Italian Heritage, Paso Robles Terroir: The Jada Chronicles

By Published On: June 23, 2024

Credit: Jada Vineyard & Winery

In Paso Robles, the Messina family, Italian immigrants with a love for wine, embarked on a remarkable journey. In 1999, they transformed barren fields into Jada Vineyard & Winery.  For two decades, they poured their passion into crafting world-class wines. A twist of fate brought the Riboli family from Italy into the fold, merging their traditions and creating a new chapter in Jada’s story.

Jack Messina’s passion for winemaking bloomed from childhood memories. Inspired by his father and “Uncle Nonno” sharing homemade wine with their Staten Island community, and the “French Paradox” linking wine to health benefits (despite being a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon), Jack rekindled his love for the craft. In 1999, he convinced his family to join him in transforming Paso Robles’ Westside into a 55-acre vineyard focused on Rhone and Bordeaux grapes. The Messinas, pioneers in the now-renowned Willow Creek District AVA, named their winery “Jada” – a tribute to his grandfather’s fishing boat and a reflection of their commitment to heritage, gratitude (“jayden”), and Eastern ideals of perfection (“jade”).

The Willow Creek District terroir is exemplified by Jada, where organic farming practices further enhance the unique expression of this special place. The estate’s distinct combination of soil composition, climate, and topography plays a significant role in shaping their wines. Notably, the Willow Creek District boasts calcareous, limestone-rich soils compared to the Adelaide District’s sandstone. This higher mineral concentration offers several advantages: superior water retention during dry periods, improved drainage during rain, and the crucial ability to maintain acidity even as grapes ripen fully. These calcium-rich soils contribute to wines with vibrant fruit character, balanced structure, and remarkable aging potential.

Credit: Jada Vineyard & Winery

Their  “Jersey Girl” wasn’t just any wine; it was a tribute from the very beginning. Inspired by Jack’s love of Syrah and his wife’s New Jersey roots, this wine aimed to showcase Willow Creek’s potential for crafting world-class Rhone-style wines. In 2012, they took inspiration from France’s Côte-Rôtie region, co-fermenting a touch of Viognier with the Syrah for added complexity and lift. The core of “Jersey Girl” features the winery’s boldest Syrah clones, while the Viognier contributes to a smooth texture and extended aging potential.

The winery’s JackJohn blend bears a unique name, a combination of the middle names of father and son.  Over time, the vintners developed a deep appreciation for Grenache, particularly the Alban clone, and the renowned wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This passion for the grape culminated in 2017 with JackJohn’s transformation into a single-varietal Grenache expression.

Jada’s “Strayts” Merlot  showcases the winemaking team’s passion for Merlot. The grapes come from one of the winery’s oldest blocks, planted in 1999 and first bottled in 2009. Years of meticulous care have resulted in exceptional complexity in this wine. Jada’s location in the Willow Creek District, with its ideal climate for Merlot, allows the grapes to fully mature. This advantage contrasts with some East-side Paso Robles vineyards, where cooler autumns can force an early harvest before grapes reach their full potential.

Jada Vineyard & Winery isn’t just about grapes. As the sun dips below the rolling hills, it reveals a commitment to community, sustainability, and fostering connections. They echo Helen Keller’s sentiment: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Jada’s dedication extends far beyond the cellar door, creating a positive impact that will resonate for years to come. Their story exemplifies the power of collaboration and achieving great things when we work together.

The wines featured in the Wine Recommendations section were provided by the winery for the purpose of review. The selection and tasting of these wines were independently conducted. No compensation or incentives were provided for inclusion in the story. As always, the top priority is to provide readers with informative reporting.

Wine Recommendations 

Credit: Jada Vineyard & Winery

2021 “Hell’s Kitchen” Red Blend- The nose delivers a rich cassis perfume accented by alluring roasted coffee beans and toasted walnut notes. On the palate, the wine is full-bodied and expansive, with a core of ripe black fruit that is both opulent and structured. The Syrah (45%) provides a backbone of firm tannins, while the Graciano (32%) lends a touch of elegance and finesse. Grenache (23%) rounds out the blend, adding a hint of peppery spice on the expansive finish.

2021 “Jersey Girl” Syrah- aromatics brimming boysenberry, huckleberry, and hints of blackberry– accentuated by decadent milk chocolate. Full-bodied, it presents well-defined tannins that linger on the long, mouthwatering finish.

2021 “Strayts” Merlot- showcases a core of blackberry and blueberry fruit. Soft, integrated tannins frame a palate awash with dark fruit flavors. This bold wine is approachable now and should drink well near-term.

2021 Cabernet Sauvignon, Willow Creek District- the nose explodes with black fruit aromas – think cassis, ripe plum, and a touch of blueberry.On the palate, the wine is powerful, with a firm grip of chewy tannins. The finish is long and impressive. While enjoyable now, this wine is clearly built to age. 

2023 Lotus Eaters Sauvignon Blanc- bursts with gooseberry and passion fruit. Zesty acidity cuts through the tropical notes, leaving a crisp mineral finish.

About the Author: Joe Campbell

Avatar photo
Located out of the Sierra Foothills of California, Joe Campbell provides color commentary as well as insight within the wine industry both from the lifestyle consumer and business segments of the industry. He can be reached via email at : joe@winebulletin.net .