Five Minutes With Vernon Wells, Vintner

by Kaitlin Street on September 13, 2018 in Food+Drink, Drink, Lifestyle, Sports,
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Texas native Vernon Wells is a retired MLB player, who played for the Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and New York Yankees.

With 14 years on the road, the three-time All Star, along with former Angels teammate, Chris Ianetta, discovered a mutual appreciation for fine wines. In 2012, Wells and Ianetta teamed up to create a boutique premium wine brand, JACK. Named after the first initials of their children, JACK wines have been scoring high with top wine reviewers. Made solely from Napa Valley grapes, a limited number of cases are produced each season and sold online. With fall and the new wine harvest on the horizon, we wanted to learn more from Wells about his new passion.

What led to your decision to transition from wine lover to winemaker?

Well I wish I could take credit for the winemaking, but that is all in the hands of our winemaker, Grant Long Jr! I am still very much a wine lover, and my love of wine continues to grow. The desire to become a vintner came during my time on the Angels, when Chris and I discovered our shared passion for fine wines.  Initially, JACK started as a passion project, but once we discovered others also loved our wine, it changed from a passion project to a business. Yet, although we now sell our wine, it’s still very much a passion and about the experience in which you enjoy our wines, with family and friends.

Do you find any similarities between baseball and winemaking?  

Both require incredible attention to detail in your craft, from grape management to blending and bottling, you can never take your eye off the ball—-pun intended!

JACK wine, made from all Napa Valley grapes, is a collaboration between former MLB team mates Vernon Wells and Chris Ianetta. Courtesy photo

What new skills did you have to learn before starting your own wine business?  

I have had to refine my palette to learn to taste for things I never thought I would need to identify. Now that we are several vintages into this venture, with fruit from different parts of the Napa Valley, I am able to drink our wine and any others to taste the similarities and differences in the fruit and winemaking.

What makes JACK wine special?

JACK is about the experience of wine.  For us, wine is about family and friends, and we created JACK with the intention of it being a special part of your life.  Whether it is a holiday, birthday or just another night of the week, opening a bottle of JACK should always be memorable.

Do you have a favorite JACK wine?  

All of them!! Each of our wines has a special place in my heart, and was crafted with Chris and my personal tastes in mind.  My wife and I have an affinity for white wines, which is why we have a sauvignon blanc in our portfolio.

Cover photo: Vernon Wells (left) and Chris Ianetta