Nueva Buena Vista by Jean-Charles Boisset

Jean-Charles BoissetRecently 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!


A Day with Dan Aykroyd

img_1116This past Saturday morning, the Windy City Wine Guy was invited to a sommelier brunch at Feast Gold Coast with Chicago Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd.   The event was in conjunction with the release of his Dan Aykroyd Discovery Series Sonoma Wines and Crystal Head Vodka to Chicago.  We met Dan Aykroyd, along with his friends and coworkers.  It seems they are all very close and have been traveling and working together for over thirty years!  This was all taking place before a bottle signing event at Binny's South Loop.  Now on to the wines!

Dan Aykroyd entered into a partnership with Jean-Charles Boisset of Boisset Family Estates to create his Discovery Series Wines.  Mr. Aykroyd has had a love of wine for a long time, even before his Blues Brothers fame.  After meeting Jean-Charles in Canada, they discussed wine and the Boisset family purchase of vineyards in Ontario.  Soon after, they began to collaborate on a wine project out of DeLoach Vineyards in Sonoma, and the Discovery Series was born.  The wines are meant to bring a great $20 value to consumers.  They created two wines:img_11221

2007 Chardonnay.  A more crisp, Burgundian style from California.  Less oak flavor, it was aged in a mixture of new and neutral French oak.  There is good citrus and tropical melon accompanied by a light creaminess.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.  A small amount of Merlot and Carmenere were added to the blend to round out this medium-heavy wine.  There are still some grippy tannins along with black fruit and spice.  Ideal with grill meat and rich stews.

After enjoying some wine along with a fluffy vegetable quiche and some good conversation from Chicago local sommeliers, I headed to Binny's along with my wife to get an interview with Mr. Aykroyd.  It was quite a scene as hundreds of people were in line to get an autographed bottle- I think my hand would've cramped up after that!  Here is a video interview conducted by my beautiful and talented wife, Blagica Bottigliero, with some questions we came up with for Mr. Aykroyd:
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img_1121I also got a close look at the Crystal Head Vodka.  It is a cool bottle, and I could see it sitting on many a shelf.  To prevent this, the vodka strategists have future plans to release bottles with silver and gold teeth, kind of like pimp skulls!  The vodka is triple distilled through Herkimer diamonds (quartz crystals).  I have yet to taste it, but received good feedback from Binny's staff- they sold over 800 bottles this weekend!  It retails for $47.99.

Dan also makes Discovery Series Ontario wines, but they are unfortunately unavailable here in the states.  If you make your way north of the border, you can grab a bottle of either his Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet-Merlot, or Cabernet-Shiraz, each for about $15.  There is also an award winning Vidal Blanc Icewine for around $65.

It was a great experience to meet a great celebrity like Dan Aykroyd.  He is not only an honorary Chicago's own, but he actually cares about these products he helped create.  He did not merely slap his name on any of these for money, like so many others do.  I want to send out a huge thank you to Mr. Aykroyd, and John Wardzala of Boisset Family Vineyards for working with my wife (big thanks to her for the video!) and I to set all of this up.