Joan Baptista Carrión, the “American Uncle’s” Nephew

Discovering Jean Leon


A native of Seville by birth; a native of the Penedès by blood. Joan Baptista Carrión is Jean Leon’s nephew. His father—Ceferino Carrión’s brother—spent over 14 years working at the winery. We talked to Joan Baptista so he could tell us what his “American uncle” was like and what he thinks of the legacy Jean Leon left behind.

What memories do you have of your uncle? What is the first thing that comes to mind?

I remember him coming over with friends. There was always a lot of people. I don’t know whether they were always famous actors, because I little, but there was almost always someone with him when he came over. I remember my father always told us, “the American uncle’s coming tomorrow.” Whenever we came, we’d comb our hair, he’d give us two kisses, and almost always some money for candy, too.

What aspects of his personality stand out for you?

He was a very nice person. I always had him on a pedestal. He was also very generous, at least with me and my siblings. We always used to play with plastic balls, and two out of every three would burst. One day I told him, to see if he would buy us a regulation ball.

Did he buy one for you?

Of course! He gave me 2,000 pesetas [around $15] and said, “When I come again, I want to see the ball.” My mother always collected the money my uncle would give us–we didn’t see any of it! [Laughs] For my First Communion I asked him for a bike, since we had to walk to the neighboring town every day to get to school. Two weeks later, I had it. The family always says I’m a lot like his son and that he was the apple of his eye. Everything I asked him for, he gave me.

What was your relationship with your uncle like?

Somewhat distant, considering that I was young–I was six or seven years old. Once I was able to, when I was a teenager, I saved up some money and went to the US. I was curious to find out more about him and to see everything he’d done in America. Everyone was talking about him, he was famous, he knew Marilyn, JFK... One day I turned up in Los Angeles, without telling him.

He didn’t know you were coming?

No, I turned up out of the blue. When I got to Los Angeles, I called him on the phone and we met at the restaurant. It turns out that he was planning to leave on a month-long trip to Thailand the next day, so I stayed at the chef’s house. I was there on vacation for two months and I didn’t see him very much. I didn’t have a very close relationship with him. But with his son it’s the complete opposite. I have much more contact with him.

What did you think of the kind of life he led in the US?

I kind of already knew what he had and what he was like. I wasn’t astonished. I felt like Heidi. Going from living here among vineyards to arriving in a big city... I felt like it wasn’t my place and I decided to go back. To me, the Penedès was freedom.

Why do you think he achieved everything he set out to?

He was very smart and he knew how to deal with people.

What do you think of the legacy he left behind?

It’s impressive. He went to the US with absolutely nothing. His story is incredible.

Do you think he had a life worthy of a movie?

Yes, and one that many people would envy. His legacy lives on and there’s a lot of value in that.

What kind of relationship do you have with his children?

I have a really good relationship with Jean Leon, Jr. Whenever he comes, he calls me and we go out to eat. He’s very big on family. He even asked the whole family for information to make a family tree.

Has the estate changed a lot over the years?

It’s completely different. It’s not at all like it used to be. What I see now seems incredible to me. Many years have passed. The fruit trees were our garden of earthly delights!

Your mother is from Seville and your father from Santander. How did you end up in the Penedès?

My father was a fairground worker. When Jean Leon made it big, my grandmother asked him for work for my father and my uncle. So we came to live here, in a farmhouse where the visitor center is located now. We were there for 14 years.

What’s your relationship like with wine?

I love red wine. I’m no sommelier, but I really like it. Maybe it’s because ever since I was little I’ve been in contact with the vines, the aromas. A smell would often come to me that I couldn’t place, and one day, relatively recently, when I was working in the vineyard, the grapes were flowering and that smell came to me, and with it all my childhood memories.

Categorías: Discovering Jean Leon