Often called "the Maestro", André Tchelistcheff is widely considered the most profoundly influential winemaker in Napa Valley history.
From the moment of his arrival in Napa in 1938, he shaped and guided the philosophy of innovation and terroir expression in wine making. A philosophy that continues to define the wines of Beaulieu Vineyard today.
Meeting Georges de Latour
Russian-born Tchelistcheff studied viticulture and enology at the Institut Pasteur and the Institut National Agronomique in France. In 1938, Beaulieu Vineyard's founder and owner Georges de Latour visited France in search of a new winemaker. He was introduced to Tchelistcheff at the Institut National Agronomique through Leon Bonnet, Emeritus Professor at University of California, Berkeley and consultant of Beaulieu Vineyard. Although Tchelistcheff received offers from winemakers around the world, he joined Beaulieu Vineyard as vice president and chief winemaker.
Bringing Old World Winemaking Practices to America
Tchelistcheff brought European methods of cultivation and pruning to the grapes and vineyards of Beaulieu. That was just the beginning. He soon tasted wine from each parcel of the Rutherford estate and set about experimenting with the rigorous small-lot fermentation that continues to this day. Among his many other innovations were building a cool room to ferment white wines and establishing malolactic fermentation as standard practice when making red wines.
The Birth of an Icon
Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Upon arriving at Beaulieu Vineyard, Tchelistcheff tasted a special lot of 1936 Cabernet Sauvignon and insisted that its quality demanded a separate bottling. This became the inaugural vintage of Beaulieu Vineyard’s world-famous Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, released in 1941.
Mentoring Top Napa Valley Winemakers
Through his years in winemaking, Tchelistcheff was considered a mentor by some of the top winemakers in Napa Valley including Rev. John Staten of Field Stone Winery, Robert Mondavi, Louis Martini and Rob Davis of Jordan Vineyard & Winery, and Rick Sayre of Rodney Strong Wine Estates, among others. In 1947 he opened the Napa Valley Enological Research Laboratory and Napa Valley Enological Center in St. Helena. Members included Peter and Robert Mondavi, Louis P. Martini, August Sebastiani, John Daniel, Lee Stewart and several others.
Continuing His Winemaking Legacy
Although Tchelistcheff retired from Beaulieu Vineyard in 1973, he returned in 1991 to work with Chief Winemaker Joel Aiken and his team. Together they tasted 50 vintages of Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, studying the effects of vintage and bottle age on the vertical collection. They also instituted the aging of Beaulieu Vineyard red wines in French oak and experimented with several small lot wines such as our "Maestro" winery exclusive wines, which were named in Tchelistcheff’s honor.
Winemaking Awards and Accolades
Wine Spectator Distinguished Service Award, 1986
Wine Man of the Year, Wine Industry Technical Symposium, 1990
Reader's Choice Award, The Person Who Has Done the Most to Advance Wine Quality, Wine Spectator, 2000
COPIA Lifetime Achievement Award, 2004
Vintners Hall of Fame (Created by the Culinary Institute of America), March 2007