JCB: International Man of Mystery

In 2013 we sat under the stars at Raymond Vineyards in Rutherford with one of the wine world’s most charming entrepreneurs, Jean-Charles Boisset. Jean-Charles purchased the property in 2009, and in every regard he reinvigorated Raymond and re-imagined what a Napa winery could be. He also redefined the role of “Proprietor” along the way. Sure, Raymond has plenty of history; it was evident as we passed through the wine library with vintages back to the early 70‘s. But his vision is entirely new. 
 
Face to face, his devilish French charm is seductive. On the day of our visit, he was dressed all in black, shirt unbuttoned to the point of distraction with a jaunty swagger that made it all seem perfectly fine.
 
The energy was magnetic as we sat down to dinner.  JCB seemed awesome and everyone wanted to be awesome with him.  A colleague was compelled to prove that she could “do the worm” which she did with aplomb on the lawn of the estate. Some wine dinners can be a little stuffy; this was a party.
 
A short while earlier, we toured the estate. The lounges and tastings rooms at Raymond ooze sexy, featuring one outrageous and colorful design after another.  The swank environs range from the Paris-inspired “Red Room” with its black on red velvet fleur-de-lis wall coverings to the “Crystal Cellar” - think Baccarat meets Victoria’s Secret. We passed through a half dozen other rooms which felt equally wild. The spaces are carefully orchestrated to create a vibe somewhere between Playboy Mansion and Bond villain's lair.
 
The man’s flair for marketing his winery was obvious but there is brilliant duality to JCB. If you’re not careful, you will miss it. The über-sexy facade serves to hide the unglamorous fact that the magic in the bottle ultimately comes back to farming.
 
When we first arrived, we toured the vineyards and Jean-Charles walked us through the “Theater of Nature,” his biodynamic demonstration vineyard. 
 
Biodynamics is a holistic approach to farming that takes the principals of organic farming several steps further. Mr. Boisset is passionately dedicated to farming his land with the upmost care. His vineyard manager, Eric Pooler, has the daunting responsibility of farming over 300 acres to organic and biodynamic standards. This is a monumental dedication to quality grape growing.
 
As he walked us around, it was apparent that he is deeply focused on growing the best grapes possible, with the intention of making the best wine possible. It wasn’t marketing, it wasn’t ego; it was a deep respect for the land and an obsession for making great wine. 
 
To that end, he has assembled a talented technical team. His winemaker at Raymond, Stephanie Putnam, deserves credit for helping Raymond earn 2012 American Winery of the Year from Wine Enthusiast. Under her careful hand, the Raymond wines have frequently earned 90-95 point scores. 
 
The transformation at Raymond is enough of an accomplishment on its own, but Jean-Charles has resurrected several struggling wineries too. In California, the list includes Deloach, Buena Vista, Lockwood and Amberhill. In Europe the company owns Bonpas, Fortant, JCB, Mommessin and others. Given that his wine empire has its origins in one barrel of Burgundy sold by his father, Jean-Claude, in 1961, this is truly astonishing.
But when you’re with Jean-Charles Boisset, it is hard to think about the magnitude of these accomplishments because you’re having so much fun with him, drinking great wine. That’s just the way he wants it - tireless attention in the vineyard and winery is delivered with effortless style in the glass.

From California
From France
Buena Vista
Bonpas

Chardonnay, $14.99
Merlot, $14.99
Cabernet Sauvignon $14.99
The Count, Founder’s Red, $14.99
Sheriff, $39.99
 

Luberon Blanc, $9.99
Ventoux Rouge, $9.99
Cotes du Rhone, $10.99

 

DeLoach
Fortant

Chardonnay, Heritage Reserve, $10.99
Chardonnay, Russian River, $21.99
Pinot Noir, Heritage Reserve, $10.99
Pinot Noir, Russian River, $24.99
Zinfandel, Heritage Reserve, $10.99

Chardonnay, $9.99
Cabernet Sauvignon $9.99
Muscat, $9.99
Hillside Viognier, $14.99
Hillside Pinot Noir, $19.99
Hillside Carignan, $19.99
Hillside Malbec, $14.99
 

Raymond
JCB

Sauvignon Blanc, Napa, $17.99
Cabernet Sauvignon, Family Classic $19.99
Chardonnay, Napa, $22.99
Merlot, Napa, $24.99
Cabernet Sauvignon, Family Classic $19.99
Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve $34.99
 

Rosé #5, $21.99
Brut #21, $19.99

R Collection
Mommessin

Sauvignon Blanc, $11.99
Chardonnay, $11.99
Merlot, $11.99
Cabernet Sauvignon, $11.99
Field Blend, $11.99
 

Macon-Villages, $13.99
Pouilly-Fuisse, $19.99

Lockwood
 

Red Blend, $23.99