Raise a Glass to Jack

Chances are you’ve heard of Jack London. The oyster pirate turned famous author, despite his short life and limited traveling options (on sailboats only), visited more countries than most of us ever will. You might not have known that London was also a middle school dropout who took up writing only after recounting his near-death experience on a seal-hunting ship in a typhoon to his mother, who encouraged him to enter a writing contest run by the local paper. He won the first prize of $25. Today, he is honored by a namesake lake in Russia, a mountain in British Columbia, a square in Oakland, a state park and a postage stamp, among other things. But his name has yet another tie: “Jack London (wines) are some of California’s oldest and most successful vineyard-designated wines in the country,” says Kenwood Vineyards chief winemaker Pat Henderson. “He was also a pioneer of sustainable farming, practices he had learned from his time in Europe.” After the 1903 publication of Call of the Wild, London found his way to Sonoma to pursue his soul mate. He purchased some land and eventually acquired even more property on the steep slopes of Sonoma Mountain. He and his wife (he got the girl) called it Beauty Ranch. After his early death at age 40 in 1916, London’s stepsister Eliza Shepard took over management of the property, and her descendants are still sustainably farming the land today. Another tradition is the continued 40-year relationship with Kenwood Vineyards, which sources exclusively from the ranch, producing award-winning merlot, zinfandel, syrah and cabernet. As a nod to the wine’s heritage, each label is emblazoned with the wolf head, which was Jack London’s bookplate logo in many of his novels. And if you look closely, you can see the abstract wolf homage in the latest iteration of Kenwood’s logo. The winery is open to the public for hiking and tasting.

Marin Magazine Wineyard