HomeAbout UsWine ReviewsArchivesAdvertiseContact Us


Wine Columns

Wine Reviews

WineReviewOnline on Twitter

Critics Challenge

Distillers Challenge

San Diego Challenge

Sommelier Challenge


Winemaker Challenge

WineReviewOnline on Facebook

WineReviewOnline on Instagram

The New Face of California Wine
By Robert Whitley
Sep 8, 2015
Printable Version
Email this Article

Robert Mondavi, the man who almost single-handedly put California wine on the map, passed in 2008. That same year, Jean-Charles Boisset, president of the largest wine company in Burgundy, France, purchased his first winery in California.

In the intervening years Boisset married Gina Gallo of the E&J Gallo wine dynasty and beefed up his California wine portfolio with the addition of Raymond Vineyards and Buena Vista Winery to go with his original purchase of DeLoach Vineyards.

The two men have more in common than meets the eye.

Mondavi converted a skeptical world to the belief that California wine could compete with the finest wines from France, or anywhere for that matter. He did it with wit and charm and a bigger-than-life persona. Mondavi was a man of vision, forming alliances with vintners around the globe.

He was rightly considered California wine's ambassador to the world.

No one in the California wine community has demonstrated the personality, vision and personal charm necessary to fill that role — no one until Jean-Charles Boisset.

Boisset left a huge footprint at the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction over the Labor Day weekend. As one of the co-chairs, he hosted a pre-auction dinner, he and Gina hosted Taste of Sonoma for 2,500 at the Gallo-owned MacMurray Ranch; together they donated several of the top auction lots (the auction this year topped $4.5 million, more than doubling the previous record) and JCB (as he is often known) stirred the bidders to a fever pitch with his flamboyant presence.

Much like Mondavi, Boisset is gregarious and engaging, moving easily through a crowded room greeting everyone along the way with a smile and a word of praise. Fond of colorful slacks and red socks, Boisset stands out in the crowd; he is a man comfortable in his own skin.

He explained how he and his sister fell in love with the historic Buena Vista Winery, said to be the oldest winery in California, on their first trip to the California wine country.

But he has been a man of more than mere words, restoring Buena Vista to a glory it likely hasn't seen in more than 100 years. He has completed a similar transformation over in the Napa Valley at Raymond, which had slipped noticeably prior to the Boisset purchase.

Together with Gina Gallo they have emerged as the preeminent power couple in California wine.

Some may think it sacrilege to compare anyone, let alone a Frenchman, to the revered Mondavi. I say a new ambassador of good will is long overdue.