Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Chris Iannetta knows the value of a friendship—and how to maintain one.
When he and then-fellow Angels player Vernon Wells were on the disabled list in 2012, they had the forethought to secure their loves of wine and family. The duo started JACK Winery in Napa, California, named after the first initials for their children—Jayce, Ashlyn, Christian and Kylie.
“We became really good friends,” says Iannetta, a first-year D-back. “We were talking about something cool to help facilitate our friendship after the game. You’re only teammates for a short amount of time. Life is, hopefully, a lot longer.”
Wells and Iannetta had come off individual trips to Napa, which the D-back found to be a “cool, relaxed place.” After the idea was hatched, the stars aligned for the duo, who teamed up with Grant Long to create the label.
“We used his label team,” says Iannetta, who caught for Zack Greinke while on the Angels. “He made the wine for us. We started an online business, but (recently) Vernon bought a vineyard and we’ll work out of there.
“Grant will still be our winemaker. We source our grapes from Diamond Mountain and Howell Mountain, but we’re slowly transitioning; some of the other varietals will come from our vineyard over the next few years. Our Cab and the grapes we use are so good that we want to keep that the same because of the success we’ve had.”
It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination. It’s not something you’re going to get rich on. It’s a passion project.
To ensure the wines’ quality, they are shared exclusively through the JACK Allocation List, he says. The allocation includes three bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon and three bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, shipped annually. Additional bottles are available to members only on a case-by-case basis. The membership is $375 per year. Iannetta, whose parents were born in Italy, says the business side caught him off guard.
“There’s a lot that goes into it,” he says with a laugh. “The fun part is making the wine. With baseball, it’s tough to get up there during that process. So, Grant came down during Spring Training with a bunch of barrel samples. Eventually, we picked the way we wanted our Cab and Sauvignon to taste.
“It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination. It’s not something you’re going to get rich on. It’s a passion project. I love wine. I love the (Napa) Valley. It’s a cool way to stay in touch with one another, and hopefully it’ll grow into something special.”