Make us your home page

St. Petersburg museum's fundraiser features top winemakers

Jean-Charles Boisset stands inside a cave dating to 1864 and looks out at renovations taking place in the champagne cellar at the Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma, Calif. Boisset sees himself as an ambassador for the wine regions of the United States and France.

Associated Press

Jean-Charles Boisset stands inside a cave dating to 1864 and looks out at renovations taking place in the champagne cellar at the Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma, Calif. Boisset sees himself as an ambassador for the wine regions of the United States and France.

ST. PETERSBURG — In only its third year, St. Petersburg's young wine festival already is attracting wine world royalty.

Arriving as one of the honored guests of the Museum of Fine Arts' Wine Weekend St. Pete, Feb. 8-10, is no less a grand personage than Jean-Charles Boisset of Napa and Sonoma and Burgundy, France. Not a true king, perhaps, but as head of Boisset Family Estates, he oversees so many dominions in France and America that he has nearly as many titles as a Hapsburg.

Boisset's flag flies over the historic domains of Burgundy and Beaujolais and landmark legends of old California to a parallel planet where rabbits and bulldogs make Earth-friendly wines. So do very young twin girls.

In the process of romancing Napa and Sonoma, he fell in love with Gina Gallo, a true American winemaking princess from one of our own vintner dynasties. And last year they moved into a palace that belonged to Robert Mondavi, another monarch.

Although Boisset would reject a crown, he does see himself as an ambassador for the wine regions of the two countries. Or at the least, a dashing agent in the service of wine's majesty. Indeed, he favors a smoking jacket, attended the California Skyfall premiere and drives an Aston Martin. (The family car is a Maserati Quattroporte.)

It's in that capacity Boisset comes to St. Petersburg trailing clouds of Art Deco glamor, possibly bringing along his wife and their twins, Honor and Grace. Certainly Boisset will bring cases of his family's best wines to the grand VIP and sponsors dinner on Feb. 8. The evening is open the public but the tickets are a whopping $800. For those with less to spend on the fundraiser but want a taste of Boisset wines, there are auction items that feature it at the weekend's main event on Feb. 9 at the Renaissance Vinoy. (More information in box accompanying this story.) Tickets for the dinner-dance and live auction are $285. There is a brunch on Feb. 10, also at the Vinoy. Last year's event raised $200,000 for the museum.

Boisset is working on the final details of the opening night feast with friend and fellow Frenchman Dr. Jean-Francois Rossignol and his wife, Patricia, one of the organizers of the museum event. Tyson Grant, executive chef at Parkshore Grill in St. Petersburg, will prepare the six-course meal.

"It will be the kind of meal you would eat at midnight in Paris," Boisset says. "Or midnight in Tampa Bay.''

To pair with a menu of classic 1930s French cuisine, Boisset can choose from a delicious range of his wines, from the white Burgundy of Chassagne-Montrachet to the reds of Vougeot and Gevry-Chambertin, and on and on.

Boisset enjoys playing a Euro dandy, a lucky wine heir who has become a mega-merchant in his own right. Yet underneath the silk and velvet is a surprisingly earthy love and knowledge of terroir that comes from growing up in Burgundy, the wine region that parses its vineyard geography as finely as possible.

"I grew up in a village of 160 people," he says. "I can't remember my parents ever closing the door." That tiny town is Vougeot in Cote de Nuits, where monks planted the first grapes in chalky silt more than 900 years ago.

As the wine family expanded, Boisset was sent to explore America, carrying a Burgundian's focus on pinot noir. It is the most finicky of red wine grapes, almost impossible to make well in bulk. Boisset slowly expanded into cabernet, California's first love.

Boisset was smitten with America and its potential for wine-growing. He returned for secondary school, living with a family friend in Washington, D.C., and again after college for grad school in California. In the process, Boisset was infected with an American savvy for marketing and packaging, applied with dynamic energy and a disregard for tradition.

Also starring in Wine Weekend, co-sponsored by the museum and its Margaret Acheson Stuart Society, are Shari and Garen Staglin, another of Napa's first couples. The Staglin Family Vineyard on the fabled Rutherford Bench produces rare chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and other reds from certified organic vineyards.

They are in such high demand the wines are largely available only to a select mailing list. The Staglins will be the guests of honor at the grand dinner and live auction Feb. 9 at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort that is the centerpiece of the weekend.

Chris Sherman, the former Times' food critic, writes for Florida Trend among other publications.

.If you go

Museum of Fine Arts' Wine Weekend

The Museum of Fine Arts' Wine Weekend St. Pete is Feb. 8-10, kicking off with a black-tie dinner in the Marly Room of the museum on Feb. 8 for event sponsors and VIPs and featuring the wines of Jean-Charles Boisset of California and France. Tyson Grant, executive chef at Parkshore Grill, will prepare the French-themed six-course dinner. Tickets are $800. The weekend's main event is Feb. 9 at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort, beginning at 4:30 p.m. with a tasting and live auction with 50 lots of wine plus trips and other items, followed by a banquet featuring Staglin wines, music and dancing. Tickets are $285. On Feb. 10, a French-themed vintners brunch ($100) will be held at the Vinoy from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For information and tickets, visit wineweekend or call (727) 753-9463.

The Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg is at 255 Beach Drive NE and the Vinoy is walking distance at 501 5th Ave. NE. The event is sponsored by the Margaret Acheson Stuart Society.

St. Petersburg museum's fundraiser features top winemakers 01/29/13 [Last modified: Monday, January 28, 2013 4:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Glen Campbell's wife Kim discusses challenges, guilt caregivers of Alzheimer's patients, others face

    Life Times

    If there's one thing Kim Campbell would change about caregiving for Alzheimer's patients, it's the attitude so many of us have toward transferring a loved one from home to a long-term care facility. According to Campbell, it's often the most kind, loving decision you can make. It's not a sign of failure, but one of …

    Kim Campbell, wife of country music legend Glen Campbell, is acknowledged by those attending the free event where she shared the story of her personal journey with Alzheimer???‚??„?s disease and the struggles she faced caring for her husband on Friday (5/26/17) at the Suncoast Hospice's Empath Health Service Center in Clearwater. Empath Choices for Care, a member of Empath Health, and Arden Courts Memory Care hosted the free event where Kim shared her story to help others understand the early stages, how the disease changes lives, the challenges families face and the role of caregiver.
  2. What happened when I took my dad to a Pitbull concert

    Music & Concerts

    TAMPA — "So, you know how you like Pitbull?" I asked my dad. "We can see him."

    Selfie of Divya Kumar and Anand Kumar at Pitbull/Enrique Iglesias concert.
  3. Tampa City Council votes to accept travel invitation from Cuban ambassador


    The invitation came to Tampa City Council chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin in a June 9 letter from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.

    The Tampa City Council voted 6-0, with Frank Reddick out of the room, to respond to a travel invitation from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 25


    St. Pete Pride Festival: The daytime festival covers Central Avenue's Grand Central District with more than 350 vendors, multiple stages, live music, art and food. 9 a.m., Grand Central District, 2429 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 342-0084.

    Kristen Whalen poses for a photo before the start of the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg last year. It's that time of year again, so check with us for your planning purposes. [LUIS SANTANA  |   Times (2016)]
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 24


    St. Pete Pride Block Party and Night Parade: St. Pete Pride's popular parade moves to downtown St. Petersburg's scenic waterfront. The block party brings DJs, food and drinks starting at 2 p.m. The parade steps off at Fifth Ave NE and Bayshore at 7 p.m. with fireworks at 9:45 p.m. 2 p.m., North Straub Park, Fifth …

    Thousands line the streets of Central Ave. during the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg.  [Saturday, June 25, 2016] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]