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Gerald "Jerry" McFarland
Jerry entered into eternal life September 2, 2013. He was born January 31, 1930, in Bakersfield and was raised in McFarland and Shafter; he spent the last half of his life in Monterey County.
After U.C. Davis, Jerry followed his grandfather and father into farming, growing cotton, potatoes, wine, 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.
In 1949, while an agronomy major at U.C. Davis, a 19 year old Jerry McFarland met the renowned viticulture professor, A.J. Winkler. Jerry said neither he nor Dr. Winkler knew that that chance meeting would professionally bring together the two people that would ultimately modernize California viticulture beginning in 1969, and that it would happen in a most unlikely place, the Salinas Valley.
Between 1969 and 1975, Jerry, along with his partner, Thomas Stratton, would raise the capital and develop 11,000 acres of vineyards in upper Monterey, and co-found two wineries, the Monterey Vineyard Winery, the first bonded winery in Gonzales 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, peak pinnacle wine grapes. That theory and the study and development of the upper Salinas Valley is now known as the Winkler-McFarland study.
The 11,000 acres planted, mostly in Gonzales, were the back bone of the cold region I modern California wine industry and helped usher in California's world dominance of top quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
From 1969 to 2009, Jerry was the largest cold region I Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grower in the world. Jerry never stopped, even in "retirement", in 2011 Jerry and his wife of 28 years, Stephanie Escobar, founded three new wine labels from the Santa Lucia Highlands, J.McFarland, Mira Flora and Full Tilt. 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.
Jerry is survived by his wife, Stephanie; four children from a previous marriage, Stephen of McFarland, Kelly of Gonzales, Lisa of Bakersfield and Brenda of Downingtown, PA; grandchildren, Ryan, Anthony, Heather, Nicole, Candice, Travis, James, Allison, Renee and Lilly; and four great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Bernice and Myron B. McFarland, Sr.; his brother, Myron B. McFarland, Jr.; and a son, Michael Braden McFarland.
Per his wishes, a private family service was held and he was laid to rest in Gonzales.
Funeral arrangements by Struve and Laporte Funeral Home. Online condolences to www.struveandlaporte.com.
Struve and Laporte Funeral Chapel
41 West San Luis Salinas, CA 93901
Published in The Salinas Californian on Sept. 11, 2013