Well known in both the wine and horse world, businesswomen Barbara Banke and Peggy Furth hardly seem like the kind of people who need to add another line to their already impressive CVs. However, after partnering with two previous companies, WholeVine and Vine To Bar Chocolate, the two joined forces to create WindRacer Wines, a luxury brand of small-batch Chardonnay and Pinot Noir using grapes sourced from winery sites. “Extremes” in California.
Their first joint venture, WholeVine, focuses on the “full cycle of sustainability”, using products from the winemaking process such as skins and grape seeds in a variety of food products. This led to their Vine to Bar chocolate business, which incorporates this “Chardonnay Marc” into a range of gourmet chocolate bars packed with nutrients, flavanols and natural sweetness.
Barbara Banke, President and Owner of Jackson Family Wines, is a former constitutional and land use lawyer. Her late husband, Jess Jackson, founded JFW. One of the most notable aspects of this global wine powerhouse is its commitment to sustainability and natural resource management, which grew out of Barbara and Jess’ shared passion for the environment. Peggy Furth began her business career at Kellog Company, where she was the first female head of department in its head office. She then moved on to the wine world alongside her husband Fred when the two founded Chalk Hill Vineyards and Winery in Sonoma, which has since been sold. Both women have strong philanthropic inclinations and have each raised millions of dollars for children in need, among other causes.
WindRacer’s first vintage dates from 2018. He produced two Chardonnays from a single vineyard, one from Russian River Valley and the other from Alexander Valley, priced at $ 65. There are four Pinot Noirs in the portfolio, from Russian River Valley, Anderson Valley, and Sonoma Coast, which sell for $ 75. They are manufactured in very small quantities ranging from 1,320 bottles to 3,180 bottles. The wines are limited edition in New York, California, Florida and Kentucky, and are also available online. Asked about the small amounts compared to most other wines produced by the Jackson family, Barbara Banke explained, “We want to take great little sections of the vineyards and produce wines that are truly the thoroughbreds of their class.”
When asked about the origin of the WindRacer brand and name, Banke told us: âWe have common interests in horses; Peggy in dressage and her grandchildren make hunting riders, and I race horses. We wanted something that had a horse on the label, and we love Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, so we decided to keep some of the wineries I own in California and take selected pieces. I have a very good winemaker, Nikki Weerts, originally from South Africa, who makes the wines for us, so it’s a combination of our interests in wine and horses.
Peggy Furth made herself available to explain the origin of WindRacer, the passion she and Barbara share, and the important details behind one of the most recent and exciting collaborations in the wine world.
World Wine Guys: How did the WindRacer partnership between you and Barbara Banke come about?
Peggy Furth: Barbara and I have collaborated on a number of projects and shared experiences involving wine business travel, thoroughbred racing and philanthropy. In business, we have also partnered to generate new uses for vineyard by-products with WholeVine, from which we then created a consumer product using our Chardonnay Marc (by-product) for Vine chocolates. to Bar, and finally developed WindRacer Wines, completing our collaborations as entrepreneurs. .
Based on our common interests in wine and horses, we decided to pursue a âbest in classâ philosophy for WindRacer wines. Some of our favorite grape varieties are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, these are wines we choose to drink at home, so these are the wines we decided to focus on.
We were asked: âWhy horses and wine? There are so many similarities: the dedication, passion and precision it takes to breed a thoroughbred and raise a grape. People might not think these two are related at all, but being in both industries there are a lot of similarities and it requires an amazing team of people. You can’t do either of these things on your own no matter what your dreams are, and it takes a lot of professionalism.
WWG: What is the story behind the name WindRacer?
PF: The name WindRacer is a combination of âWindâ to describe the climate of high altitude coastal growing regions, representing the extreme viticulture vineyards we source from, and âRacerâ representing horses, their strength and beauty. We’re always on the lookout for new thoroughbred horse names that hopefully match the pedigree, so it was relatively easy to name a brand of wine. WindRacer embodies our combined passions of producing luxury wines and elite horses.
WWG: How did the WindRacer wine and wine team come together?
PF: Shaun Kajiwara is the winery manager at Jackson Family Wines, where he has worked since 2007, so they are estate wineries he knows by heart. Shaun regularly walks these vineyards year round, knows the harsh terrain and climate, and helps us choose specific rows within the vineyard blocks to be devoted to WindRacer wines. Shaun is involved and in sync with these wineries, the best person in the field for WindRacer.
Nikki Weerts has known Barbara since arriving for her first vintage in the United States as an intern at JFW in 2009. She is from South Africa, where she still spends half the year, and Barbara generously has it. included in the vacation since her family is so far away. , so she became an extended part of the family. Over the past 12 years, Nikki has also worked and made wines with Shaun Kajiwara and they had already developed a great working and friendship relationship. We loved Nikki’s international experience in New Zealand, South Africa and the United States, and we spoke with Nikki and Shaun over a holiday weekend about our WindRacer project, our vision , our style and our direction. We wanted new energy and Nikki was a perfect fit for us, so we hooked up this fabulous duo to develop WindRacer wines with us.
WWG: Why did you decide with Barbara to launch a small luxury wine brand?
PF: Why small batches? It’s more fun ! We ask Shaun to find the best spots within a wide range of unique vineyard sites and assess the events of the growing season as harvest approaches. This foundation allows Nikki to take a holistic approach to winemaking. The result is a comprehensive collection of wines, each distinctive and expressive of this team effort. We are fortunate to have access to these extreme, hard to grow and hard to produce wine sites, creating a beautiful collection of wines from separate sites.
WWG: What effect do the extreme wine sites of Sonoma and Mendocino have on the aroma profiles of your WindRacer wines?
PF: Each site, due to its particular location, has distinctive characteristics which are reflected in each wine. They are all different wines, dynamic and elegant by their origin. What makes the project so exciting is that the winemaking takes full advantage of these grapes by letting the vineyard direct the wines. Nikki works with fruits that Shaun grows under intense conditions and she gets what we want from the fruits, doing as little as possible in the cellar. This is why extreme viticulture sites are worth the hard work; the sense of belonging comes out when you cultivate these difficult sites, which really gives a real sense of belonging.
Our selected cooler climate sites and higher elevation sites tend to have higher natural acidity, which allows Nikki to make wines that are bright and fresh and age beautifully as well. The coastal influence on our sites is aromatically very particular, especially for Sealift Vineyard: the salinity of the soil is reflected! Acidity levels are naturally higher in cooler climates and Nikki selects earlier than most winemakers. The beauty of fruit with high natural acidity is that you retain the freshness and flavors of the fruit and the wines are super capable of aging. I can’t wait to see how they evolve over the next 10+ years! Extreme viticulture is a major attribute of the aromatic profile which adds another layer of complexity to our wines year after year.
Growing these sites is also a challenge for Shaun because there are years when the fruits just don’t ripen and they can rot quickly in those cold, wet areas, so there may be years when we can’t. picking fruit from all of these vineyards to produce WindRacer wines of this quality. It’s all part of working with these challenging yet delicious single-vineyard sites, where Shaun and Nikki pick rows of specific fruit for our WindRacer wines.