Biography of Jim Carter


Upon sitting down on one of the expansive terraces at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa on a warm winter’s day with Jim Carter, Owner, one cannot help but be mesmerized by the vast view of vineyards that stretch for miles beyond what the eye can see. As discussions ensue, one cannot help but be captivated by the obvious sparkle of his blue eyes as he begins to talk about the development, growth, and future of Temecula’s latest addition and his dream: South Coast Winery Resort & Spa.

Knowing little about the Carters except that Jim is a savvy, self-made developer and entrepreneur, I was taken aback a bit when hearing of his humble beginnings in Ohio; where he’s been; and what he is doing today.

Unlike many of us, Jim Carter went to work at the young age of 12. A smile fills his face as he fondly reminisces about his first hourly wage: a quarter an hour! Jim worked for his dad at the time, and his father kept setting higher goals for Jim to attain by promising an extra 25 cent raise for each goal reached. Soon, this ambitious youth had met those goals and then some. When he approached his father for the full $1 raise, however, his father heartedly chuckled and suggested young Jim Carter look for employment elsewhere.

With a strong spirit and a lot of heart, Jim soon landed a job making pre-fabricated homes for $1.50 an hour. By the age of 16, he earned himself a fine reputation as a builder and was approached by a local farmer to help build homes on the farmer’s land. In a short while, this sixteen year old had not only helped the farmer build the homes, but he also finished high school on a co-op education program, and was earning a nice $2.50 hourly wage, plus an additional 10% bonus on profits from the “village” he and the farmer had built together. Jim Carter had fallen in love with the “craft of building” and its rewards.

While this project was wrapping up, Jim’s father had called with an invitation to work in California. Jim’s intent, of course, was to work in California for six months during the cold winter and head back East for the summer. However, landing himself the title of “the youngest carpenter journeyman ever entered into the Union,” Jim soon learned he particularly loved building year-round in the warm climates the fine state of California offered, and he decided to stay and start a company of his own. With the same ambition that drove him as a child, he landed several contracts; and in one year’s time, he had built over 2,500 homes.

Even with this success, young Jim Carter realized that he loved the “craft of building” – that is, the entire process, from digging up the earth and laying the foundation, to putting on the roof and landscaping. His roots had been established, so he started another business. In fact, over the course of the years, he continued building more projects and then reinvesting his profits back into more developments. Life had been good to Jim Carter and his family in California, and he soon found himself building homes, apartment complexes, shopping centers; purchasing a 260-acre tree farm, a 400-acre parcel of land, a bank, and, ultimately, a successful savings and loan just before the savings and loan disaster of the 90’s. That’s when Carter learned the important lesson of cash flow.

For the next ten years, Jim struggled to make ends meet, coming dangerously close to losing the very home in which he and his wife had raised their children. He aggressively sold his assets, reduced his workforce from 500+ employees down to 50 employees, as banks continued to turn their backs on him. Adding to this turn of events was the tragic and unexpected loss of his first wife. As Jim so aptly puts it, “you have a lot more friends during an upward trend than you do when things are spiraling downward.”

A lesser man could have easily given up and called it quits, but not Jim Carter. With his only remaining assets being the gardeners from his apartment complexes and the quarters from the laundry machines in the apartment building he owned, he never quit.

While watching the movie “A WALK IN THE CLOUDS,” he suddenly experienced that life-changing epiphany we all hope for. According to Jim, there was an instant connection with the movie’s story line of a thriving vineyard in a beautiful mountain valley that closely resembled the 400-acre parcel of land that he had managed to hang on to throughout those troubling years, which sits in a valley in the shadow of Santa Rosa Plateau’s Palomar Mountain.

Armed with the ambition and spirit of a “Wild West Settler,” Jim soon turned his energies to making the vineyard. Soils were tested, water, lighting and temperatures were measured, and the conditions were perfect for growing some outstanding varietals of grapes. Using the gardeners from his apartment complexes and those precious quarters from his laundry machines, the finest fruit was purchased and planted.

By 1995, the renewal process had begun; Jim found himself back on track, digging in the soils, planting and building with renewed conviction. Because of the location of the Wild Horse Peak Vineyards and the quality of those vines, contracts soon started coming in from local wineries to purchase these bountiful harvests. Shortly thereafter, Jim Carter brought in the finest winemakers, purchased Rolling Hills Vineyard and South Coast Vineyard in the Temecula Appellation , and began the life of a Vintner. He’s still a builder and a grower, but more. In fact, Jim Carter will tell you, “Wine is the magical fruit.” So much so that grapes are not the only items Jim has harvested in recent years. He has designed and are building his dream, South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, in Temecula, California.

Today, South Coast Winery Resort & Spa and Carter Estates is the “Diamond of the Temecula Valley.” Touting over 600 distinguished awards for the wines they’ve produced in just four years, South Coast shocked the Wine industry further in July of 2008 when it took the coveted “Golden Bear” award from its Northern California counterparts, naming it “California Winery of the Year” from the California State Fair Wine Competition "It's an honor to have South Coast Winery recognized as an outstanding wine producer among its peers of California Wineries. I'm on top of the world right now, but I didn’t do it alone. I simply set the goal to create the finest wines in all of California; then provided our incredibly talented winemakers with the tools they needed to accomplish our joint mission. >The three of us – Jon McPherson, Javier Flores, and myself -- did it really. By combining their skills, with my quality vineyards, adding in some hard work, and a lot of heart, we have created the best wines in the golden state of California." says a smiling Jim Carter, owner/vintner . "This marks the beginning for our winery."

South Coast Winery produces a broad portfolio of premium wines that are 100% grown and produced with care under his tutelage in Southern California's up and coming Temecula Valley Wine Country. In fact, it’s targeting to produce over 65,000 cases of award-winning wine next year under four very distinct labels: Elevation; South Coast Winery; Wild Horse Peak Mountain Vineyard; and, of course, Carter Estates.

The winery graces the grounds of South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, a 38-acre destination property located in the heart of Temecula’s Wine Country at 34843 Rancho California Road, Temecula, California and can be found online at

For more information about this release, electronic photos or to schedule a private media tour of South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, contact Crystal Magon at (951) 587-9463 Ext. 7204 or