Many wines have a story to tell.
But very few tell one as incredible
as the story of Jean Leon.

Dreamer. Visionary. Enthusiast. Charismatic. Nonconformist. And achiever.

Ángel Ceferino Carrión Madrazo (his real name) was born in Santander on 28 April 1928. His parents, Antonio Carrión and Ángeles Madrazo, had nine children: Consuelo, José, Conchita, Ceferino, Angelines, Francisco, Juan Bautista, María del Carmen and Ana María.

Early in the morning between the 15th and 16th February, a tragic fire destroyed much of the city of Santander and the Carrión-Madrazo family, with their nine children, moved to Barcelona in search of a better life.


On 1 July, Cerefino's father and eldest brother, José, died after the merchant ship on which they worked as marines was destroyed. It is suspected that the ship was transporting camouflaged war material for the army of the Third Reich and was blown up by the British Navy.

Spain's apparent neutrality in World War II meant that nothing was published about the incident in the press at the time, making it difficult to collect the widowhood pension. This, coupled with the fact that they were the two men who had brought the money home, left the Ceferino family in financial hardship.


On 16 July, the feast day of the Virgen del Carmen, Ceferino returned home, like every afternoon, from his job as a car body repairer in Pegaso, Barcelona. He showered and dressed in his best clothes, telling his mother that he was going out to dinner to celebrate his girlfriend's patron saint. In fact, without warning his family, he sets off on an adventure with three other friends towards France, crossing the Pyrenees on foot.


In Bayona, Bordeaux and Paris, Ceferino worked as a waiter, interpreter and everything he could manage. During this time, he was called up for military service in Spain but did not show up, thus fulfilling the promise made at the age of twelve after the deaths of his father and brother, to never serve General Franco, whom he considered guilty of these losses. This decision makes him a fugitive and prevents him from returning home to his family.

Ceferino writes a letter to his family informing them that he is going to Guatemala with his friends. At the last moment, they inform him that he needs a travel permit and he sets off on his own to Paris to arrange one. He arrived that same day in the afternoon, but the boat had already left and so have his friends (a few months later, they are discovered and deported to Spain).


He tries to make the voyage up to seven times, but he is always discovered (with the good fortune that he is always sent back to France and not to Spain). At the eight attempt and almost defeated he finally manages to embark at the port of Le Havre, as a stowaway in the hold of a ship that, without him realising it, was headed to the USA and not to Guatemala as he had initially thought.

During the voyage, a black sailor discovers him in the vessel's hold, but decides not to hand him in but rather to bring him food and teach him English. They forge a sincere friendship, to the point that Jean Leon repeatedly seeks him over the years to thank him, but without success. He always felt indebted to him: "I have remembered this man of my entire life. I would have recognised his face among a million people of his race. He was like my guardian angel, and without him, I could never have entered America" (quote from the book by Rafael Moreno "Jean Leon, el rey de Beverly Hills" (Jean Leon, the King of Beverly Hills). His particular American dream had started.


Upon arrival in NYC, Ceferino contacted a distant cousin of his father and begins to work as a dishwasher in the small bar run by the latter. On his second night in the city, he fell asleep on a park bench and had all his documents stolen, so he managed to have himself nationalised in the USA with the name "Justo Ramón León". During this period, he also worked as a taxi driver in the city of skyscrapers. His licence number was 3055.

A week later, he got a job as a table clearer in the executive dining rooms of the Rockefeller Center. It was his first contact with executives, politicians and famous artists of the time. A job that he loved. However, after six months, his "adventure friends" in France who had been deported to Barcelona report him to the Francoist authorities and he becomes a fugitive. Around this time, he also received a letter from the US Army enlisting him to the army now that he was a new American citizen. He does so, but when he receives the letter informing him that he must fight in the Korean War, he doesn't show up.

With all that was going on, at the end of the year he decided to move to Los Angeles, California. He lodges at a small hotel in Hollywood, on Sunset Boulevard. He starts to work in a very humble restaurant called Maxwell Coffee House. At that time, he met a Spaniard called Durán who had also changed his name and asked him whether he wanted to collaborate with him in a motion picture project, putting him in touch with Antonio and Rosario, the most popular Spanish dance couple at that time, to make a movie with them. Justo Ramón León goes to the LA Emigration Dept to request a passport to go to Spain and meet the dancers (his first passport).

During this time, he had already changed his name to Jean Leon, although on his papers he still appeared as Justo Ramón, so he officially changed his name to secure his future in the USA. "Jean Leon," was the name of a renowned French painter and sculptor of the time that he liked. During this year, he also formed a friendship with José Cansino, Rita Hayworth's uncle, who had a flamenco dance studio.

He took advantage of his trip to Spain (route: NYC > Gibraltar > Málaga > Madrid > Barcelona) to attend the wedding of one of his sisters, who had to celebrate her wedding outside the neighbourhood so that "Cefe"-as his siblings called him- could go without his "whistleblowing friends seeing him"
On New Year's Eve of that year, Jean Leon, passed through Madrid and then back to the USA. From this moment, his family didn't hear from him for twelve years. They repeatedly wrote to the American Consulate but as he wasn't registered in his real name they couldn't locate him. His family gave him up for dead.


Jean Leon is recruited by the Army Corps of Engineers (LA). When he realised that after seven weeks of training he would be sent to fight in the Korean War, he escaped to MEXICO. After staying in Ciudad Jerez and Texas, he hands himself in before they detain him again. Everyone is leaving for war and he is sent to train in San Francisco (an embarkation port for Korea) and then to a military camp next to the Sacramento River, where he escapes from. Lady luck is once again on his side, because in the summer of 1951 the war is thwarted and the UN proposes a cease fire.


Jean Leon returns to Hollywood and soon finds work in two fashionable venues: Villa Nova and Villa Capri, the latter owned by Frank Sinatra and the legendary baseball player Joe Di Maggio. He combines these nighttime waiter jobs with being a taxi driver by day. Much merit for someone who only knew four words of English at the time. Jean Leon's discretion and professionalism earned him his reward. Soon he became one of the most trusted assistants to Sinatra, who taught him to move in those circles and where he would meet many stars of the golden age of cinema, such as Natalie Wood, Grace Kelly and James Dean, among many others.


Jean Leon forged a strong friendship with James Dean, to such an extent that they chose to become partners in order to materialise a dream they both shared: to create the most prestigious restaurant in Hollywood. Dean, who at that time worked for Warner and had already starred in "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant," was in a good situation financially, so he would invest the money needed to open the restaurant (around 10,000 or 20,000 dollars) with Jean Leon at the helm of the restaurant. Jean Leon had already found the perfect place to open the new restaurant, located just opposite the Villa Capri.

Jean Leon suggests that James Dean, a future partner and close friend, be the godfather of his son and he accepts happily. On 30 September 1955, James Dean died in a fatal car crash on his way from Los Angeles to Salinas, where he was going to participate in a car race. He collided with a Ford that was being driven on the wrong side of the motorway. Jean Leon was deeply affected by the death of his friend, whom he understood so well, among other reasons because he was a young restless dreamer just like him.

After several months of postponing the restaurant project that he was going to open with James Dean, Jean Leon finally decided to continue alone with the dream that they both shared and, on 1 April 1956, La Scala opened its doors on 9455 Santa Monica Boulevard, in Beverly Hills (Hollywood), in what had been a bar located on the ground floor of the former First National Bank headquarters, owned by the uncle of Emilio Nuñez, head of cuisine at the restaurant of Jean Leon for more than 30 years.


At this time there were very good restaurants in Hollywood, but La Scala had something special. Its cosy, circular tables and elegant décor made it a welcoming space that oozed class in every corner. Jean Leon opted for Mediterranean cooking, especially Italian cuisine, as during his years as a waiter at the Villa Capri, he had realised that it was a highly appreciated gastronomy in America. Under the restaurant, it had an underground cellar where he stored around 25,000 bottles, including some of the finest wines from around the world.

As he himself confessed, he was one of the pioneers of the "nouvelle cuisine" that was so fashionable in the gastronomic circles of the eighties and the quality that it offered was such that the Italian Government recognised him as the best culinary 'ambassador' for Italy in America. In a short time, La Scala became the meeting point for the most influential Hollywood, music, politics and society celebrities of the time: icons like Marylin Monroe, Zsa Zsa Gabor, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Marlon Brando and Robert Wagner, among others. The fame that Jean Leon and his restaurant La Scala earned was such that he was converted into a fictional character and setting for the most famous bestsellers of love and luxury, as demonstrated by the writings of Jackie Collins and Judith Krantz.


Jean Leon had a close friendship with Marilyn Monroe, who he had known since he worked a waiter in Villa Capri, because the actress had been married to Joe DiMaggio, joint owner of the restaurant with Frank Sinatra. She later became a regular customer at La Scala, to such an extent that Jean Leon dedicated a dish on the menu to her, the "Fettuccine a lo Marilyn", as it was one of her favourite dishes. On the night of 4 August Marilyn asked Jean Leon, her favourite restauranteur, to personally deliver a pasta dish to her home in Brentwood, Hollywood. A few hours later, the actress died, according to the official version, after having ingested high doses of antidepressants. As he was one of the last people to see her alive, Leon, was questioned as a witness. Years later, according to Jean Leon, he recalled to journalist Sebastian Kennedy Moreno in the book "El Rey de Beverly Hills", that Marilyn was not alone that night, she was with Robert Kennedy, with whom it was "unofficially" known she was having a relationship.

One afternoon, while he was in Italy, Jean Leon looked up his family -"Carrión"- in the telephone book and managed to talk to one of his sisters. After twelve years of not knowing his whereabouts, during which time his family had already given him up as dead, a voice with a foreign accent, explained to her that he is "Cefe" -her brother-who is alive and well, living in America and now called "Jean Leon". He also explains that he is the owner of one of the most luxurious restaurants in Hollywood, is married and has two children. The Carrión family, shocked and thrilled at the same time to have recovered their "deceased" family member, couldn't believe their ears.


Jean Leon makes the most of his trip to Barcelona to visit Penedès, looking for the best lands to get started with his second great desire: to produce a wine that is at the height of his select clientele at La Scala. After having already travelled around the world in search of an area with the specific characteristics that would allow him to make a wine with uniqueness, personality and identity, he decided on Penedès. During this year, he acquires 150 hectares of the best lands in the region and proposes to Jaume Rovira, at that time a young person aged 21, a student of oenology, to join the team of the future winery. In 1969 Jaume Rovira would join the winery, run by Jean Leon and two of his siblings.

At the end of that year, Jean Leon returned to Barcelona to meet his mother and sisters, accompanied by his wife, Katty, and his two children. Neither of the two families, except Jean Leon, knew of the other's existence. Happiness fills the Carrilón household, especially for his mother.

To the surprise of the local winegrowers, Jean Leon replaces the local vines with varieties grafted from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay from prestigious French wineries. An unusual decision that led to the production of the first Cabernet Sauvignon wines in Spain.

Planting the vines of the "Vinya La Scala" vineyard. A terroir characterised by a limestone, clay and stony soil.

On 15 November, the new Bodega Jean Leon winery was opened, located in Penedès and built in the purest Château de Bordeaux style.


Jean Leon orders the first Chardonnay of the "Vinya Gigi" vineyard to be planted. A terroir characterised by a clay, limestone and compact soil.


Jean Leon plants the first vines of the "Vinya Le Havre" vineyard. A terroir characterised by a calcareous clay soil.


First harvest in Jean Leon, specifically the Cabernet Sauvignon variety, with which Vinya La Scala Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva would be produced, then known as "Jean Leon Gran Reserva".


Jean Leon decided to allocate all the bottles from the first vintage of Vinya La Scala Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva (1969) to his restaurant La Scala in Beverly Hills. It thus became the first Cabernet Sauvignon to be produced in Spain.


Jean Leon launches the first vintage of Vinya Gigi Chardonnay (1971). The first Chardonnay in Spain to be fermented in barrels.


Jean Leon and Ronald Reagan met in Hollywood at the time when the politician first emerged as an artist. Their friendship was consolidated and one fine day, between laughter, Reagan, knowing that Jean Leon was a Democrat, told him that if he voted in the elections and elected him as president, he would serve Jean Leon wine at the investiture. Jean Leon replied that their friendship was above politics and he voted for him. On 20 January, 1981, Reagan fulfilled his promise and Vinya La Scala Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva 1975, together with Vinya Gigi Chardonnay 1980, were the wines chosen to be served at the official investiture dinner of Ronald Reagan in the White House.


Jean Leon orders the planting of the first Merlot vines of the "Vinya Palau" vineyard. A terroir characterised by two types of soil, limy-clayey and sandy with gravel.


To the satisfaction of Jean Leon, “Wine” magazine chooses the Cabernet Sauvignon 1983 as among the eight best wines in the world.


Jean Leon was diagnosed with advanced larynx cancer and, after rejecting interesting offers from American entrepreneurs, he decided to confer his legacy to the Torres family with the desire to continue the winery he founded and maintain the unique personality and identity of the wines that bear his name.


He spent the last few days of his life sailing -another of his great pasions- on his yacht "La Scala d'Amore". Jean Leon died on 6 October, leaving behind him a great legacy and a life in which, thanks to his visionary, enthusiastic and nonconformist personality, he succeeded in making his big dreams come true.

Since 1994, when Jean Leon entrusted his legacy to the Torres family, the winery has remained faithful to the philosophy of its founder, making a firm commitment to innovation and elegance in all its wines to continue making history. The story of a self-made man who fought tirelessly to achieve his dreams.

Jean Leon's extraordinary history can be relived through his range of wines.