The SOMM Journal

February/March 2015

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{ wine families } WHILE IT IS COMMONPLACE FOR FAMILY businesses to pass from one generation to the next, seldom do the children of partnerships continue that business relationship. But there are exceptions. The relationship between the late Jess Jackson, who died in 2011, and his wife and business partner, Barbara Banke, and the French winegrowing couple, Pierre and Monique Seillan, is a special one that has now expanded over almost 20 years to include five separate wine brands made in three different coun- tries on two continents. Rarer still, it now firmly spans two generations. Today, best friends Hélène Seillan and Julia Jackson, both in their mid-20s, are fully immersed in their fam- ily alliance. Hélène is making wines in Sonoma and Bordeaux, and Julia is working her way up through the business side. Moreover, Hélène's older brother, Nicolas, and Julia's two siblings, Katie and Christopher, all work in the Jackson Family Wines collection, which oversees the partnership with Banke as its chairman. It all began in the late 1990s when Jackson was expanding the wine business he had started in 1974 and set a goal of making a world-class California Merlot. Enter Pierre Seillan, a Gascony-born Bordeaux winemaker who specialized in Merlot. The relationship started with a chance meeting between a friend of Barbara Banke, who had mar- ried Jess in 1988, and Monique Seillan in 1995 at the Bordeaux Convention Center, where Monique had a marketing job. When the couples met, they liked each other immediately, and Jess asked Pierre to work with him. The Seillans moved to California in late 1997. "My first memory of the Jacksons was I saw this man in my house in Bordeaux who looked like a cowboy," says Hélène, who was nine at the time and spoke no English. "A week later, we went to California on his plane." There she met Julia Jackson, who is a year younger. "We instantly felt comfortable together," Hélène recalls. "My mom called us 'double trouble.'" Sonoma-based Vérité, the first partnership wine, was launched with the 1998 vintage, and Anakota in Knights Valley, Arcanum in Tuscany and Châteaux Lassègue in St-Émilion were later added. Hélène was given a first shot as lead winemaker in 2009 with "Cenyth," a red Bordeaux blend with Sonoma grapes. Julia designed the label. Banke and friend and partner Monique Seillan themselves sometimes act like siblings, and Banke says their children "are more like brothers and sis- ters." "Pierre is like a father to me," Chris Jackson adds. "He and my father are like minds," he says, still using the present tense. "Both have a little stubborn- ness in their personalities, but in a critical storm, both keep their eye on the goal." Sibling Alliance THE SECOND GENERATION OF THE JACKSON-SEILLAN PARTNERSHIP STEPS UP by Roger Morris Left to right, Nicolas Seillan, Julia Jackson, Katie Jackson, Hélène Seillan, Christopher Jackson and Shaun Kajiwara (Katie Jackson's husband) in front of Château Lassègue. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHÂTEAU LASSÈGUE 12 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } FEBRUARY/MARCH 2015

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