The winemaking legacy at Beaulieu Vineyard remains unbroken for more than a century. Our story as one of the longest continually operating winery in the Napa Valley is written by the remarkable place and the extraordinary people who shaped winemaking in America.
We respect classic values and the art of craftsmanship and believe that these aspects of our heritage cannot be left behind.
Rutherford is a “Beautiful Place”
In 1900, when Georges de Latour's wife, Fernande, first laid eyes on the land that would become our original Rutherford vineyard, she said "Quelle beau lieu!" or "What a 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.
Georges and his wife expanded their land holdings over the next several decades, many of which are still part of the BV portfolio today. In 1903 they purchased 127 acres in Rutherford, which they named "BV Ranch No. 1." In 1910 another land purchase was made, known as "BV Ranch No. 2."
The Origin of Legendary Napa Valley Wines
De Latour began importing pest-resistant vines and offered European vitis vinifera varieties that were grown, grafted, and shipped from Europe to his fellow wine industry colleagues in California. He established his own nursery in Paris to produce these grafted vines.
The St. Helena Star noted in October 1911, “When it comes to quality, California is greatly indebted to Mr. G. de Latour, of Rutherford, who for some years has imported hundreds of thousands of the choicest French grafted vines, which have been planted in all the important vineyards of the State.”
“I’d wager that there are so many Napa Cabernets made today that if you stacked them one by one, they’d reach all the way to the moon. But if you stacked them in order of historical significance with the most profound bottles forming the base, the number one bottle would have to be Beaulieu Vineyard’s legendary Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.”
- Jonathan Cristaldi, Food & Wine magazine
Beaulieu Vineyard Thrives During Prohibition
Years before Prohibition began, de Latour had the foresight to obtain a warrant to produce alter wine for the Church and was thus positioned to become the first nationwide supplier of alter wine to Catholic churches across America. He established offices in New York as the Beaulieu Vineyard Distributing Company -- expressly for the altar wine trade. During the stormy debate leading up to the vote on the 18th amendment, advertisements for Beaulieu Vineyard altar wines appear in print for the first time.
Prohibition forced most of the Napa Valley wine industry to shut down. As they shuttered, de Latour began purchasing tanks and barrels, which brought the winery’s production capacity up to 65,000 gallons. During this time, he also began purchasing equipment, including a press and crusher, in order to outfit the renovated stable at Beaulieu for additional wine production. But de Latour wanted to grow more.
In 1923, Georges de Latour purchases the Fred Ewer Winery, a building that dates back to 1885. Its four original stone walls remain the core of today’s Beaulieu Vineyard winery in Rutherford. This purchase increases Beaulieu’s production dramatically. Altogether, de Latour's actions allowed Beaulieu Vineyard’s business to thrive and increase fourfold in the 1920s, while other producers had to close their doors.
André Tchelistcheff, “The Maestro” Winemaker
In 1938, post-Prohibition, de Latour traveled to France and met André Tchelistcheff. De Latour hired Tchelistcheff, a Russian-born enologist with European winemaking expertise and a spirit of innovation, as winemaker.
After 35 years at Beaulieu Vineyard, Tchelistcheff retired in 1973 and the role of winemaker passed to Joel Aiken, then to Jeffrey Stambor. After almost 20 years of retirement, André Tchelistcheff rejoined Beaulieu Vineyard as a wine consultant and worked with the winemaking team to continue to bring innovation to the winery until his passing in 1994. The Napa Valley wine community mourns the Maestro’s passing, remembering all of his amazing accomplishments and contributions from his five decades in the industry. He instituted the philosophy of continuous innovation in vineyard and winery to which Beaulieu Vineyard remains dedicated today. Be sure to visit the statue of André Tchelistcheff as you enter the Reserve Tasting Room.
The Creation of Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
When Tchelistcheff joined Beaulieu Vineyard and tasted the de Latour family’s private wine – what they called “Private Reserve” – from the 1936 vintage, he insisted it be bottled and sold as the winery’s flagship offering. In 1941, Beaulieu Vineyard released the first vintage of Private Reserve and named it Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, in honor of our founder who passed away the previous year (1940). This was the first release of a wine that became Napa Valley’s first “cult” Cabernet.
About the 1936 vintage, de Latour told Tchelistcheff, “It’s the best wine we’ve ever made. Moreover, it shows what’s possible. I want all of my wines to be that good. That’s why I’ve brought you here, Mr. Tchelistcheff.”
Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, then known as “Beaulieu Vineyard Burgundy” – which cost $1.50 per bottle, takes home a Gold Medal at the Golden Gate International Exposition.
A Rennaissance for Beaulieu Vineyard
To continue Tchelistcheff's legacy of innovation, Beaulieu Vineyard made several investments in the early 2000s. First, a new state-of-the-art winemaking facility was completed in 2008, which is dedicated to the production of our flagship wine – Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This facility utilizes the latest technology in combination with time-honored traditions to produce this exceptional wine that has been widely recognized as the benchmark Cabernet Sauvignon from Rutherford since its inaugural vintage. And in 2010, legendary winemaker Michel Rolland joined Beaulieu Vineyard as a blending consultant on our reserve wines.
As evidence of these investments’ successes, the 2013 vintage of Georges de Latour produced wine of a particularly excellent quality and the very best of the barrels were bottled as "BV Rarity." It received 99 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. Subsequent vintages of the Georges de Latour Private Reserve went on to earn 98 points. We are proud of our high-quality wine reputation and work hard on continuous adjustments as technology advances.
This legacy of innovation continues today with Trevor Durling as our chief winemaker. Trevor joined Beaulieu Vineyard as only the fifth winemaker in 117 years.
Some of History’s Most Notable Figures Enjoyed Beaulieu Wines
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Beaulieu Vineyard wines were the wines of state, being served at dinners and receptions honoring some of the great people of the age.
The White House poured Beaulieu Vineyard wines at dinners given for Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur in New York
General Charles de Gaulle drank Beaulieu Beaurosé at a Waldorf Astoria luncheon
The French Foreign Minister in San Francisco poured Beaulieu Chablis at a dinner honoring British diplomat Sir Anthony Eden
Winston S. Churchill was served Georges de Latour Private Reserve at a banquet in his honor at the Waldorf Astoria
President Truman served Beaulieu Vineyard Burgundy and Rhine wine to Queen Juliana of the Netherlands at the Carlton Hotel, Washington, D.C.
New York mayor La Guardia presented Queen Juliana with the particularly elegant 1942 vintage of Georges de Latour Private Reserve at a luncheon in her honor
On March 24, 1959, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were served Georges de Latour Private Reserve at a Pan American Union dinner hosted by U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles
Old World Wines in the New World
Today we persist with the spirit of innovation de Latour and Tchelistcheff instilled to continue producing exceptional wines that stand among the world's finest.
We have become a leader in clonal research, and our BV Clone Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon wines are highly acclaimed. In the 80+ years since its inaugural vintage, we have honed the making of our Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and it has become the benchmark of Napa Valley Cabernet as one of the most collected American wines.
“At Beaulieu Vineyard we use traditional winemaking methods paired with the utilization of modern technology to maximize wine quality,” says our current chief winemaker Trevor Durling. “Exceptional vineyards, wine quality and history are all tremendous assets that we hold dear at Beaulieu Vineyard today, and these things will also help to ensure our success into the future.”