by Fred McMillin
for September 3, 1997

Jed Knocks 'Em Dead

Prologue:

  • Celebrated Winemaker Jed Steele: I was making a million cases a year at Kendall Jackson. But I realized that was not where I wanted to be. You get farther and farther away from winemaking.

  • Wife, Co-owner and Marketing Director Marie Steele: Our own winery will not go much beyond 20,000 cases a year. Bigger is not always better.
The Rest of the Story: Both Jed and Marie Steele left Kendall Jackson and founded Steele Wines in 1991. They are determined to keep it a small, hands-on operation. However, the first year's production was sold out before it was made. Sales have jumped from 5,000 to 15,000 cases a year. The couple now has purchased a winery with a 100,000 case capacity, the Konocti in Lake County. While they do not plan to use that extra capacity, consumers hope they do. My panel feels the more Steele wines available the better. For example, at the last blind tasting, we unwrapped the Best White, and it was a '95 Steele Chardonnay from the Goodchild Vineyard in Santa Barbara County, $24...great grape intensity paired with bold oak. But, there are only 700 cases...phone Marie at (707) 279-9475.

Postscript: I guess part of my skepticism over a million-case winemaker resisting public demand for greater production is that Jed even started college on a large scale... at Gonzaga University he was a basketball star standing six foot five inches!

For more about the Steeles, see eGG's Winery of the Week for Feb. 21, 1997, The Steele Appeal.


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf

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