Story by Sarah Murphy Robertson
The 2015 South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival featured many great vintners, yet the style, charisma, and enthusiasm of one, Jean-Charles Boisset, was unparalleled.
Born in Burgundy, France into a family of winemakers, Jean-Charles moved to America as a teenager and after garnering a post graduate MBA at UCLA, decided to grow his French holdings to include Californian vineyards. In 2009 he married Gina Gallo, granddaughter of the late Julio Gallo, and in 2011 this wine “power couple” welcomed twin daughters, Honorée-Josephine and Grace-Antoinette. Boisset is president of Boisset Family Estates, which now owns 11 wineries in France and Northern California. His passion for winemaking has translated into a whimsical, creative boutique experience.
Like the wines he creates, Boisset himself is his own blend of cultures –both old world history-drenched French and a flashier American lifestyle of ideals and entrepreneurship. The seminar he led was entitled “Oceans Separate Us, Wines Unite Us” and among others, he invited the group to sample a wine that is not yet available for retail. It is the embodiment of the combination of two cultures: the #3 Pinot Noir, a one of a kind feat for the wine world.
The #3 is a marriage of a Russian River California Pinot Noir and a Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France. It took many years of trials and blending to find vintages that worked well together and when they found them they deemed it a “1 +1 = 3” sensation.
When he discusses the alchemy and climate of the soil the grapes grow in, Boisset’s knowledge and enthusiasm for terroir is evident. He even muses that the fruit is enhanced by the “passion of the people working the land” and while perhaps this is a metaphor of sorts, it seems there is truth behind that statement. The more the roots “struggle” the deeper they will go and the better fruit you will yield, Boisset divulges. Their vineyards do not use pesticides or herbicides and embrace a philosophy of farming which is biodynamic and organic. Boisset believes the lunar and solar cycles give his grapes a certain “je ne sais quoi” or an intangible, defining quality.
However, for all of his flair, fine wines’ success, and wealth, Jean-Charles remains grounded: ever- committed to giving back. Issues of childhood hunger are of extreme importance to him as is community involvement. Nationwide he supports many food bank initiatives and has raised funds to provide thousands of meals to those in need over the years. Here, locally, he was extremely generous with his auction items for the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation including a luxury trip to his DeLoach, Buena Vista, and Raymond vineyards as well as signed magnums of rare wines. He was quite vocal with his praise of founder Chan Cox, the record-breaking results, and the legacy of this esteemed now-ten year old event.
After the seminar I was able to grab a few moments with this larger than life winemaker. His persona did not disappoint and he was gracious with his time, engaged, and interesting. It is a rarity to meet someone who so authentically and wholeheartedly loves what they do, but Jean-Charles Boisset is anything but conventional. Like many of the wines he shared with South Walton this past weekend, he is truly one of a kind.
Photos and video courtesy of Phil Heppding