Jean-Charles Boisset has had quite the year, turning 50 with the utmost flair at what was easily Wine Country’s social event of the season. And at the helm of Boisset Collection—his family-owned collection of California wineries, including JCB, as well as numerous French properties—he oversaw the purchase of St. Helena Highway mainstay Oakville Grocery as well as the historic Victorian home next door that opened in June as 1881 Napa.
As Napa Valley’s first wine history museum and tasting salon, the spirit of 1881 Napa is one of true homage. “Napa Valley has a powerful place in American wine history and 1881 Napa puts the region in perspective on the world stage,” Boisset says. “An extraordinary amount has been accomplished in this enclave in a short amount of time and we want to create a destination that celebrates Napa’s long history and its pioneering founders while exploring Napa’s incredibly diverse terroir in one destination.”
Indeed, beneath a mounted reproduction of an 1895 canvas map of Napa County (anchored by none other than a 48-light Baccarat crystal Zenith chandelier), visitors can take a mezzanine stroll among winemaking relics from the U.S. and Europe as well as original artifacts from the Early California Wine Trade Archive. From cooperage tools to soil samples, it’s a feast of wine ephemera. On view below, tasting tables are set to enjoy wines crafted exclusively for 1881 Napa by Winemaker Thane Knutson with the intention of reflecting that diversity of the region and its 16 sub-AVAs.
Surrounding displays hold antique decanters from Boisset’s personal collection along with crystal glasses and decanters from the JCB Passion Collection, designed by Boisset and created by Baccarat. This new collection is being carried by Draeger’s, Neiman Marcus, and Gump’s and is also available through Baccarat’s boutiques, Boisset wineries, and JCB’s suite of tasting salons. “My lifetime dream has always been to create the most phenomenal glass,” Boisset says of the unprecedented collaboration with Baccarat that has yielded glasses designed for white, red, or rosé, a unique Champagne glass (vs. a flute or a coupe), as well as a wine decanter and first-of-its-kind Champagne decanter.
With such milestones realized in 2019, we can only imagine what Boisset will dream up for 2020.