On the eve of her departure for the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Gold Medalist Peggy Fleming Jenkins spoke to Liquid Assets columnist and SVB Director of Wine Programs, Raymond Nasr, about her winery, the love of winemaking and the parallels with figure skating.
SVB: What are some of the parallels between world-class figure skating and premium winemaking? Obviously there is the necessary combination of athleticism and the art, but what else is necessary to compete on the world stage?
Jenkins: Both require a long-term dedication and focus, willingness to expand one’s repertoire, and an ability to blend the technical side with artistic creativity. One can’t become a world-class figure skater or a respected winery overnight. I’ve always set my standards high, and continue to do so with our winemaking.
SVB: From a business standpoint, how does your ownership of the Fleming Jenkins brand along with your husband influence the markets that FJ targets? Are fans of FJ wines defined by certain demographics? When you won a gold medal, did you ever imagine it would translate into building a successful Los Gatos winery?
Jenkins: First, we’ve always acknowledged that there is a celebrity side to our winery, but that’s a lot different from being a “vanity winery”. By that I mean that we are fully engaged with all aspects of winegrowing — our estate Chardonnay vineyard is at our home in the Santa Cruz Mountains, my husband, Greg, is full time winemaker\ and we manage our winery’s tasting room in downtown Los Gatos.
Second, we don’t look to build our brand on the celebrity angle — it’s the quality of the wine in the bottle that sells our wine and drives our brand, not the name on the label. Demographically, it runs the full spectrum and that’s fine with us.
I won the Gold Medal while still a teenager, and had no idea where my life’s journey would take me. Creating our winery has been a very satisfactory step since our wines can be, and will be, enjoyed for years to come. As far as I know, I’m the only Olympian who produces wine.
SVB: The Choreography label (Napa Valley Red Wine – a traditional Bordeaux Blend) has numerous references to figure skating. Could you take us through some of the more colorful ones?
Jenkins: Yes, our label has subtle visual references to my gold medal, and to the “cross- overs” that are traced on the ice. The word Choreography refers to choreography for skating programs and to our role in blending the wine, but really the name Choreography illuminates the fact that every person is a choreographer of their own lives and personal achievements in it.
SVB: When you're not enjoying a glass of Fleming Jenkins wine, what's your beverage of choice?
Jenkins: Probably my most frequent beverage, aside from our morning coffee, is protein powder mixed into water. I make it a couple of times a day. It gives me sustained energy.
SVB: What are your thoughts on the benefit of moderate wine consumption? Will some of this year's Olympic contenders be enjoying some of the FJ wines after their events?
Jenkins: I love the fact that our wine, and really all wine, deserves a place at the dinner table and at gatherings and celebrations with friends and family.
Beyond that, I’m especially proud of one of our wines, Victories Rosé, since we donate an average of $2 for every bottle sold to non-profit organizations in support of breast cancer awareness and research. Since the inaugural vintage, we’ve donated close to $35,000 to the cause.
I doubt that our wine will be present in Vancouver. One of the things we’ve learned is that wine distribution and export is tough, and there was no easy way to ship our wines into Canada. On the other hand, for those watching the Olympics on TV, our Fleming Jenkins wine makes the perfect accompaniment.
SVB: Anything else you like to add?
Jenkins: We’re very happy that our winery is a client of the SVB Wine Division so that we can benefit from the bank’s financial services and unrivalled expertise in the business side of winemaking. I award SVB a well-deserved Gold Medal!
Silicon Valley Bank's Wine Division publishes Liquid Assets as a quarterly column featuring visionary winemakers and wineries. As the leading provider of financial services to wineries and vineyards in the western United States, we are using our unique perspective to help our readers further understand winemaking and the innovative vintners who create some of the world's premium wines.
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