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Food & Wine

Former Olympic skater Fleming helps fund breast cancer research with "Victories" in wine

Photo Courtesy Of Rise1961.Com Peggy Fleming, 1968 Olympic Champion, and her husband, Dr. Greg Jenkins, own Fleming Jenkins Vineyards & Winery in Los Gatos.

Olympic Gold Medal figure skater Peggy Fleming and her husband, Greg Jenkins, M.D., founded Fleming Jenkins Vineyards & Winery in 1999 as a “landscaping adventure” on their Los Gatos hilltop property. The winery now sells 200 cases a year from its downtown Los Gatos tasting room. Sandwiched between a toy store and a sporting goods store, it’s the second stop in the Town Crier’s series on the Los Gatos-Saratoga Wine Trail.


If anybody knows about victory, it’s former Olympic ice-skater Peggy Fleming. The only American to win a Gold Medal in the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France, Fleming achieved a milestone early on, and she’s been achieving them ever since.

The San Jose native has had several careers. After winning the gold, Fleming became a professional ice skater, an ABC Sports women’s ice-skating commentator and an owner, with her husband, retired dermatologist Greg Jenkins, of Fleming Jenkins Vineyards & Winery, 45 W. Main St., Los Gatos.

Most people over 40 remember Fleming as the darling of the Olympic games. Her résumé includes induction in the U.S. and World Olympic Halls of Fame, and she has received countless awards for her charity work for organizations such as the National Osteoporosis Council.

The first time she put on ice skates, she was 10 years old and her family was living briefly in frosty Cleveland. She was a natural, according to the testimony of her older sister, Janice, who said Peggy skated without wobbling from the very first moment. From then on, Fleming skated competitively.

In 1961, Peggy’s coach, Bill Kipp, and the entire U.S. national team were killed in a plane crash in Brussels. Despite her heartbreak, Fleming continued the sport with a new coach, Italian Carlo Fassi, whom she credits with introducing her family to fine wines and fine dining.

“He encouraged us to look at museums and architecture” wherever they went in Europe, she reports on her website. She said she was amazed at how a “good wine could turn a great meal into a memorable experience.”

The chartreuse ice-skating outfit she wore in the 1968 Olympics is displayed along with her skates in the tasting room, where patrons can sample Fleming Jenkins wines for $10 per person. There’s a $5 rebate if you buy a bottle of wine, according to tasting room steward Kelly Reed.


The wine that celebrates


Fittingly, Flemings Jenkins named the $20 bottle of wine produced to mark the skater’s successful battle with breast cancer Victories Rosé.

Approximately $2 per bottle of the Rosé benefits breast cancer research, and Fleming Jenkins has donated $45,000 toward the cause since 2004.

The winemaker notes state that this “dry Rosé is both complex and smoothly textured, showcasing flavors of ripe plum, strawberry and cherry.”


Feathering an empty nest

with grapevines

Fleming and her husband launched their winery soon after their son left for college in 1999. By tearing down the half-pipe he used for skateboarding, they found an acre to plant 650 Chardonnay grapevines.

Jenkins, who earned his medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern, returned to school – in viticulture at UC Davis. He became the official winemaker for the vineyards.

Fleming Jenkins now grows its grapes adjacent to Testarossa Winery’s historical novitiate winery.

A longstanding friendship between Fleming and football broadcaster John Madden – they used to share a publicist – resulted in Fleming’s using grapes from Madden’s Livermore property. Harvested in September 2008, the grapes fermented in French and American oak for 18 months before bottling. The result was the $40 per bottle 2008 Madden Ranch Syrah.

“At first sip, the Syrah has a myriad of juicy red and black fruits that fill the palate with intricate supporting flavors of chocolate, licorice, mushroom and nutmeg,” writes Jenkins on the website. “This fruit-forward wine finishes with the lingering richness of plum and cherry and spicy notes of vanilla and cinnamon.”

The 2009 Jenkins Chardonnay “opens up with rich, ripe tropical fruits,” according to Jenkins. He praises its “rich and succulent finish.” The wine spent 12 months in oak, and the “balance of fruit and oak make this go especially well with seafood,” Reed said.


For more information on Fleming Jenkins, visit www.flemingjenkins.com.

For more information on the Los Gatos-Saratoga Wine Trail, visit www.lgswinetrail.com.

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