Edgar B. “Pete” Downs has been selected as Acting President of the Family Winemakers of California, the trade organization of more than 400 wineries, primarily family owned and producing less than 5,000 cases annually.
Downs retired in 2012 from 20 years of service at Kendall-Jackson to launch his own consulting firm, and has been an active board member of Family Winemakers and head of the legislative committee. Jess Jackson, along with Bill McIver of Matanzas Creek, Patrick Campbell of Laurel Glen and Byrce Jones of Sonoma-Cutrer, founded Family Winemakers in 1990 to expand opportunities for smaller wineries to market wines directly to consumers, and fight for reasonable rules and regulations that allow family wineries to prosper and remain multi-generational operations.
Downs will provide leadership as the organization examines how best to achieve member goals following the retirement of long-time President Paul Kronenberg. Expanding market opportunities remains the principal goal, says Downs, along with representation for smaller wineries in agricultural issues, and reform and modernization of regulations governing winery operations, including direct to consumer sales and marketing.
Just last year the American Society of for Enology and Viticulture chose Downs for a special Merit Award for his industry contributions while serving as Senior Vice President of External Affairs for K-J, a role which found him prominently involved at the state and federal levels on a broad array of issues. He served as President of ASEV, as Chairman of the International Committee for the national trade group Wine America, and as a Board member, in addition to Family Winemakers, of the Sonoma County Wineries Association, American Vineyard Foundation and the Coalition For Free Trade. He was appointed by the California Secretary of Agriculture to the oversight boards tackling Pierce’s Disease and the Glassy Winged Sharpshooter.
He began his career in 1973 as a chemist with Italian Swiss Colony in Asti, leaving to become Research Director at Korbel before arriving at Chateau St. Jean as a sparkling winemaker, helping to establish the winery in Graton and overseeing custom programs for a variety of wineries including Gloria Ferrer, Shadow Creek, Sebastiani and Cueno. In 1992 he became General Manager of Kendall-Jackson’s Vinwood, Lakeport and Edmeades wineries before he became the winery’s chief ambassador for trade organizations and community affairs.
Downs currently works in the marine unit of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office as an active participant in the Volunteer in Policing program and formerly served as a Board member of Friends of Henry One, a non-profit organization supporting the Sheriff’s aviation unit. He was awarded the Air Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster after flying 77 missions during the Vietnam conflict as an in-flight fueling specialist for the US Air Force Strategic Air Command. He is a graduate of the University of California at Davis with a degree in Fermentation Science.