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Today’s Story: Beaulieu Vineyard

Beaulieu Vineyard at this point is a familiar “staple” on this blog, as I have previously reviewed the 2014 Tapestry Reserve, 2010 Maestro Collection Ranch No. 1 Red Blend, 2008 Clone 6, and both the 2005 and 2007 Clone 6. Nonetheless, I am returning today to write about the Georges de Latour Private Reserve which is one of the most historical and iconic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons.

Beaulieu Vineyard is one of the most historic wineries in Napa Valley, founded in 1900 by Georges de Latour and his wife Fernande. Located in the Rutherford AVA, BV got its name from Fernande when she first saw the property and said it was a “beautiful place,” or “beau lieu.” Georges de Latour sold his successful cream of tartar business shortly thereafter and the couple purchased 4 acres with the intent of producing wines that could stand up to their native France. When they began planting, de Latour brought in Phylloxera-resistant rootstock from Europe in order to buck the trend of a California wine industry in trouble.

Though I have written about several wineries with origins in the late 1800s or early 1900s, BV is different in that unlike many of their neighbors they not only survived Prohibition but thrived during Prohibition. How? BV started selling sacramental wine to the Catholic Church and saw their business increase by four times while those around them shuttered their wineries. Once Prohibition ended, however, the story becomes more “traditional” Napa with de Latour focusing on how to create the best wines from his land by instituting updated farming and winemaking techniques. In an effort to raise his status higher, de Latour traveled to his native France to meet André Tchelistcheff, a world-renowned viticulturist and enologist, who championed continuous innovation. It was André who, upon tasting the 1936 vintage of BV’s Private Reserve wine, encouraged de Latour to bottle their flagship wine. André would become BV’s winemaker, a role he would maintain for over 30 years. In 1940 BV released their first Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine still in production today.

BV has come a very long way from the initial 4 acre plot in 1900. BV currently operates on roughly 1,100 acres of estate vineyards, broken down into different “Ranch” designations. Ranch 1 (79 planted acres) came along in 1903, Ranch 2 (85 planted acres) in 1910, Ranch 3 in 1933 after the repeal of Prohibition, and so on. One of the cool features of BV’s winemaking technique is that each small vineyard lot stays separated throughout the entire process (not an easy feat with their vast holdings). During winemaking, each wine ferments such that the best expression of the fruit results. For instance, the white wines are cold-fermented to display a bright, vibrant character while the red wines are cold-soaked to showcase optimal color, flavor, and tannin. The reds are then fermented in small barrels and aged in oak varying in age, level of toast, and type.

For more on Beaulieu Vineyard’s history, portfolio of wines, or winemaking processes check out the website here, a source of much of the information above.

Today’s Wine: 2006 Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

No tech sheet (blend likely 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, or ~90% Cabernet Sauvignon and ~10% between Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec); 14.8% ABV

The 2006 Georges de Latour is opaque deep ruby in color, quite youthful for the age. This was surprisingly fairly closed upon opening, so I decided to decant and it took about 2 hours to fully blossom. The nose showcases aromas of blackcurrant, blueberry, redcurrant, violet, cigar box, charred earth, graphite, green underbrush, espresso, and cedar. Meanwhile on the palate I get notes of blackberry, cassis, black raspberry, licorice, lavender, tobacco, graphite, charred green herbs, mocha, and cracked pepper. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, fine-grained medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $120. This is a great effort for the 2006 vintage, and I would consider it decent value if it weren’t for the 2007 and 2008 Georges de Latour I’ve had in the past couple weeks (not reviewed). Both the 2007 and 2008 vintages proved impeccable and drank like fine Left Bank Bordeaux. They also showed a gorgeous black truffle character I was hoping for but missed in the 2006. Nonetheless, the 2006 is an enjoyable and fairly complex wine if you happen to have a bottle.