Our president and CEO, Jason, is the second-generation grape grower in the Smith family. Like any son who loves to go to work with his dad, Jason grew up on the farm and was always excited to help. He did just about every job in the vineyard – from pulling weeds and fixing trellises, to driving tractors and changing oil. Over the years, besides realizing a true passion for sustainable vineyard farming, Jason developed into a visionary businessman and natural leader.
He is growing and expanding Smith Family Wines upon a solid 40-year foundation laid by his parents, Rich and Claudia. Trusting his instincts and being comfortable taking calculated risks to benefit from the right opportunities are just a few traits Jason inherited that are contributing to the success of our vertically-integrated, vineyard-to-glass business. He is also known for his team-building talents, collaborative style, easy-going character, and generosity with friends, employees and the community.
When he’s not rallying employees for our monthly 5k run around the home estate vineyard, Jason spends as much time as he can with family and friends. He enjoys watching his kids thrive in school and sporting events; though they’re all grown up these days, he’s a devoted dad all the same. He also coaches track and field for Palma and Notre Dame high schools in Salinas, and serves on boards and committees supporting our local wine and agriculture industries. In his down time, you’ll either find him relaxing with a cold Coors Light in hand (surprise!) or biking with wife Jen and their dogs.
Our Creative Director, Jen, joined the family business in 1999. She is known for her exceptional creativity, lively spirit, warm friendliness and unique signature style. Oh, and her shopping habit!—which everyone who visits our boutique has the luxury of enjoying too.
Jen is a tireless ambassador supporting wine and agriculture—she has traveled throughout the country promoting Monterey County and Santa Lucia Highlands wines. We’re fortunate she enjoys applying her hospitality expertise at events we host at the winery, and she also donates her time and talents to community initiatives and philanthropic causes, forever raising the bar for future volunteers.
With her knack for design and incomparable standards of excellence, it’s easy to understand why our tasting room is on the “must see” list of Monterey County wine destinations for locals and visitors alike. And, have you seen our award-winning Alexander-Smith wine label designs?
When Rich Smith first began growing grapes in the 1970s, it was to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Rich had always been a visionary and resourceful entrepreneur whose successes were due in part to his background in plant science, a traditional, roll-up-your-sleeves work ethic, and taking smart risks.
In 1973 he left his agricultural technician laboratory job and moved our family from Campbell to Soledad to start a vineyard farming business he named Valley Farm Management. He told his wife Claudia Alexander Smith not to worry—the move would be short-term and they would relocate to a favorite vacation spot near Sonoma and the Russian River Valley within four years. What he wasn’t telling her, but already sensed, was that the real, long-term opportunities were in Monterey County. With the vineyard farming business going well, in 1977 he started a custom harvesting business. By 1987 both businesses were thriving and he had the opportunity to purchase his own 350-acre vineyard, which is now our home estate vineyard. In 1989 our first wines—a Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay—were crushed and bottled under the Paraiso label.