DB Awards 2016: a report on the winners

Woman of the Year

Barbara BankeBarbara Banke, chairman and proprietor, Jackson Family Wines

Having graduated from the UCLA and Hastings Law School, and spent more than a decade arguing cases before the US Supreme Court – as well as raising three children – our 2016 Woman of the Year turned her attention to the world of wine, devoting 20 years to leading a company she co-founded with her late husband, Jess.

However, when her beloved partner died in 2011 following a three-year battle with skin cancer, Barbara Banke single-handedly led the operation, continuing the same expansionist approach, while also nurturing the bedrock of its sales volumes: Kendall-Jackson Vintners Reserve – which presently accounts for 45% of the company’s volume, 60% of which comes from its Chardonnay alone.

On top of that our recipient has taken this vast family-owned company in new directions.

At the same time as expanding Jackson Family vineyards in its existing spheres of influence, such as Napa and Sonoma, she has also taken the company into different regions, above all Oregon, and into further countries, with a move last January into South Africa.

Overall she has spent more than US$100m in the past three years expanding operations, although still a small proportion of her estimated $2 billion net worth.

Looking ahead, Banke, aged 63, is aware that she’s readying Jackson Family Wines for the next generation. She compares her approach to the Antinori Family, which today is run by Piero Antinori with the support of his three daughters. “Jess and I have three children, and he has two older daughters from his first marriage, and we are all involved in different wineries, but we are a meritocracy,” she explains.

Her aim appears focused on the internationalisation of Jackson Family Wine’s winemaking and sales operation. Exemplifying the rapid pace of change in the latter, she says, “Today we have 45 people selling our wines around the world – five years ago, that was just six.”

Barbara says the positioning of the business is simple: “We just want to be known now and in the future for the best wines in the world.”

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