When he was 18, Jean-Michel Cazes looked at the struggling wine business of his native Bordeaux and saw little future. He left for Paris, studying engineering there and building a successful career at IBM. But when his grandfather died in 1972, Cazes, then 37, came home to manage his family estate, Château Lynch-Bages in Pauillac. His hard work improving quality paid off: The 1985 Lynch-Bages was Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year in 1988.
Cazes was one of the first in Bordeaux to combine modern winemaking with savvy international marketing. From 1987 to 2000, he helped build and lead a portfolio of top wineries owned by French insurance giant AXA. He acquired wineries in France and abroad for his family's company, too. Cazes also pioneered wine tourism in Bordeaux, opening hotel Cordeillan Bages, which includes a world-class restaurant, and developing the visitor-friendly hamlet of Bages, near Pauillac. Cazes earned Wine Spectator's Distinguished Service Award in 2007.
Watch Jean-Michel Cazes at the 2014 Wine Experience