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July 8, 2019

Summer is the season for Wimbledon, Ascot, Polo, PIMMS and now red wine thanks to Barbara Banke of Jackson Family Wines.

Barbara has spent the last two decades leading the company she co-founded with her late husband Jess Jackson an expanding their portfolio of world-class vineyards and wineries. Most recently Barbara has secured an esteemed partnership with The Guards Polo Club and Vérité, one of Banke’s leading labels, to become the official red wine sponsor of the season. The wine was served  in the prestigious Royal Box, overlooking the Queen’s ground.

Luxuria Lifestyle UK CEO, Brenda Gabriel met with Banke at the Cartier Queen’s Cup last month to find out more about the partnership, her successful career and discussing the shared passion for thoroughbreds with  The Queen.

I understand that your children are involved in Jackson Family Wines; what roles have they taken on and what are the benefits of working as a family?

We operate our family wine business with a multigenerational approach, which allows us to make responsible decisions with future generations in mind, and never for short term gain. My three children, step-daughter Jenny, her daughter Hailey, and spouses in most cases, are all involved. My three children – Katie, Julia and Chris Jackson – are wonderful people who care deeply about making a difference. The family is dedicated to quality and sustainable practices so that we can build an enduring heritage for their children and grandchildren. My daughter Katie leads our company’s sustainability program and has established the largest solar energy array in the U.S. wine industry and reduced our water use by more than 60%. My daughter Julia founded an amazing organization called Grounded to build awareness around climate change and drive solutions. My son Chris recently earned his law degree and has launched Seismic Brewing Company, focused on high quality craft beer made with sustainable practices. I’m looking forward to my children continuing to take on more leadership roles in the company and celebrating their individual achievements.

You aren’t a stranger to working in a heavily male dominated industry. I note prior to becoming an expert in wines you were an attorney. How does your experience in the wine industry compare to that as an attorney in terms of some of the challenges or attitudes you may have encountered?

I’ve never found that gender bias has ever stopped me. If anything, it gives you an opportunity to surprise your opponent or competition. As a woman in my early law career, I had to work harder to get ahead. This taught me to trust my abilities and never let anyone else define my value. Throughout my career, from law to the wine business, I have never allowed negative opinions to keep me from pursuing what I am passionate about. For me, that means building a collection of world class estates that produce the best wines from great vineyards.

How did the partnership between Vérité and Guards Polo Club come about?  Why do you believe Vérité was successful in securing such an esteemed partnership?  I believe you also had the honour of meeting HRH at the Guards Polo Club. How did you find the experience?

We thought after 60 years with no “official wine” at Guards Polo Club it was about time they had one. With my passion for horses and wine, we felt the partnership with Guards was a natural fit and it makes sense for our highest awarded wine, Vérité, to be presented at this prestigious venue. I did have the great honor of meeting Queen Elizabeth recently. She was charming and we had a moment to bond over our shared passion for thoroughbreds.

Vérité wines have received numerous accolades over the years. Are there any other awards that you would like to receive?

Our Vérité wines have received 19 outstanding 100-point scores since our first 1998 vintage. Our Lokoya, Cardinale, Hartford Family Winery estate wineries have also received perfect 100 point scores. That number of top accolades will grow. We’re crafting wines that stand within rarified air, with the top wines from the most renowned regions in the world. I’m proud of the high accolades all of our wineries have earned through the years. My goal is to achieve more 100-point scores across our collection of wineries. We have the vineyards and the talented winemakers and our wineries are already crafting world class wines.

I understand that you are quite a philanthropist.  Can you expand on this, and what does giving back mean to you? Why is it important?

My family is fortunate to be able to give back in meaningful ways. We want to be involved in making a difference in our communities – I believe this is one of the most rewarding aspects of building a successful company. I’m a passionate advocate for children and enhancing the quality of life for families in need, including access to food, education and health care. Each year, we support numerous causes and more than 200 nonprofit organizations that are working to build stronger communities where we live and do business. And for more than 30 years, we have also supported many regional wine auctions across the U.S. that also give back to vital local nonprofits organizations and charitable causes. We also pick charities in the areas where our horses race and donate to equine scientific research and equine retirement.

I know that sustainability is at the heart of your winemaking. How has this changed the way your company produces wine over the last few years?

A commitment to sustainable practices requires running a business with integrity and making decisions with a long-term horizon. We’ve always led our family wine business with integrity and a dedication to quality. That has never wavered. Integrating more sustainability into the way we make our wines also requires innovation. We’ve proactively implemented practices that minimize our impact through smart water management, innovative energy conservation, and best practices in low-impact farming. We’re also the first wine company to explore the feasibility of carbon farming and have set an aggressive goal to lower our carbon emissions 80% by 2045. Our winery teams have learned to be more efficient in how they use water and energy, our vineyards and wineries are certified sustainable from third-party programs and we are planting drought resistant rootstocks in the vineyard. Our goal is to make the highest quality wines possible, and sustainable practices help us do that. Saving water helps with the quality of the grapes and helps with the health of the soil.

What’s in store in the future? I know that you said you would love to own a winery in either Champagne or Burgundy. Are you any closer to doing so?

My family will continue to make world class wines from exceptional regions across the globe. We’re always looking for that next perfect wine or perfect vineyard. We’ll continue to explore new opportunities to grow and expand into new wine regions that make sense to us – different parts of France are always intriguing. Pierre Seillan, our winemaker for Vérité, is also making spectacular wines in St. Émilion at our Château Lassègue estate. And the beautiful and elegant wines from Champagne, the Loire and Burgundy are highly desirable for our family if the right opportunity presents itself. The prospect of making something spectacular or discovering something new will always inspire me as we move into the future.

What are your interests outside of wine & horses, how do you like to unwind?

My greatest joy is spending time with my three children, Katie, Julia and Chris Jackson, and I cherish time with my grandchildren. I love reading and traveling, although I travel so much now it’s not as much fun as it once was. I also enjoy hiking near my home with my family, friends and Labrador Retrievers by my side. I find that my mountainside hikes in the morning help clear my mind and energize me for the day ahead.

W: Verité Wines / Guards Polo Club

Written by Brenda Gabriel for Luxuria Lifestyle UK & Ireland

Photographs of Polo – Luxx PR

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