A Man and his Mountain

The Everyman who Created Kendall-Jackson and Became America's Greatest Wine Entrepreneur


By Edward Humes

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The story of self-made billionaire Jess Jackson, who put Chardonnay on America’s tables as he built the Kendall-Jackson wine empire from a few mountainous acres of grapes, and raced the Horse of the Year three years in a row, is a remarkable tale of romance, risk, and reinvention — perhaps the greatest second act in the history of American business.

Jess Stonestreet Jackson was one of a small band of pioneering entrepreneurs who put California’s Wine Country on the map. His life story is a compelling slice of history, daring, innovation, feuds, intrigue, talent, mystique, and luck. Admirers and detractors alike have called him the Steve Jobs of wine — a brilliant, infuriating, contrarian gambler who seemed to win more than his share by anticipating consumers’ desires with uncanny skill. Time after time his decisions would be ignored and derided, then envied and imitated as competitors struggled to catch up.

He founded Kendall-Jackson with a single, tiny vineyard and a belief that there could be more to California Wine Country than jugs of bottom-shelf screw-top. Today, Kendall-Jackson and its 14,000 acres of coastal and mountain vineyards produce a host of award-winning wines, including the most popular Chardonnay in the world, which was born out of a catastrophe that nearly broke Jackson. The empire Jackson built endures and thrives as a family-run leader of the American wine industry.

Jess Jackson entered the horseracing game just as dramatically. He brought con men to justice, exposed industry-wide corruption in court and Congress, then exacted the best revenge of all: race after race, he defied conventional wisdom with one high-stakes winner after another, capped by the epic season of Rachel Alexandra, the first filly to win the Preakness in nearly a century, cementing Jackson’s reputation as America’s king of wine and horses.
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  • "Humes makes his charismatic subject's every venture vividly and intensely dramatic. This book will attract readers of diverse interests, from the law to wine-making to business to horse-racing." Booklist

    “A well-rounded, absorbing narrative of entrepreneurship, wine and the extraordinary man who made it all happen.” Kirkus Review, starred

    “Thoroughly engaging… this biography is as well-suited for those interested in people as those interested in wine.” Minneapolis Star Tribune

    “A classic American story—a man of the people becomes one of the greatest visionaries and qualitative titans the wine world has ever witnessed. Very highly recommended.” —Robert M. Parker, Jr., The Wine Advocate

    “With dexterity and style, Edward Humes captures Jess Jackson, making his larger-than-life personality come alive and his rollercoaster story jump off the pages. A Man and His Mountain shows the inspiration, boundless energy, and tenacity that Jess Jackson embodied, but also the real man who was in ways like the rest of us, fallible and human. I expected a book about a winery, but what I got was an exciting, motiving, and epic journey of a man with laughs, tears, and surprises.” —Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, master of wine, author of The One Minute Wine Master

On Sale
Oct 22, 2013
Page Count
336 pages

Edward Humes

About the Author

Edward Humes is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of twelve other nonfiction books, including No Matter How Loud I Shout: A Year in the Life of Juvenile Court, a PEN Award recipient; Mississippi Mud; Force of Nature: The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart’s Green Revolution; Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash; and School of Dreams, named by the Washington Post as a best book of the year. His writings have appeared in many publications, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Forbes, and Sierra.

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