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Beaulieu Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay (half-bottle) 1999
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. When prohibition hit and most wineries shuttered, Beaulieu Vineyard increased its business by fourfold by selling sacramental wine to the Catholic Church. After the repeal in 1933, Georges de Latour became dedicated to the research and innovation that would bring about his Rutherford Estate’s finest expression. In 1938, he traveled to France and met André Tchelistcheff, famed viticulturist and enologist who instituted the philosophy of continuous innovation in vineyard and winery to which we remain dedicated today. When he joined Beaulieu 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 1940, Beaulieu Vineyard released the first vintage of Private Reserve and named it in the founder’s honor. The resulting wine became the first release of Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that was destined to become Napa Valley’s first “cult” Cabernet.
Today, the winery continues with that spirit of innovation to produce exceptional wines that stand among the world's finest. They have become a leader in clonal research, and the BV Clone Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon wines are highly acclaimed. In 2008, a new state-of-the-art winery was completed within one of the 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 that has been widely recognized as the benchmark Cabernet Sauvignon from Rutherford since its inaugural vintage.
Known for elegant wines that combine power and finesse, Carneros is set in the rolling hills that straddle the southernmost parts of both Sonoma and Napa counties. The cooling winds from the abutting San Pablo Bay, combined with lots of midday California sunshine, create an ideal environment for producing wines with a perfect balance of crisp acidity and well-ripened fruit.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While practically every country in the wine producing world grows it, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. As far as cellar potential, white Burgundy rivals the world’s other age-worthy whites like Riesling or botrytized Semillon. California is Chardonnay’s second most important home, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia and South America are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay flavors tend towards grapefruit, lemon zest, green apple, celery leaf and wet flint, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of melon, peach and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut and spice, while malolactic fermentation imparts a soft and creamy texture.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with flaky white fish with herbs, scallops, turkey breast and soft cheeses. Richer Chardonnays marry well with lobster, crab, salmon, roasted chicken and creamy sauces.
Since the 1990s, big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays from California have enjoyed explosive popularity. More recently, the pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction, towards a clean, crisp style that rarely utilizes new oak. In Burgundy, the subregion of Chablis, while typically employing the use of older oak barrels, produces a similar bright and acid-driven style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy its lighter style.