Mentored by his father, a regisseur at Château Lafite, Bernard Portet grew up tasting each wine vintage as it was born and then matured. Born in Cognac in the same house where his father was born, and raised in Bordeaux, it would have been easy for him to continue his family’s wine tradition in France. His family has owned vineyard property in France since the late 1600s. Instead, the ninth generation French vintner studied viticulture and enology in Toulouse and Montpellier and then, upon graduation, set out to explore wine regions around the world.
A believer that making wine is all about the place, his journey led him to the United States, Australia, Morocco, South Africa and South America. Due to the similarities of several of his favorite wine regions in France, it was California’s Napa Valley that inspired him. With a clear vision of the potential of the Napa Valley, in 1971 he co-founded Clos du Val. He pioneered several Napa Valley regions and developed a keen focus upon Stags Leap. Portet remained at Clos du Val for more than 35 years.
Throughout his career Portet has made wine on the four continents of Europe, North America, South America and Australia and continues to travel and consult worldwide. He has served on several boards and associations and was Chairman of the Napa Valley Wine Auction in 1997.
Following Clos du Val he decided to create something new. A chance meeting with former Clos du Val colleague Don Chase ended up in the formation of Polaris Wines. Today, Bernard Portet continues to make wine using his signature assemblage style which results in a finished wine greater than the sum of its parts.
Portet lives in the Napa Valley with his wife, where they raised three children – representing the tenth generation—who are now grown and living on two different continents.