Meet the curious and daring Jean-Charles Boisset, CEO of luxury wine and spirits group Napa Valley
What concerns do you have for the company?
I have zero worries. I am 100% optimistic.
You said earlier that you thought the company could be better off without you. Why?
Well, because we’re constantly made up of bigger people, and because I might, you know, probably get overwhelmed. I will become obsolete, I will not become as trendy as we are today. I will not follow the evolution of time.
We have an incredible team that is going and ready to take it to the next level, whether I’m there or not. A lot of things happening today are happening without me being involved in every detail. I structure it as such. I get excited when I see people shine without me being involved every step of the way, when they themselves take calculated but inspiring risks and go for it.
I think you have to stop having the ego as big as the world to say that it will collapse without me. We are a collection of amazing wineries, amazing brands that are way beyond my time. Look, we resurrected Buena Vista Winery; the cellar is better than it has ever been. Raymond… is four times his size. The Ink House, this beautiful hotel that we bought, is more spectacular than ever.
If I’m an inspiring, passionate and energetic dreamer, that’s exactly what I think I should be. President, CEO, leader, these are all big words that don’t belong to me, but to an MBA school that I don’t even belong to.
What is your opinion on the future of the US economy?
I am exactly optimistic. I think America is the best place to be. American democracy is the best of all; the system of checks and balances. And the presidential system is fabulous. I think the world should manage its economies the same way America does.
What are you doing to attract employees?
What we hope to attract is engagement of their opinion, engagement of their input, that what they say means something and that we act on their belief. We hope we attract excitement and energy, we hope we attract passion and dreams.
Do you think salaries are the answer to recruiting?
Absolutely not. Our program is long term and we choose to give people a voice and an opinion where people can make a difference.
What are the pros and cons of being located in North Bay?
We must continue to embrace this spirit of action, support our entrepreneurs and encourage creative enterprise. We must ensure that North Bay has thriving communities with affordable housing; we need our local governments to partner with businesses that seek to make this place a better place, where sometimes we feel more challenged by them than supported.
If you could change one government regulation, what would it be?
In some Northern California wine regions, the connection to food and wine is sorely missing. Many places suggest that a winery should not offer food to accompany the wine. We believe this needs to evolve as wine and food go better together, and the enjoyment of wine should never be about drinking alone, but rather the cultural experience of wine and food together.
What other acquisitions are you considering?
And we have big ambitions. We continue to add, and we continue to bring more to our culture, more phenomenal and visionary ideas that make us a better place than we were yesterday. Our journey is not over.
Do you want to share with NBBJ readers what these acquisitions will be?
No, because I want you to call me every week because we’re going to feed you new ideas.
What do you see in boutique hospitality?
Huge potential as people change their travel habits. We chose to want to be in smaller houses, extended houses, to be received and to live like the owners of the houses. That’s why the house that my wife and I acquired, this beautiful house in Napa Valley, so you can rent multiple rooms, all hotel rooms, and hang out with your friends at a private chef or cook yourself in the kitchen and live like a Victorian homeowner in the heart of St. Helena on Highway 29.
I think people want unique experiences, they want to be part of the landscape, the fabric and the experience of the wine country, or the beach, or the mountains or nature. It is now experiential, much more than transactional.
How is your wife, Gina Gallo, involved in the Boisset Collection?
Gina is my muse and a source of creative energy. We love mixing wine, discussing wine and sharing the life of wine, but our business remains entirely separate as it has a very successful career in the wine world with its family winery.
Do you envision one day your twin daughters being involved in the wine industry?
Of course we would love to. But they will find their way to their wine world in their own way, as their mother and I did.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in your industry?
Be curious, be bold. Try everything and meet as many people as possible. The world of wine is an inspiring world that rewards passionate and committed people. Wine is never a job, it’s a life. Kiss him.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story misrepresented Boisset’s age. He is 52 years old.