I knew Jean Arnold long before he contemplated a career in wine. This 1985 Donoho School graduate grew up in Anniston and was a great pal of the Johnson boys, who lived next door.
Soon after this column first appeared in the Star, the boys lobbied me to interview Jean, who at the time worked for Ernest and Julio Gallo.
I was skeptical that a contemporary of the boys could have an interest in wine. I was assured that even in undergraduate school at the University of Alabama, Jean hosted wine and cheese parties in his dorm room.
Jean and I met for lunch, and a subsequent article featuring Jean appeared in The Star on June 19, 2002.
At the time, Jean was Gallo’s man in Europe, serving as director of fine wine training and recruiting, having gone to work for Gallo in 1996.
Before receiving his first Gallo business card, he was required to work several years for a distributor learning about wine and other spirits. He was also required to sell the wines of Gallo’s competitors, a requirement at the time for all Gallo’s executives.
Jean, a certified specialist of wine, left Gallo in 2006 and joined Don Sebastiani & Sons, serving as national sales manager, vice president of sales, then senior vice president of sales and marketing until 2016.
Having served in about every capacity in the wine industry, it was inevitable that Arnold would launch his own personal wine brand. In 2016, he launched Family & Farmers, based in Sonoma, Calif., under whose umbrella Jean’s Kate Arnold Wines are produced and marketed.
Like many in the wine business today, Arnold does not own vineyard land or a winery. Some might call his set-up a “virtual winery.” He sources his fruit through contractual arrangements with selected growers, and production takes place at contracted facilities.
Jean’s wine labels carry his wife and muse’s name. Jean and Kate met when he was based in Charleston. S.C. He says the first words he uttered to her on his front porch were, “Here is your goblet of wine,” as he poured her a very large glass of red wine.
Jean and Kate, along with their daughter, Leila, are now based in Athens, Ga., where Kate works for the University of Georgia.
Jean’s background in marketing enables him to create relationships with grape growers who are interested in expanding their client base to include family-owned companies like Family & Farmers.
Jean is currently producing two varietals under the Kate Arnold label, a California sauvignon blanc and an Oregon Willamette Valley pinot noir. According to Arnold, each wine is sourced from growing regions that promote long-term, sustainable grape-growing practices that enhance the quality of each wine.
Further, each wine is made by a winemaker who has a passion and demonstrated excellence for a specific varietal.
Mark you calendars for Sept. 20, when Arnold will return to his hometown to host Tyson’s Fine Wine and Things weekly wine tasting from 5:30-7:30 p.m. All are invited to come and support Anniston’s own hometown vintner.
Arnold will be pouring the two following wines:
Kate Arnold 2015 Pinot Noir. $16.75.I am not surprised that one of Jean’s first wines would be a pinot. When we lunched in 2002, I questioned him about his favorite varietal. He named “pinot noir” long before pinot noir gained the popularity it enjoys today.
From 100 percent pinot noir, fruit for this wine is sourced from three different vineyards in the Willamette Valley, each contributing its own unique traits to the wine.
This is a pleasant pinot noir with subtle red berry flavors, a forest floor earthy nose and a smooth lingering finish. Versatile wine that should pair well with an array of food.
Kate Arnold 2017 Sauvignon Blanc. $13. This is a pretty sauvignon blanc with a floral nose, citrus on the palate and a clean finish. Serve with seafood or roasted chicken.
Pat Kettles writes about wine and spirits every other Wednesday. Contact her at email@example.com.