The signature wine of Jean Leon is the culmination of the life of a man, born in Santander in the north of Spain, whose real name was Ceferino Carrion.
He had a difficult childhood, plagued by misfortune. In 1941, the tragic fire in the city of Santander reduced the house and possessions of the Carrion family to ashes and, as a result, they were forced to move to the prosperous city of Barcelona.
However, despite life’s difficulties, the young Ceferino always dreamt of travelling and discovering the world. So one fine morning, at the tender age of 19, with his suitcase and hardly any money, he started out on a long and difficult journey that took him first to Paris and then, as a stowaway on a merchant ship, to New York.
Ceferino headed west across the United States, finally arriving in Hollywood, the city where his luck would finally start to change.
After signing up for military service, he changed his name and, from that moment on, began to call himself Jean Leon.
As luck would have it, he found work at the Villa Capri restaurant, which was owned by the actor Frank Sinatra and Joe di Maggio. This allowed him to become friends with many of the actors that frequented the restaurant, which was how he came to befriend Natalie Wood, Grace Kelly or James Dean, to name just a few.
Shortly after that he embarked on his first business venture, thanks to his friendship with James Dean, when they joined together to fulfil a dream that they had shared from the moment they first met: to create the most prestigious restaurant in Hollywood.
On the 1st April 1956, right in the heart of Beverly Hills, La Scala opened and, in no time at all, this small restaurant had become the “in place”, where the stars of the day met up at night.
On any given day at La Scala, it was not unusual to see Marilyn Monroe, Zsa Zsa Gabor, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, David Jansen, Tony Franciosa, Robert Wagner, to name but a few, having a friendly chat with Jean Leon about wines, cuisine or some intimate secrets that they shared…
After he had become well known and respected in culinary circles throughout the States, Jean Leon embarked on his second great adventure. This was the creation of a wine that would carry his name.
He travelled all over the world looking for the ideal estate, until one day he arrived in Catalonia and there, in the heart of the Penedes, he found what he was looking for. In 1962, Jean Leon acquired the best plots of land in the region and set up the Jean Leon Pago, where he was a pioneer in planting Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay.
The wines of Jean Leon were the precursors to the Cru or Single Vineyard concept, applied in Spain, where they are known as “pago” wines. These are wines made from grapes that come from a specific vineyard and, as a result, have a unique and particular personality, due to the characteristics of the soil, the vines, the micro climate and the way the land is worked.
This is the incredible story of Jean Leon: a young idealist who broke new ground in difficult times and saw his dreams come true.
Stricken by a serious illness and before departing alone on his boat “La Scala di Mare”, Jean Leon appointed his close friend Miguel Torres to carry on with his legacy. Sailing until the last days of his life was his own way of saying goodbye to a world that had allowed him to experience so many emotions.
Today, the memory of that great man and his singular adventure comes to mind every time we uncork the wine that bears his name: Jean Leon.