Recently I had the pleasure of having lunch with Jean-Charles Boisset, President of Boisset Family Estates, at Carmichael's to discuss his future plans for recent purchase Buena Vista Winery. Jean-Charles (JC) has been involved with wine his entire life and practically grew up in the vineyards. The Boisset family is well known as winemakers and exporters, and owned property in Burgundy, the Rhone Valley and southern France before visiting California. JC and his family really took to the west coast and loved the winemaking potential and history. This lead to JC rooting himself and his family there and purchasing famous wineries & vineyards such as Raymond, DeLoach, Lyeth, and as of April 2011, Buena Vista.
When JC looks to purchase a winery it must meet certain criteria: able to create excellent wine and have rich history. Buena Vista was the perfect fit as it is probably California's most historic winery. It was started in 1856 by Hungarian immigrant Count Agoston Harazthy. The Count was a pioneer and innovator- he started California's first commercial winery (Buena Vista), built the first wine caves, introduced over 300 grape varietals, created the first Traditional Method sparkling wines and introduced California wines to Europe, winning gold medals and accreditation. Now the tradition can live on as JC carries the torch and makes Buena Vista fully organic (as he does with all of his wineries) and has changed to Gravity-Flow, one of the first in the area.
At our lunch I was able to taste a few wines which will be available at very reasonable prices (most at $20 or less) which makes them extreme value selections. There will be four different lines:
- Sonoma. A new vintage-style label is made to both impress and deliver with varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel. I tasted the 2011 Chardonnay which carries a lighter weight, supple fruit and both butter and slight oak, and the 2010 Zinfandel which is an amazing bargain with dark jammy fruit, spice, toastiness and a puff of smoke. I was also impressed by the 2008 "The Count" Founder's Red Wine, a blend (which I had to guess!) of Zinfandel, Syrah and Merlot. I love blends and this one hits on all points: great fruit, a variety of secondary flavor like mocha and spices, and a lengthy finish.
- Carneros. I love this region for the complex thin skinned fruit it can produce with the cool ocean breeze, and Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir are part of the line. I tasted the 2009 Pinot Noir which has an elegant earthiness combined with tasty fruit. Looking forward to the other varietals.
- Private Reserve. This house label has been revived and involves fruit sourced from Sonoma's best vineyards. A lineup of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel will be the best there is to offer.
- Vinicultural Society. Small production wines to honor the ancient society begun by the Count in 1863. Currently they boast wines named after Agoston's children. Arpad's is a select Zinfandel, Otelia's is a select Pinot Noir and a vintage Sparkling Brut is also available. ($32-45)
I definitely enjoyed tasting these wines and really like JC's jovial personality and style. I think it translates to his personal life, business, decisions and relationships. This French legend is already an American pioneer and star in the making. I look forward to seeing his future ventures and tasting the wines!