© by Sheral Schowe
Only one of the major players of Napa Valley can claim Y2K as their centennial birthday. Beaulieu Vineyards ("BV") has a rich 100-year-old history and the story begins in France.
When Georges de Latour arrived from Bordeaux in 1900, he purchased property in Napa that he affectionately named "Beaulieu," which translates to "beautiful place" in French. He wisely imported and planted phylloxera-resistant wine varietals from France. This land, part of the Rutherford Bench, is now considered to be some of the finest terroir for cabernet sauvignon.
Georges de Latour was a visionary. He sensed the untapped market of sacramental wines soon after his arrival to Napa and produced his first altar wine in 1910. He began advertising these wines in 1915 to a larger public. When Prohibition began in 1919, Beaulieu was already established in an alternative marketing venue for their wines. By the time Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Beaulieu had enough experience in perfecting varietal wines to create their first reserve cabernet from the 1936 vintage.
The hiring of Russian-born, Paris-trained enologist Andre Tchelistcheff in 1938 was another vision of de Latour to move Beaulieu into their next wave of success. In three decades, Tchelistcheff was responsible for improving winery sanitation, grape selection, cold fermentation, extensive barrel aging, and pioneered the Carneros in the 1960s as an excellent terroir for pinot noir and chardonnay. He created wines that brought dozens of awards to Beaulieu including the Grand Sweepstakes award at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco. As a consultant to dozens of California and Washington wineries, Tchelistcheff earned the reputation as "the father of modern winemaking." He concluded his career back at Beaulieu by training the current director of winemaking, Joel Aiken, until his passing in 1994.
In celebration of BVís centennial anniversary, a series of grape stomps will be held across the country, with a grand finale weekend scheduled for September 4 to 6, 2000 in San Francisco and at their winery.
Beaulieu, now owned by the corporate giant Heublein, has managed to keep the high quality and integrity of their wines in spite of corporate pressures to increase quantity and profitability. For a taste of history and craftsmanship, I recommend the following wines, which are available at Utahís wine stores:
BV Tapestry 1995, a beautiful Bordeaux blend, mostly cabernet ($28.90)
BV Rutherford Cabernet 1996 ($16.90)
BV Chardonnay Carneros Reserve 1996 ($24.30)
BV Pinot Noir Carneros 1997 ($14.20)
For a special and very limited opportunity, vertical tastings of the í90 through the í94 Georges de Latour Cabernet Private Reserves, which are not available at the wine stores, are scheduled for the fall season at Solitude and Tuscany.
July 15, 1999