Named Drinks Business Green Company of the Year in 2013, and recognized with the EPA Green Power Leadership Awards (2013, 2016, 2018) while also earning a California Green Medal Leader Award in 2016 Jackson Family Wines has been recognized across the world for their dedication to sustainability and climate action solutions.
Meet the Women of Jackson Family Wines and their commitment to sustainability. The company is led by one of the wine industry’s top innovators, Barbara Banke who was the first female to be named Wine Enthusiast’s Wine Personality of the Year in 2012 and was honored with Wine Spectator’s Distinguished Service award in 2017. Katie Jackson who was also selected for the Wine Enthusiast’s 2018 annual “40 under 40” is using her position and voice to bring sustainability to the forefront of the wine industry. From co-founding International Wineries for Climate Action with the Torres family in Spain, to finding innovative water-saving technology that has been shared with other wineries, the women at Jackson Family Wines believe in the power of working together to re-shape the wine industry on many levels. They care about the people and the planet and are committed to sustainability on every level.
Committed to building a workplace where diversity, equity, and inclusion thrive at Jackson Family Wines, 65% of the company’s winemakers are women – making it a unique story in California and the world. I sat down with Winemaker Susan Lueker to talk sustainability.
“What inspires me about sustainability is simply being able to make decisions in the vineyard with the future in mind – taking the “less is more” approach and truly thinking about what is inputted into our final products and how it aligns with our values. I truly believe in the sentiment “take care of the land and the land will take care of you” and that the winemaking process is circular; I think about the vineyard when blending the wine and the wine when making vineyard decisions,” says Susan Lueker.
Growing up on a family farm, Susan always thought she would be a scientist. After earning a Chemistry and Media Child Development degree, she felt something was missing. Always interested in nature, she took an Enology class at UC Davis, switched her majors and fell in love with the vines and winemaking. Lueker adds, “From art to science, wine captures it all. I love both chemistry and winemaking, but the winemaking process has always resonated more with me. The two go somewhat hand in hand as there’s chemistry in winemaking so the transition was somewhat seamless but winemaking, for me, was following a dream.” Now, with more than 25 years worth of winemaking experience, she currently leads the Bordeaux Wine Program at Kendall-Jackson which was named “American Winery of the Year” (2017) by Wine Enthusiast, Magazine.
I asked Susan about her winemaking approach and philosophy, and this is what she shared, “My approach to winemaking is relatively simple: start with the best grapes that are available and always be true to what the vineyard gives you. Wine is equal parts art and science unless there’s a problem and then it’s more science. We, winemakers, love microscopes and working with nature to make the best wine possible for people and the planet!”
All Jackson Family Wines estate vineyards earned certification under the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW) program in 2010, and they also installed their first solar panels in 2012 as a commitment to putting sustainability first.
“My main mission as a winemaker is to create wines that people love to drink,” explains Lueker. “ My favourite part of winemaking is seeing the transformation from grapes to wine and it takes a village to make the whole process happen.” With a focus on holistic sustainability JFW is leading the way for wineries around the world.
“The dream for all of us in the wine business is to protect the planet and keep it safe and healthy for future generations and that involves fostering women into leadership roles, acknowledging their talents and opening up spaces at every level for women to lead change,” concludes Lueker.
Their ‘Rooted for Good’ initiative will see the company implement a ten-year sustainability roadmap that includes a plan to cut our carbon emissions in half by 2030 and become climate positive by 2050, without purchasing carbon offsets. It’s one of the biggest initiatives Jackson Family Wines has ever undertaken. By 2030 they also expect that 100% of their estate vineyards will be farmed using regenerative practices.
Are you thinking about entering the wine industry? Susan Lueker encourages it. “Go for it. Do your research as best you can, but at some point, you have to have a leap of faith”. With so much change and innovation in the wine business, more wineries are looking to women to lead the way to a more sustainable future for people and the planet.