A LOOK BACK AT SONOMA VALLEY’S MOST FAMOUS GROWER.
If you appreciate the history as well as the amazing flavors of Sonoma Valley wine, we have a suggestion. Pick up a copy of Jack London’s novel, The Valley of The Moon. Then curl up with a glass of wine from Kenwood Winery’s Jack London Vineyard series. In the book you’ll get a feel for London’s love of the land Jack came to call home. In the wine you’ll get a taste of that same ground’s capacity for producing wines as bold, vital and renowned as their namesake.
As you read The Valley of The Moon, London’s words speak eloquently of the region and the people of that era. As you taste the wine, you can appreciate the enduring relationship between Kenwood Winery and the land he loved so much. For going on forty years, Kenwood has honored Jack London with grapes sourced exclusively from the property he once farmed. So let’s go back and immerse ourselves in that chapter of the fascinating true story from the life and times of Jack London.
Way back in 1860, at the urging of Agoston Haraszthy, the founder of California’s first winery, a man named Louis Csomrtanyi planted 40 acres on what became Jack London’s Beauty Ranch. The small cottage and stone winery he built would eventually become London’s home. In 1873 a pair of vintners and merchants bought the property, worked to advocate for the quality of California wine, expanded the vineyards to 200 acres and the winery to 60,000 cases per year in its heyday. The original winery structure was damaged beyond repair in the 1906 earthquake.
Jack London fell in love with Charmian Kittredge first, then Sonoma Valley when he first visited here in 1903 to court her. In 1905 they married, purchased the stunning Hill Ranch, and Jack set to work building his dream home, The Wolf House. Jack dubbed the property his Beauty Ranch, and in letters called it, “…130 acres of the most beautiful, primitive land to be found in California.” From that moment forward, he never stopped talking, and writing, about the stunning beauty of Sonoma Valley.
Jack London became an official resident of Glen Ellen the same year The Call of The Wild was published to resounding success and critical acclaim. And while he continued writing at Beauty Ranch, his focus moved more and more to farming. Ever adventurous and principled, London sought to demonstrate a more sustainable approach to farming. He pioneered soil conservation techniques, using tillage and terracing to restore the land, making Jack Sonoma Valley’s first sustainable farmer.
As London continued his travels, his stepsister, Eliza Shepard, managed Beauty Ranch. Then, upon his untimely death in 1916, she took over full time. The vineyards and hayfields were left fallow due to World War I and Prohibition, but Eliza and her descendants kept Beauty Ranch intact until Charmian’s death in 1959, when the land was donated for the creation of the Jack London State Park.
In 1972 Eliza Shepard’s son, Irving, and his son, Milo, planted Jack London Vineyard, much of it on the old terraces built by London himself. Kenwood Vineyards recognized both the historic significance, and the incredible quality of the Cabernet Sauvignon being grown, and began purchasing grapes from the vineyard.
Today, Kenwood honors London’s legacy with wines from the Jack London Vineyard featuring the “Wolf” bookplate logo. Introduced with the 1977 vintage, the superb quality of wines sourced from this legendary property have become among the most successful single-vineyard series in California wine history.
“I ride over my beautiful ranch. Between my legs a beautiful horse. The air is wine. The grapes on a score of rolling hills are red with autumn flare. Across Sonoma Mountain, wisps of sea fog are stealing. The afternoon sun smolders in the drowsy sky. I have everything to make me glad I am alive.”
– Jack London