Best Wineries

Explore Jean-Charles Boisset’s World of Spirits and Wine

By Published On: February 23rd, 2024

Featuring Calistoga Depot Distillery, Buena Vista Winery, Raymond Vineyards, DeLoach Vineyards and more.

Jean-Charles Boisset first began to take the California wine world by storm in the early 2003s, arriving here from Burgundy with a keen appreciation for California history and irrepressible sense of discovery imbued with an infectious joie de vivre. Ever since, he’s broadened and deepened his reach, acquiring wineries and building a wide portfolio of brands and experiences across both Napa Valley and Sonoma County. 

Spirits are the next frontier and will be first and foremost the focus at his soon-to-open Calistoga Depot Distillery, yet another of Boisset’s nods to California’s grand past and illustrious future. Here’s a snapshot of his world.

WINE

A native of Burgundy, Jean-Charles Boisset began building his vinous legacy in California in 2003, with the purchase of DeLoach Vineyards in the Russian River Valley, a pioneering family-run property originally founded in 1975. Known for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, Boisset introduced organic and biodynamic farming practices to the site.

DeLoach Vineyards aerial view.

In 2009 he added Raymond Vineyards in Rutherford to his growing California wine empire, another family-run property founded in 1970 that is today a 300-acre estate with certified-organic and Biodynamic vineyards devoted predominantly to Cabernet Sauvignon.

Raymond Vineyards Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Two years later, Boisset acquired the historic Buena Vista Winery in the town of Sonoma, whose roots date back to the 1850s, restoring it back to its original grandeur. 

Buena Vista Winery.

Other Northern California-based Boisset-owned winery brands include Durant & Booth, which is Napa Valley-based and makes predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, and Founder’s Ranch in St. Helena, an homage to the St. Helena Viticultural Club.

Then there’s Frenchie Winery, named for Jean-Charles Boisset’s French bulldog; JCB by Jean-Charles Boisset, which includes wines from California and France; Wattle Creek Winery in the Alexander Valley, originally founded in 1994, with wines from Sonoma, Napa and France and Elizabeth Spencer Winery, based in the former 1872 brick Post Office building in Rutherford, that makes wines from Napa Valley, Sonoma Coast and Mendocino.

Elizabeth Spencer wine paired with pizza.

“Winemaking is in my blood, coming from my family who started in this industry more than 170 years ago,” Boisset says. “My family cultivated in me an unwavering dedication to the craft, and a desire to understand the process of winemaking and the art of premium barrel aging. This deep-rooted understanding and desire for innovation is what has inevitably led me to want to apply this to spirits, as well.”

SPIRITS

As such, Boisset has been involved in making spirits for years now, starting with JCB Spirits. He’s expanding greatly into the category with the opening of the Calistoga Depot Distillery in Spring 2024, set in a renovated building that dates back to 1868 that was built originally by Sam Brannan, the second-oldest train depot in California. Boisset purchased the Depot in 2021 and has been working to bring the spirits portfolio to life ever since.

The new Calistoga Depot opening Spring 2024 will culminate in a divine, copper-clad Distillery room offering barrel-aged spirits and unique tastings.

“As an entrepreneur myself, I was initially compelled by the narrative of 19th-century entrepreneur Samuel Brannan,” Boisset explains. “Brannan is the man behind naming the town of Calistoga, building a railroad leading directly into town, creating San Francisco’s first newspaper, and much more.

Historic image of Samuel Brannan and Calistoga Depot, located in the heart of Napa Valley.

Learning this led me to dive further into both his and the Depot’s history, and we found that Brannan had actually built a distillery to make fine brandy. I had already brought my family’s decade-long experience in winemaking and terroir to Napa Valley, so reconstructing the Depot felt like the perfect way to pay further tribute to the region.” 

The Calistoga Depot exterior with sign.
The Calistoga Depot Reopening Spring, 2024.

The grand new destination reopening this Spring will feature a full bar, tasting space, Champagne and caviar lounge, a fine dining Mexican restaurant and a provisions store, with designated spaces devoted to each collection. 

Depot Provisions features world-class cheese, charcuterie, and prepared foods.
Depot Parlor Car featuring local oysters, caviar, and elegant small plates paired with Champagne and wine.
Experience the art and cuisine of Mexico at Casa Obsidiana.

“I infused Brannan’s passion for spirits as well as my own lifelong dedication and mastery of winemaking, innovation, and the art of the most premium barrel aging methods in the world into The Calistoga Depot Distillery,” adds Boisset. “It will be a place where people can once again come to enjoy ultra-premium fine spirits that have been finished in our very own Boisset wine barrels.”

The experience will include an in-depth history lesson on the Depot itself, so guests understand its roots in Calistoga and who Sam Brannan was, as well as his vital impact on the area.

A tasting experience follows, where the art of aging as well as the art of cocktail making are discussed. These sessions will include exclusive hands-on cocktail crafting, enlightening history lessons about the spirits and more.

Learn about the Depot’s history.

“I grew up in the village of Vougeot, nestled in the heart of Burgundy, France,” he says. “There is a great level of respect for history in Burgundy as well so naturally all of this sparked a deep, personal passion. Furthermore, my grandparents were schoolteachers, so history was part of every dinner conversation. All of these moments from my past have come together and have inspired my passion for history and the art of historical restoration. I’m thrilled to carry that passion forward to California.”

Boisset’s goal is that guests walk away with a deep understanding of the spirits he and his team create, the inspiration behind what they do and how they can enjoy the Calistoga Depot Distillery portfolio, hoping to be a hub for fine spirits in a region that is naturally very wine-centric.

JCB Spirits

A line of spirits that includes Straight Vodka, Caviar Vodka, Truffle Vodka, Gin and Cognac made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines made in Burgundy and then distilled 7 times. The caviar is French and the black truffles from Périgord, while the Gin is infused with juniper, rose, coriander and extracts of 44 spices and Biodynamic herbs. 

Calistoga Depot Distillery Spirits Portfolio

The majority of these spirits feature some tie to the days of Sam Brannan, who made and lost a fortune during and after the Gold Rush. 

Calistoga Depot Distillery Gin is made from domestic corn with juniper, angelica, cardamom, coriander, fennel seed, orris root, California Bay, lemon peel and grapefruit peel, while Calistoga Depot Distillery Vodkais made from domestic corn. Both are made in partnership with Master Distiller Ashby Marshall of SpiritWorks in Sonoma County.

The Calistoga Star Barrel Aged Fine California Brandy is made from Chardonnay, French Colombard, Grenache, Muscat and Symphony grapes cellared for 7-15 years in used charred American white oak and aged in French oak wine casks. The Calistoga Star Barrel Aged XO Fine Brandy is made from Barbera and Ugni Blanc grapes, cellared for 10-20 years in charred American white oak and French oak wine casks.

Calistoga Depot Distillery Spirits.

The First Millionaire American Barley Whisky is made from 100% malted barley and aged 4 years in former Napa Valley wine casks. The First Millionaire Sacramento Single Malt Whisky is from 100% malted barley grown in Sacramento and aged in new American white oak wine casks. 

Made in partnership with Master Distiller Ashby Marshall, the Fame & Misfortune Cask Strength Rye Whiskey is from organic rye and malted grains aged 7 years in new charred American white oak casks. Fame & Misfortune Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Angelica Casks is made from organic rye and malted grains aged 7 years in new charred American white oak and another 7 months in French oak casks used for Buena Vista Winery Angelica dessert wines.

In comparison, Fame & Misfortune Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Port Casks is made from organic rye and malted grains aged 7 years in new charred American white oak and finished 7 months in Buena Vista Port casks.

Fame & Misfortune Straight Rye Whiskey.

Fame & Misfortune Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Cream Sherry Casks is made from organic rye and malted grains for 7 years in new charred American white oak and finished 7 months in Buena Vista Cream Sherry casks. 

All made in partnership with Master Distiller Crispin Cain, Prosperous & Penniless Bourbon Whiskey is made from corn, malted barley and malted rye, aged 6 years in Missouri bourbon barrels and finished in French oak casks used to age Buena Vista Winery Cabernet Sauvignon.

Prosperous & Penniless Bourbon Whiskey.

Prosperous & Penniless Rye Malt Whiskey is made from malted rye and malted wheat, aged 24-30 months in new bourbon barrels and transferred to used Cognac barrels, then finished in used Buena Vista Cabernet Sauvignon wine barrels for an average of 10 years.

Prosperous & Penniless Barrel-Finished Gin is infused with juniper berries, coriander, cardamom seed, lemon peel, orange peel, grains of paradise, orris root, licorice, rosemary and cinnamon. 

Casa Obsidiana Tequila

A partnership with the Beckmann Gonzalez family, who farm one of Mexico’s leading agave estates, these tequilas are made by Certified Master Tequilero Francisco Quijano and aged in fine-grained, handmade French oak casks used to age Boisset family wines in Burgundy and Napa Valley.

Casa Obsidiana Team.

There are Blanco, Reposado and Añejo versions: the Blanco is finished 16 days in French oak casks used for Napa Valley Chardonnay; the Reposado finished 4 months in French oak that held Napa Valley Chardonnay; and the Añejo finished 15 months in French oak held for Napa Valley Chardonnay.

Casa Obsidiana tequilas featuring a Blanco, Reposado and Añejo pictured left to right.

The tequilas will be featured at the Calistoga Depot in its own train car within a fine Mexican dining establishment.

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