J. Wilkes, a historic Central Coast wine brand that was founded by industry-insider Jefferson Wilkes, has been re-launched following Jefferson “Jeff” Wilkes’ sudden and tragic passing in 2010. Since that time, the Miller Family of Santa Barbara, who purchased the brand, has been working quietly to streamline and re-launch J. Wilkes, while preserving the original spirit behind the brand.
“Jeff Wilkes started working with our family in 1984. He was charged with fruit sales at our Bien Nacido and French Camp Vineyards properties. For 18 pivotal years, Jeff’s diligence, hard work and love for these vineyards helped to elevate these unique sites and much of what Jeff did has lead to our success today. So, when we saw an opportunity to continue to honor Jeff’s legacy, while introducing new consumers to the virtues of the Santa Maria appellation, we acquired this much loved brand. We’re very excited about the next chapter in this brand’s story,” said Nicholas Miller, spokesperson for the Thornhill Companies, of which the J. Wilkes brand has become a part.
Originally founded in 2001, the J. Wilkes brand will serve to “introduce a new audience of wine lovers to this great appellation,” said Miller.
Accordingly, Vidal Perez has been named winemaker at J. Wilkes, and will oversee the production of a portfolio focused mostly on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc, all finding their provenance in the soils of the Santa Maria Valley appellation. Born in Mexico to a large family in Ensenada, Perez graduated from Fresno State University with a degree in viticulture and enology. He worked his way up through the wine industry as a vineyard worker, cellar worker, vineyard manager, and eventually became an assistant winemaker at Central Coast Wine Services where J. Wilkes made his wines. Perez initially worked side by side with Wilkes, and credits Wilkes for having taught him much about winemaking and winegrowing.
“The wines of the Santa Maria Valley appellation have always held a special place in my heart. They have a personality very much all their own and when well made, they can really express a unique terroir. I am honored to be continuing, in any small way that I can, the great legacy that Mr. Wilkes left behind,” said Perez.