In 1900, when Georges de Latour’s wife Fernande first laid eyes on the land that would become their original Rutherford vineyard, she named it “beau lieu,” or “beautiful place.”
Shortly thereafter, de Latour sold his thriving cream of tartar business, bought the four-acre ranch and founded Beaulieu Vineyard with the vision of making Napa Valley wines that would rival those of his native France.
De Latour quickly made a name for himself by importing Phylloxera-resistant rootstock from Europe to the recently-ravaged, fledgling California wine industry. He also began selling wine to the Catholic church, establishing a strong relationship that would allow Beaulieu Vineyard to become the only Napa Valley winery to remain in business during Prohibition.
In fact, during Prohibition, the winery increased its business. After the repeal in 1933, de Latour began searching for someone who could contribute European winemaking expertise. In 1938, he traveled to France and returned with Andre Tchelistcheff, famed viticulturist and enologist who instituted the philosophy of continuous innovation in vineyard and winery to which the estate remains dedicated today.
Tchelistcheff introduced cold fermentation for white wines, malolactic fermentation for reds and aging red wines in small, French oak barrels. He also tasted the de Latour family’s private wine – what they called “Private Reserve” – from the 1936 vintage.
This Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine was so distinctive that Tchelistcheff insisted it be bottled and sold as the winery’s flagship offering. The result was the inaugural release of Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that was destined to become Napa Valley’s first “cult” Cabernet.
Today, Beaulieu continues to turn to innovative practices to craft wines in a bold, classic style. It has become a leader in clonal research, and the BV Clone Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon wines are highly acclaimed.
Most recently Beaulieu completed a new state-of-the-art winery within one of its original buildings. The Georges de Latour Private Reserve Winery utilizes the latest technology in combination with time-honored traditions for the production of this exceptional wine – the longtime benchmark of Rutherford Cabernet.
The new Georges de Latour Private Reserve Winery is a winery-within-a-winery, completely housed in one of the buildings on Beaulieu’s historic Rutherford estate. The winery is entirely self-contained, providing 100 percent control over the quality that shapes the expression of each vintage.
The new winery design features gentle hourly automatic pumpovers that last only five minutes each. This new system maximizes extraction of color, flavors and tannins.
Winemaker Jeffrey Stambor will choose from three fermentation options – twenty 2,000-gallon stainless steel tanks, for bright fruit character; five 1,600-gallon French oak tanks for seamless integration of tannins; and more than 400 new, 60-gallon French oak barrels for rich complexity. These barrels are mounted on racks that allow them to rotate for exceedingly gentle cap management.
Whichever method is chosen, fermentation for each small lot is long and slow – up to 60 days – to ensure the full development of varietal character.
After Stambor determines the blend that best displays the Rutherford terroir, the Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon will age in 750 new French oak barrels for even greater depth of expression.
Stambor has worked at Beaulieu Vineyard for nearly 20 years, combining a deep knowledge of viticulture with intuitive winemaking.
He joined the estate in 1989 as a viticulture-enologist, and for many years served as an important connection between the winery and its historic vineyards in Napa Valley. He believes his experience working with legendary winemaker AndrÃ© Tchelistcheff was a unique opportunity to learn from a master.
And it shows in the wines.
1960 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford, CA
Open Daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.