Fleming�was in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., at a luncheon for breast cancer
survivors on Sept. 11, 2001. With all commercial aircraft grounded, the 1968
Olympic figure skating champion was stranded for five days in a hotel, 2,500
miles from her Los Gatos, Calif., home. Working out in the hotel gym got old
fast. "I was on the verge of taking a Greyhound across the country,"
says Fleming, now 59. But fate, in the form of an aviophobic NFL commentator
with a well-known luxury bus, intervened.
Fleming and John
Madden both worked for ABC Sports at the time, and when her agent learned that
he'd be departing the next day from New York City for his home in Livermore,
Calif., a plan was hatched. The Maddencruiser detoured to Wilkes-Barre to pick
up Fleming, and the two had 52 hours to get to know each other. She mentioned
that she and her husband, Greg Jenkins, a retired dermatologist, had planted
650 chardonnay vines in 1999 on an acre near their home. Madden replied that he
had his own 100 acres of grapes. Three years later Fleming Jenkins Vineyards
& Winery bottled its first commercial vintage, a Syrah using grapes from
the Madden Ranch.
Last year Fleming
and Jenkins, who work in the vineyard along with three staffers, produced 2,000
cases of wine, from the $50-per-bottle Choreography Cabernet (aromas of cherry
and leather with a touch of mint) to the $17 San Francisco Bay Syrah Ros�
(peach and honeydew with a hint of cinnamon). Closest to Fleming's heart,
though, is the $20 Victories Ros�, also fermented from Madden's grapes.
"It's pink and it's beautiful and I love it and John loves it," says
Fleming. Best of all, the profits from this wine go toward charities that
support research into and awareness of breast cancer, of which Fleming is a
On the last
Saturday in May, Fleming trotted out the ros� to complement the cream chicken
with artichokes and tarragon she was serving to relatives. Tables were set up
in her vineyard, near the swings that dangle from oak trees. She and Greg were
celebrating the high school graduation of the younger of their two sons.
"It'll be an empty nest," says Fleming. "But it's not really going
to be empty. We've gone on from kids to grapes."