Peggy Fleming savors the wine business
Skater's vineyard growing by leaps and bounds
|Peggy and husband Greg. (courtesy of Peggy Fleming)|
By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(07/02/2008) - Home and family have always been things that 1968 Olympic gold medalist, three-time world champion and five-time U.S. champion Peggy Fleming has cherished. Although she has never been out of the spotlight in the past 40 years, she has carefully balanced her hectic professional schedule with her home life in Los Gatos, Calif. As incongruous as it may seem with her public persona, Fleming loves to cook and dive into domestic activities. The year 1999 was a fairly remarkable one for Fleming and husband Dr. Greg Jenkins. Their first grandchild was born, and they also gave birth to their own new project -- a vineyard. They had some unused land on their property in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. "We thought we should do something with that," Fleming recalls. "We met some people who put in small backyard vineyards in homes. It started out for the beauty of a vineyard on the property." When Jenkins retired from his dermatology practice a few years later, he started to spend time walking around the vineyard and talking to the maintenance people. Inspired, he took some classes in vineyard health at University of California Davis. "One thing led to another," says Fleming. "A landscaping project turned into a career. Then you get more interested." They began selling their grapes to another wine maker, and their grapes became one percent of a Chardonnay. "We couldn't really taste what our grapes produced, because it was a mixture," Fleming says. "Then we wanted to see what it tasted like just having ours. That's what really got us going. Once we tasted it, we thought, 'Wow, that's pretty good.' Now we have landscaping we can drink." That is how Fleming Jenkins Vineyards & Winery came to be. Their current releases include a Chardonnay from their home vineyard, a Rosé dedicated to raising funds for breast cancer research (Fleming is a breast cancer survivor, having been diagnosed in 1998), a Napa Valley Cabernet blend and two Syrahs. They also opened a tasting room in Los Gatos, which Fleming keeps decorated with various memorabilia from her skating career. "The wine business gets you hands-on with the people in the community, and you participate in so many more things because of the business of wine making," she says. "You're involved in all kinds of different festivals that go on. We do wine dinners at some of the restaurants. We meet a lot more people through this social kind of career. "Greg's career, being a physician, you can't talk about your patients. You have more of a low profile. This is more of a high profile, more of a party atmosphere all the time. It is fun, and we're getting great feedback, and we're meeting a lot of wonderful people." They also are actively involved with various charities in terms of donating wine for auctions or events. Jenkins is at the tasting room virtually every day, because that is where their offices are located. His former nurse is his assistant. Fleming goes to the tasting room on weekends and for special events. She also contributes seasonal recipes for the company Web site. Fleming turns 60 later this month, which she and Jenkins will mark with their sons and grandsons. Andy, 31, wife Jamaica and their boys ages 2, 4 and 9, will make the trip from Vermont, where Andy works for Burton Snowboards. The nine-year-old is already an accomplished snowboarder and may just follow in his grandmother's Olympic tradition. Todd, 19, is back in Los Gatos after spending the year after high school doing some world traveling. His last stop was Costa Rica, where he taught English. He'll be starting college in the fall and wants to study art. Her 28-year TV gig with ABC/ESPN now complete, Fleming is open to future commentary work, but if it doesn't happen, she knows she had a great run. "Who knows what's going to happen next," she says. "I've always sort of gone with the flow of things." She continues her work as a spokesperson for various health-related businesses and campaigns and also makes appearances on behalf of breast cancer awareness and research. She will be combining commentary and the wine business this autumn when she hosts a couple of the Disson Skating shows. Then they'll serve some Fleming Jenkins wines at the after parties -- a perfect blend.