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Jim Arnold: Triassic Vineyards owner was an exceptional man of talent and vision

Land of Four Seasons

We lost a born leader of a man and a tireless supporter of the Tehachapi Mountains with the recent passing of Jim Arnold, 79, who passed away at his Tehachapi home on November 20 after a brief illness.

Jim and his wife Sally are best known to locals as the owners of Triassic Vineyards, which they purchased from founder Chuck McCollough in 2014. Chuck had started Triassic, with grapevine planting help from community volunteers, in 2008 when he was already 80 years old. Over the past nine years since he and Sally bought Triassic, Jim could often be found in person at the vineyard's beautiful tasting room, serving as a kind and affable host.

Jim was one of those people who you quickly realize is a person of quality and competence. He was handsome, very well-spoken and articulate, with a soothing and patient voice that was a pleasure to listen to. People naturally gravitated to him in a room, and his family, friends and perceptive strangers all knew that they were in the presence of rare and exceptional person.

Although they became much-better known locally once they assumed ownership of Triassic, Jim and Sally were not newcomers to the Tehachapi Mountains – far from it, in fact: in 1970, Jim's parents, Ernie and Alva Lee Arnold were among the first people to buy property in Bear Valley Springs, and Alva Lee actually sold BVS property for Dart Resorts for several years. Ernie and Alva Lee Arnold moved to Bear Valley Springs fulltime in 1990, but all through the years while living in South Pasadena they had brought their seven children up to Bear Valley, including their daughter Terri, who is now well-known Tehachapi area realtor Terri Juergens.

Jim was the oldest child of Ernie and Alva Lee, and he was born on March 22, 1944, in Beaumont, Texas. After the birth of his sister Margaret, the Arnolds left Texas and settled in South Pasadena. The family grew to nine members, and it was while growing up in Pasadena with his close-knit family that Jim developed his leadership and faith, and he carried that strength with him for the rest of his life, his wife Sally explains.

Jim graduated from Cal Poly Pomona College in 1968, and was drafted into the military, serving in Washington, D.C., with the United States Army Honor Guard. After his service ended, Jim moved back to California, where he settled in Corona Del Mar, and began his career in group health insurance.

Jim and Sally married in November 1972, and they lived in Corona Del Mar/Newport Beach. He and Sally adopted their four children and raised them with unconditional love. Their children had the good fortune to have a father who believed in them and was unwavering in his support.

A man of great faith, Jim was ordained as a deacon in the Catholic church in 2007 for the Diocese of Orange County. He served with devotion and distinction, and blessing and baptizing babies was one of his favorite contributions to the church.

Jim and Sally had stock in an employee benefits plan company called Precept, which sold not long before buying Triassic, and they felt like everything came together for their new venture in the Tehachapi Mountains.

"We really felt like this is where we were called to be," Jim told me when I first met him in 2014. "This seemed like an opportunity with good timing, and my family has a long history in the Tehachapi area. We retired from one career, but we aren't ready to simply fade into retirement yet."

Under the Arnolds' care, the seven acres of zinfandel, viognier and syrah grapevines at Triassic increased in productivity, with the good autumn harvests and a legion of fans. With its prime location offering sweeping views of Cummings Valley, Triassic Vineyards is a beautiful place and Jim worked to make it a highly desirable destination.

During his years in Tehachapi, Jim Arnold was a community leader and an upbeat, intelligent booster of the many great qualities of our area. We miss him already, and we're grateful that he spent nearly a decade giving us the benefit of his wisdom, affection and charm.

Jim's legacy is carried on through his wife, Sally, his four children: Tiffany, Tony, Dennis, Hilary; and eight grandchildren, as well as his six siblings: Margaret, Teresa (Terri), Ernie, Dave, Ann, and Steve, and many, many nieces and nephews.

Keep enjoying the beauty of life in the Tehachapi Mountains.

Jon Hammond is a fourth generation Kern County resident who has photographed and written about the Tehachapi Mountains for 38 years. He lives on a farm his family started in 1921, and is a speaker of Nuwä, the Tehachapi Indian language. He can be reached at [email protected].