BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Lee’s legacy is a name you’ll hear more of in the near future. A story of a Korean War and WW2 veteran from Bakersfield who will soon be honored up in Paso Robles as Pianetta Winery creates a bottle of wine in Lee James’ name.
Greg McGill served as Lee's guardian on an honor flight a number of years ago where Lee had so much of an impact on McGill that they brought the honor flight of Kern County all the way to the central coast.
“It’s pretty amazing when you think James went on a flight in 2012 with a fellow he hadn’t met before and what has come from that since,” said Maggie Cox, an Honor flight central coast member.
Cox said they credit their founding to the late James Lee and his granddaughter said this trip was part of his legacy.
“He had a little bit of depression that came on way late in life. And that trip really became the beginning of the difference for him,” Tara Haskell, Lee’s granddaughter.
Haskell said her grandfather became a changed man after that trip. He went from a homebody to more of an extrovert. Haskell said he started to come to life more.
“He had kind of stopped playing guitar and singing and doing things like that. And gradually came back after the trip. He started becoming more motivated and more himself again,” said Haskell.
A lot of that help with McGill by his side who was behind a new initiative to honor Lee’s life.
McGill had a relationship with a winery in Paso Robles and brought the idea to Caitlyn Pianetta, one of the owners of the Pianetta Winery. That’s when the family-owned business took an idea and made it come to fruition.
“My dad was in the Navy. I have two older brothers who are also active military. My grandfather was Army. So anyway, I can help I’m always willing to do that. And when Greg proposed this idea to me I can’t say no,” said Pianetta.
That’s how lee’s legacy came about. A red blend that spent almost 30 months in the barrel which has now been sitting for two years. The release was put on pause due to the pandemic.
“Because of COVID, this was actually something that was supposed to be released two years ago. And so, in that sense, it’s very exciting because we are releasing this wind that has a little bottle aging on it. And we already did extra barrel aging on it because it was a special blend,” said Pianetta.
Haskell describes the label displayed on the bottle as the perfect photo for this chapter in Lee’s life.
“It shows a lot of the spirit of what came from honor flight and also the time that they spent in the service. It shows that comradery. No matter what they were doing. They were there for each other,” said Haskell.
Pianetta said that upwards of 50-60% of the proceeds from this wine will go toward the honor flight so that other veterans are able to experience a trip like Lee was able to
An event will be in Paso Robles on November 13th and a number of Lee's family members will be traveling to the event. For tickets and more information visit the event website.