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BERGER: Boisset an emerging wine leader

The old baseball saying that you can't tell the players without a scorecard truly applies to changes in the California wine industry over the last decade.

At one time not long ago, names like Robert Mondavi, Jack and Jamie Davies (Schramsberg), and Jess Jackson (Kendall-Jackson) were among the leaders in the state. With their passing, names like Bill Foley and Jean-Charles Boisset have taken their place.

Boisset in particular has become one of the most dynamic of wine personalities in recent years, and not just because the family-owned wine firm is one of the largest wine companies in Europe with numerous prestigious houses in Burgundy.

With the company's recent purchases of Raymond in the Napa Valley as well as Buena Vista and DeLoach in Sonoma County, as well as Jean-Charles' marriage to Gina Gallo of E&J Gallo, Boisset quickly becomes one of the leaders of the California industry.

As if that weren't enough, Jean-Charles and Gina (new parents of twins) just acquired the home once owned by Robert Mondavi in southern Napa Valley, firmly establishing themselves as North Coast residents.

But image-building isn't all that's taking place at the Boisset Family Estates' properties, and a visit to Raymond the other day showed just what an impact Jean-Charles intends to have on the wine world.

From all outward signs, little has changed at the property off Zinfandel Lane that was founded by the Raymond family nearly 40 years ago. The family's pictures remain on the walls of the facility.

But once visitors park, they can see what the winery calls the Theater of Nature, a self-guided garden tour that explains the biodynamic growing culture used on the estate.

Inside, the standard tasting room still exists, but various other rooms once housing business offices have been converted to 10 different wine experiences, each available for a different fee.

"You could spend the whole day at Raymond," said Boisset with a laugh. "Or you could spend just a few hours and come back to see the rest."

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