Often in our blogs, we talk about European estates that have been making wine for hundreds of years and can date back more than five plus generations. Domestically, there are only a handful of wineries in California that have been around for a century. Grapes were first planted in California in the late 1700’s by Spanish missionaries who needed wine for communion. Over the years, production grew, especially in the mid 1850’s with the gold rush. At one point, California was thriving with over 2,500 wineries shipping wines around the world. Prohibition, however, destroyed the wine industry; production was cut nearly 95% and only about 100 wineries survived. The ones that did, like Beaulieu Vineyards, did so by having the foresight to legally make sacramental wine. Beaulieu Vineyards somewhat thrived and sold their wines across the US during prohibition. They positioned themselves before the 18th amendment vote to become the first nationwide supplier of wine to Catholic churches in America. As other wineries shut down, BV expanded, even purchasing the Fred Ewer Winery which dramatically increased their production. The stone walls from the winery are still part of their Rutherford estate today.
Georges de Latour named his winery Beaulieu Vineyards because when his wife Fernande first saw the vineyard in Rutherford she said "Quelle beau lieu!" or "What a beautiful place.” It was then in 1900 that he decided to buy the four-acre property with the thought of making wine to compete with the best of his native France. Over the next few decades, they continued to expand their holdings including hundreds of acres right in Rutherford. De Latour was an important figure to Napa Valley winemaking most notably for importing thousands and thousands of top-quality French vines that were planted all over the Valley.
De Latour's other major contribution to Napa Valley was traveling to France in 1938 and bringing winemaker André Tchelistcheff to California. Tchelistcheff was a Russian-born enologist with expertise in making great wine. He was one of the main factors in Beaulieu Vineyards, quickly becoming one of the greatest estates in Napa and helped put Napa Valley on the fine wine map. After tasting the estate's top wine from the 1936 vintage called “Private Reserve,” he insisted that it bear the name of the winery's founder George de Latour. The 1940 bottling was the first labeled as "Georges de Latour," and it turned into arguably the first "Cult Wine" from Napa. Today, over 80 years later, 2018 is the current offering of this wine. I have to add that tasting the 1970 at the old Anthony's Pier 4 in Boston was one of my first memorable wine experiences and since then, I have always had a soft spot for the wines from BV.
Today’s wine is made from BV's vineyards in Rutherford, Calistoga and St. Helena appellations. This, plus the use of different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, helps to make a very rich, complex and mouth filling wine. It is delicious to enjoy right now and will age nicely for another ten years or so. It was made by winemaker Trevor Durling who, incredibly, is only the fifth winemaker in the winery's 120-year history!
94 Points - JamesSuckling.com
“Plenty of blackcurrants with dark chocolate and coffee character. It’s full-bodied, yet the tannins are succulent and rather weightless, giving a velvety texture at the end. So delicious now. Hard to wait. In fact, not necessary. Drink or hold.” - James Suckling, June 2021
92 Points - Vinous
“The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) is fabulous. Rich, inky and wonderfully deep, the 2018 packs a serious punch. A blast of inky dark fruit, chocolate, spice, licorice and menthol give the 2018 so much immediacy. Dollops of Charbono, Petite Sirah and Merlot add juiciness. This is sure to be a crowd pleaser.” - Antonio Galloni, March 2021
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