Ever since Jean-Charles Boisset and Gina Gallo married last September in what San Francisco Magazine termed "the hottest American-European union since Grace Kelly married Rainier III, Prince of Monaco," the two Sonoma County-based winemakers and wine-family heirs haven't let love get in the way of their work. Quite the opposite.
Instead, personal happiness seems to be driving each to new heights of wine quality and visibility. The most striking example is Boisset's just-opened Taste of Terroir, an imaginative new tasting salon on the Healdsburg Plaza located, ironically, in a tasting-room space previously used by Gallo Family wines.
"I've always wanted to have an educational location in California which would be in a small town, so Healdsburg is perfect," said Boisset. "Where Sonoma meets Burgundy."
Surprisingly, Boisset found out the space was available by happenstance, not through family ties.
"I was there by accident on a Saturday speaking to the general manager and he told me they were leaving, which I didn't even know from my own wife," Boisset said with a laugh. "Our relationship is established on other things than wine except we talk a lot about wine as far as quality and style and terroir, and Gina is becoming a very strong fan of Burgundy as well. She doesn't have a choice."
Raised in Vougeot, France, Boisset grew up in Burgundy among the vineyards of the Cote de Nuits wine region and began working in the family wine business as a teenager. He now spearheads his family's myriad enological interests around the world, particularly in North America, and has helped turn Boisset Family Estates into France's third-largest wine company today.
His parents, Jean-Claude and Claudine Boisset, started building their collection of wineries in 1961. Their brands include some of the finest names in Burgundy — Domaine de la Vougeraie and Jean-Claude Boisset in Nuits Saint Georges, Jaffelin and Bouchard Aine & Fils in Beaune, J.Moreau & Fils in Chablis and others.
Boisset led his family's acquisition of DeLoach Vineyards in the Russian River Valley in 2004. Last year, he bought historic Raymond Vineyards in the Napa Valley.
At the new Taste of Terroir, many of these wines are offered in one chic and elegant salon, giving visitors a rare opportunity to try pinots and chardonnays from two very different terroirs in one place.
"We wanted to create a place showing people the best of both worlds, where you can sit and take the time to enjoy and learn the essence of wine not in a rushed way," he explained. "Every element of its design is bringing in a way to enjoy wine with all five senses."
The design team behind the stylish space, given the mandate to create a "French flair meets California wine-country style" theme, includes interior designer Nicole Hollis, Backen, Gillam & Kroeger Architects and D'Anjou and Christophe Dubois, who created custom barware to compliment the Champagne flutes, chillers and spit buckets designed personally by Boisset.
Philippe Starck ghost chairs assemble around a custom-made, marble-top communal table beneath a Marie Antoinette chandelier made by Bisazza, an Italian glass mosaic producer.
It is from this charmed setting that tasters may enjoy 25 French wines, including such current gems as an Echezeaux Grand Cru 2005 or Clos du Roi 1er Cru, and 11 California selections, mostly from DeLoach Vineyards but also from Boisset's own JCB Collection, featuring wines from three different Northern California appellations, including the Russian River, Sonoma Coast and Mendocino Ridge.