From Burgundy to California Pinot Noir

Jean-Charles Boisset's eyes light up when he talks about the time his grandparents brought him to...

Jean-Charles Boisset's eyes light up when he talks about the time his grandparents brought him to California. (Supplied)

Christopher Waters, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:31 AM ET

 

Jean-Charles Boisset’s eyes light up when he talks about the time his grandparents brought him to California. To an 11-year-old, the landscape, history and culture was completely alien to his family’s home in small village in Burgundy.

“It was a magical place that left an indelible mark on my mind,” he said. “France is a country created by history. America is a country created by a philosophy. I was struck by the dynamism, excitement, joy and passion of the people of the United States.”

Boisset, who now spends more than half of his time in California, says he’s living out his boyhood dream making wine in Sonoma County and the Napa Valley. Since purchasing DeLoach Vineyards in 2003, Boisset Family Estates has amassed a tidy collection of California wineries to complement its network of French properties.

“When you are born into the Old World, you have a sense of tradition. But that tradition can overpower innovation,” Boisset said, addressing the trade luncheon of the California Wine Fair in Toronto.

Compared to the regimented winemaking customs of Burgundy, California is a fairly blank canvas. Boisset said he admires the American industry’s willingness to go beyond expectations to make exceptional wine. He believes that by blending cultures, his family’s wineries are making better wine across the board. “You learn from the places you go,” he says. “The world is such a fun place as long as we are able to share.”

For instance, the wide scale acceptance of organic farming in California is something Boisset would love to see take root at home in France. Meanwhile, he has translated much of the small batch, single vineyard focus and winemaking techniques of Burgundy into his American operations. California wine has enjoyed tremendous success, especially in North America. But Boisset believes it’s only the beginning.

“We have only started in California,” he explains. “The way we are looking at California today is not necessarily the way we will look at it tomorrow.”

Wines of the Week:

**** Buena Vista Winery 2011 Pinot Noir Carneros, California, United States ON $25.05 (304105)

Coming from the cooler Carneros winegrowing region, this generous and plush California Pinot is marked by bold red fruit aromas and flavours accented by spice and savoury notes. Its ripe character makes it a good match for grilled salmon or pork tenderloin.

**** Raymond Vineyards 2010 Family Classic Chardonnay North Coast, California, United States ON $15.95 (269753)

Here’s a terrific value Chardonnay that benefits greatly from Boisset’s Burgundy background. It’s appealingly ripe with elegant structure and persistent flavours. You get the rich style you’d expect from California with the restraint and focus common to French examples.


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