Guest Host Spotlight: Jessica Vaitiare Chin Foo; Co-Founder, Gauguine Wines


Guest Host Spotlight: Jessica Vaitiare Chin Foo; Co-Founder, Gauguine Wines

June 13, 2018

A French American from Tahiti, Jessica Vaitiare Chin Foo comes from a family of serious entrepreneurs. Her great-grandfather was an industrialist and a banker who opened the first bank in French Polynesia, Banque Chin Foo, in the early 1920s. Her grandfather also established his own farm and a coconut oil plant, and he invested in the first brewery in the Pacific. Jessica’s mother founded and manages her own travel agency, Polynesie Voyages, welcoming travelers to French Polynesia.

Over the past decade, Jessica has split her time between Davis, San Francisco, and Tahiti. She graduated from University of California Davis in 2004 from the Agriculture and Resource Economics department with a Bachelor of Science in Managerial Economics. And she earned a Master of Business Administration from the New York Institute of Technology in 2008. She worked in French trade under the French Embassy and in renewable energy politics as an advisor to the Minister of Energy of French Polynesia. She also helped to alleviate chronic hunger in Africa and Asia through microfinance with Freedom from Hunger, and started her own yoga vacation retreat company, Polynesia Yoga.

In 2013, she co-founded Garba Wine Company with her friend Diego Barison. The winery specializes in indigenous European grape varieties. To enhance her knowledge and training as a wine professional, she received her Introductory Sommelier Certificate from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Her dynamic leadership and talent for business development enabled the smooth acquisition of Putah Creek Winery and the successful opening of their downtown Davis tasting room. As an active member of the Davis community, she launched Putah Creek Winery's Give Back Tuesday initiative to promote the mission of local nonprofits in the Yolo county region of California.

Jessica’s passion for wine and art inspired her to create the Gauguine brand of wines, speaking to the elegance of diverse women and marrying high-quality winemaking with art. She strives to release wines with character from French varietals, mostly from the Rhône region. The first vintage was released in 2013 and is found in northern California and in French Polynesia.

Harvesting Syrah grapes and transporting them by tractor in the vineyard.

Jessica will join the June 23, 2018, Tahiti & the Society Islands voyage aboard The Gauguin and lecture and conduct a tasting of Gauguine wines.

The luxury, small ship the m/s Paul Gauguin in French Polynesia with Bora Bora in the background.

Tell us about yourself.
I’m a first-generation American and third-generation French, with Hakka Chinese descendance. I’m a creative brand marketer, entrepreneur, and wine enthusiast. From the island of Tahiti, French Polynesia, surrounded by tropical beauty, I acquired a love for art and gastronomy at an early age. Colorful lagoons, waves crashing, dynamic skies, and all the wonders that my tropical home offers provide an endless source of energy and inspiration for my work.

Where did your passion for wine originate?
The main motivation that led me in 2013 to cofound my winery was my lifetime love of introducing quality wines to oenophiles and casual wine-lovers alike. We released Gauguine wines to inspire women of diversity to be represented in the wine industry and on the shelves.

A woman drinking a glass of wine next to a table at the beach with two bottles of Gauguine Wines and two wine glasses.

Describe a day in the vineyard.
This time of year, the grapes begin to develop into berries. The weather is gorgeous, and crews are working in the now-lush vineyards at the business of fine-tuning growth and monitoring berry development. It's a lively time and getting ready for harvest.

Polynesian native Jessica Vaitiare Chin Foo of Gauguine Wines and Putah Creek Wines in the vineyard harvesting wine grapes.

What is your favorite part of the winemaking process?
Pressing. I love the aroma of the freshly handpicked grapes being pressed. When you taste the juice, you can already pick the strong aromas of the wine to be born.

Green Chardonnay grapes hanging from a vine in the Gauguine Wines vineyard.

What is one of the most rewarding things about your job?
Most rewarding is the opportunity to offer joie de vivre (joy of life) to people sharing and drinking the wine among their loved ones. What I appreciate with our Gauguine brand is showcasing the soul of French Polynesia—the welcoming spirit, beautiful art, and the importance of people connecting with kindness.

Four women in pareos with flower crowns, two are drinking wine and two are holding bottles of Gauguine Wine.

What type of meals would you pair with each type of wine?
Our winery is in northern California, and we make more than 15 varietals. Pairings vary with each of them and with the year of the harvest and style of the winemaking. For this cruise, our Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon are medium- and full-body reds with nice tannins that can be complemented with rich, creamy dishes, full-body cheeses, and grilled meats. 

Purple Syrah grapes hanging from a vine in the Gauguine Wines vineyard.

Any special French Polynesian traditional dish pairings? 
The rich flavors of coconut and citruses in the poisson cru (marinated raw fish) dish would complement the acidic and lightly oaked aromas of our Chardonnay Reserve. Another delightful pairing is our Grenache with the poulet fafa (chicken with taro leaves). The roundness of the coconut milk and taro leaves provide a distinct texture component to the dish that needs to be addressed with the right red. Our wine provides some body in the wine without overpowering the dish.

A bottle of Grenache by Gauguine Wines in the vineyard sitting on top of a wooden post.

What can guests expect when you are the special guest on board?
I am a very diverse person with an open mind and kind spirit, and guests will be sure to be entertained while tasting our heartful boutique wines. We will be serving our 2013 Grenache, Syrah, and our sister winery’s reserve Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

A woven circular tray on a sandy beach with two bottles of Gauguine wine, a wine glass, tropical flowers, and wine grapes.

Do you have a favorite toast?
May our body, heart, and soul always shine in bliss, kindness, and love. As we say here in Tahiti, Manuia!

Where can one purchase Gauguine Wines?
Currently, our wines are available in Northern California, in Sacramento restaurants and local markets, and on our website.

To view Paul Gauguin Cruises’ upcoming Guest Host line-up, visit: