Our company symbol is the Percheron work horse which originated in Le Percher, France. The McFarland family, 7th generation American farmers, fifth generation California farmers, began using the historic Percheron breed in the 1800s while in Adams and Monroe Counties, Ohio. Later, in 1904, when James Boyd McFarland moved to Anaheim, California, he began using Percherons on his own farming operation. He preferred dapple gray, but he did have some black Percherons in his stable. His horses were highly prized for their speed and pulling strength. As a matter of fact, they won numerous pulling and speed contests at early California State fairs.
Winegrower, inventor, San Joaquin Valley farmer, Monterey vineyard installer and lifelong entrepreneur, Jerry McFarland, passed away on Sept. 2, 2013. He holds the distinction of planting more cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir than anyone else on the planet. A chance meeting with renowned viticulture professor, A.J. Winkler, at UC Davis where the 19-year-old McFarland had enrolled as an agronomy major, set him on a lifelong mission to find the most suitable place to grow Burgundian varietals. Upon discovering the cool Region I climate of the Salinas Valley, and in particular, the Santa Lucia Highlands benchlands, McFarland began planting vines in 1969, installing nearly 11,000 acres by 1975.
Among these vineyards were names that would go on to take their place in wine history: Smith & Hook (sold to Hahn), Sleepy Hollow (sold to Talbott), Vinco (now McIntyre), La Reina, River Road and San Saba. He planted many more throughout the Monterey AVA, including the River Road Vineyard, from which McFarland wines are sourced.
McFarland was born in Bakersfield, California and raised in Shafter, California, spending the last half of his life in Monterey County. After U.C. Davis, Jerry followed his grandfather and father in farming cotton, potatoes, winegrapes, table and raisin grapes, walnuts and almonds in the San Joaquin Valley. He was responsible for overseeing the family farming operation, land acquisition, partnership development and specialized crop financing.
Along with planting vineyards in Monterey, McFarland also co-founded two wineries, the Monterey Vineyard Winery, the first bonded winery in Gonzales, California, and Smith & Hook Winery, in the Santa Lucia Highlands, Soledad. It was those vineyards that proved Dr. Winkler's theory that climate played the most important role in producing world-class winegrapes. That theory and the study and development of the upper Salinas Valley is now known as the Winkler-McFarland study, although it was known as “McFarland’s Folly” in the early days, before the proof came out in the bottle and in the glass. The 11,000 acres McFarland planted, mostly in Gonzales, were the backbone of the cold Region I modern California wine industry, and helped usher in California's worldwide reputation for top quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
From 1969 to 2009, McFarland held the distinction of being the largest cold Region I Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grower in the world. Jerry never stopped, even in "retirement," and in 2011, Jerry and his wife of 28 years, Stephanie Escobar, founded three new wine labels from the Santa Lucia Highlands, J.McFarland “Tribute” Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling, as well as Mira Flora “Farmhouse” Chardonnay and Full Tilt Chardonnay.
In 2013, Jerry was given the Valley of the World Hall of Fame Award for his pioneering contribution to Monterey County Agriculture and Tourism; of all the awards he had been given, he said that was the most meaningful.
After studying under the famed U.C. Davis viticulture professor, Dr. A.J. Winkler, Jerry began studying the climatic conditions of the Salinas Valley in 1959. Jerry set thermographs throughout the Monterey region, and he discovered that the further you got away from the Pacific Ocean in Monterey, the warmer it got. The Gonzales area had and still has a climate that is the most Burgundian in California. Because of the cold region 1 climate of the Gonzales portion of the Santa Lucia Highlands, wines produced from the River Road Vineyard are some of the most Burgundian-like in all of California.
Jerry at Smith and Hook Vineyard, 1974
Jerry at Santa Lucia Vineyard, 1972
Jerry with Wall Street investors,
Soledad Mission, 1969
Benjamin Arreola, Don Johnson and Kelly McFarland
Jerry, 1982 Smith & Hook Vineyard and Winery Fiesta, first winery in the Santa Lucia Highlands.
Stephanie is a 12th generation Monterey County resident tracing her heritage back to the original Spanish founders of California. She is a direct descendant of Manuel Butron, official horticulturist to the Spanish Crown in California. In 1770, it was Manuel Butron that planted the first vineyards and orchards in California at the Carmel Mission, Carmel, California.
In 1976 Stephanie graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles and began her career in marketing. In 1983 she was hired by Jerry McFarland to be the first marketing/sale person for Smith & Hook Winery. Smith & Hook holds the distinction of being the first winery in the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County. After the McFarland organization sold Smith & Hook to the Hahn family, Stephanie studied culinary arts. From 1990 to 2011 she taught culinary skills for the Salinas Union High School District. In 2011 she and her late husband, Jerry, founded Full Tilt, Mira Flora and J. McFarland wine brands.
The small herd of Boer goats live on River Road Vineyard and are a part of the ownership's commitment to the environment. Bill, Nina, Callie, Jack and Spike are weed control on the vineyard's large pond. For forty years, the pond has been an over wintering home to wild ducks and geese. Since 2011 the pond on River Road has been going through a naturalization process to become a more inviting spot for the wild fowl to raise their young in spring.
Rain drops on new chardonnay shoot with grape cluster forming. April 2, 2014.
New shoots covered with welcome rain drops on Big Pond-River Road Vineyard.
View of own River Road Vineyard own root Chardonnay looking over Big Pond - River Road Vineyard Chardonnay. Note the wild willows and cotton woods growing on the Salinas River bank. The trees provide a safe habitat for deer, bobcats, wild pigs, coveys of quill, red-winged black birds and sparrows to name a few.
One of the many heirloom apple trees in spring bloom.
Yellow Lady Banksia rose. River Road Vineyard has a full collection of heirloom rose bushes.
Among the many varieties of lavender on River Road Vineyard is Spanish lavender.
One of the team readying the vineyard for 2014.
Talking things over, Kelly McFarland and Benny Arreola discussing early bud break, fear of a spring freeze…and who’ll get his pick up washed first. Between the two, they have 74 years of farming experience in the Santa Lucia Highlands.
Grandpa Mac and J.B., as he was known to his grand children and friends, was a bigger-than-life figure. He was born in the farming community of Woodsfield, Monroe County, Ohio, December 26, 1861 to Andrew and Catherine Harmon McFarland. He would eventually co-found the San Joaquin Valley farming town of McFarland, 45 minutes north of Bakersfield, California.
J.B., along with his wife Martha Loretta Hart McFarland, had an adventurous life from beginning to end. The parents of 12 children, J.B. and Martha would move the family from Ohio to Nebraska to Oklahoma, at that point still Indian territory, on to Kansas out to Colorado springs (birth place of Jerry’s father, M.B. McFarland, Sr.) to Anaheim California and finally to found the town of McFarland in 1908 where both lived until their passing.
J. B. was truly the salt of the earth. His story in California agriculture began in 1904 in Anaheim (yes on a portion of the very same land that Disneyland is on today) growing walnuts, citrus, grains and Percheron workhorses. It is in honor of J.B., our original founder, that our company uses the majestic Percheron as our symbol to honor the hard work and dedication of American farmers like J.B., his son M.B. McFarland, Sr. and his grandson Jerry McFarland.
Because of J.B., the McFarland family was honored by the State of California in 2012 for our 100 plus years in California agriculture, and inducted into the California Agricultural Heritage Club. J.B.’s great granddaughter and Jerry’s daughter, Lisa McFarland Farnsworth, was on hand to receive the award for the family.
J.B. as a young man in Ohio
Top Left, above J.B. is their only son, Myron Boyd McFarland, Sr. who would go on to pioneer cotton growing in the San Joaquin Valley.
J.B.’s family home, McFarland, California. J.B. built this same house in Colorado Springs, Colorado on El Paso Street and also in Anaheim, CA.
He was known affectionately by his sons as dad and later as Senior. He was called the “cotton king” of the San Joaquin Valley for helping bring cotton growing to California. Along with Saul Camp, M.B. Sr. established one of the first cotton ginning facilities in Kern County called the Camp-McFarland Gins. Senior also grew potatoes, grains, walnut, table, wine and raisin grapes in and around McFarland and Shafter.
Hard working and industrious like his father, M.B. Sr. co-founded the Westside Cotton Experiment Station in Shafter, California which is run by the University of California. M.B. was the founding director of the Fresno Cotton Exchange and the California Cotton Shippers Association, and was on the development committee of the Friant-Kern Canal project.
On December 25, 1922, M.B. married Bernice Braden from the little mountain community of Bodfish, California. Together they raised two sons, Myron B. McFarland, Jr. and Gerald (Jerry) Braden McFarland.
Like his father J.B., farming was a way of life and M.B. passed that passion on to his youngest son, Gerald (Jerry), who joined the family business in 1951.
M.B. Sr. on the left with a cotton buyer in McFarland, California. Note cotton gin #1 in the background with bale upon bale of cotton ready for national and international shipment.
The Big Red Barn as it was known, was a landmark just off Highway 99 on the edge of McFarland. The “barn” built of redwood served as the main potato packing shed for the family.
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