is a touch over-the-top, well, we’ll come back to that in a moment.
As you can imagine, growing up in a household as the middle daughter of Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke, Julia has always had an interest in wine.
“I know that sounds silly, considering we were surrounded by wine and winemaking our whole lives, but I truly was interested in the business from as far back as I can remember,” Jackson said.
Born in California, she remembers picking and sorting grapes in 100-degree weather from a very young age. Her father always emphasized the importance of hard work to his children and “always made sure we appreciated what it took to become successful,” according to Jackson.
After school and during the summers, she worked at several of the Jackson family wineries, where she formed a lifelong bond with the French-speaking daughter of one of the winemakers employed by the family.
This friendship led to a formative summer in Bordeaux, France, learning French and immersing herself in a culture she loves to this day. “Being in France, around the vineyards and learning the French style of winemaking was a highlight of my life.”
Today, Jackson is involved with both the international sales team at Jackson Family Wines, as well as working alongside her sister, Katherine, and winemaker Jill Russell at Cambria Estate Vineyard and Winery.
Located in the Santa Maria Valley of California, this iconic estate was founded by Jess and Barbara back in 1986. As co-proprietors, Katherine and Julia are responsible for carrying on the tradition of producing exceptional chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines from the 100 percent sustainable single-vineyard sites bearing their name.
As far as that “earthiness” reference made earlier, Jackson is a passionate environmental advocate who has recently founded a nonprofit organization called Grounded. Using her influence, Jackson has gathered a broad array of experts in the field of climate change, regenerative agriculture, renewable energy and ocean health who will gather in Sonoma, California, next year to explore and discuss ways to make the Earth a healthier planet.
Jackson’s passion for the planet definitely carries over to the wines produced at Cambria. Between the cool climate “Flavor Domains” (one of Jess Jackson’s favorite expressions), and her commitment to sustainable farming practices, the wines from Cambria not only taste great, they feel great drinking them.
Katherine’s Vineyard, named for Jess and Barbara’s daughter Katherine in 1986, consists of ancient soils comprising fossilized seashells, shale, limestone and sand. Vines planted on this parcel thrive in the cool, maritime influenced climate. The 2015 Cambria Estate Winery Katherine’s Vineyard chardonnay is vibrant and lively, with scents of green apple, lemon/lime citrus, and a touch of buttered toast on the nose. Flavors of grapefruit, orange blossom and tropical fruit are bright and lively on the crisp palate. It has a lovely, textured finish featuring tart nectarines and wet stone minerallity. $16
Julia’s eponymous vineyard parcel was created in 1988 and shares similar a similar soil composition with her older sister’s plot, including limestone, shale and sandy soil terroir. However, Julia’s vineyard is dedicated to growing Pinot Noir. The 2015 Cambria Estate Winery Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir starts off with a lovely bouquet of lavender with hints of wild strawberry and boysenberry. The palate is rewarded with well-defined flavors of red berry fruit and cloves are buoyed by vibrant acidity that leads to a silky finish. $20
Taking it one step further in Julia’s vineyard, the 2015 Cambria Estate Winery Julia’s Vineyard Signature Collection Pinot Noir is definitely a collectible wine. Using a combination of two clones, 23 and 4, Jackson describes this wine as “the cabernet sauvignon wine lover’s pinot noir.” It has a lovely perfumed nose of ripe red raspberries, red plums and earthy aromas. The palate reveals a very straightforward arsenal of dark fruits, including blackberry and ripe plums. Toasty oak and hints of mocha are prominent on the persistent yet supple finish. Check out the cool etched bottle, designed by Jackson and featuring an ancient seashell, which can be found throughout the vineyard. $55
Of course, we can’t forget mom. Barbara Banke has her own section of the Cambria estate dedicated to Pinot Noir as well. Given the fact that the Santa Maria Valley is one of California’s coolest appellations and boasts one of the longest-growing seasons in the state, it’s no surprise that the cool nights and warm days produce Pinot Noir grapes with balance and elegance. The 2015 Cambria Estate Winery Barbara’s Signature Collection Clone 667 Pinot Noir offers aromas of roasted spices, red raspberries, lilacs and earth. Textured flavors of red berry fruit, cocoa nibs, black cherry and vanilla flows over the tongue. The finish is rich and silky, with supple acidity. $55