Washington’s Chateau Ste. Michelle and California’s Beaulieu Vineyard are linked by his legacy.
WHEN WE THINK of the West Coast wine country’s iconic wineries, two in particular come to mind: Beaulieu Vineyard in California’s Napa Valley and Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville are at the forefront of any discussion about iconic properties and producers.
A lesser-known fact is that these two wineries are historically intertwined by André Tchelistcheff, still considered today — two decades after his death — America’s greatest winemaker.
Born in Russia, Tchelistcheff was injured on a Crimean battlefield and left for dead during the Russian Revolution in 1917. After recovering, he went on to study agriculture in Czechoslovakia, then in France, where he studied winemaking. In 1938, Tchelistcheff (pronounced chel-i-chef) was lured to the Napa Valley town of Rutherford to become winemaker for Beaulieu Vineyard. From there, he launched a winemaking tradition that continues today as Beaulieu (established in 1900) remains known for its excellence, particularly with cabernet sauvignon.
Three to try
Here are three cabs to consider from California’s Beaulieu Vineyard, one of America’s first great wineries to compete with France.
Beaulieu Vineyard 2014 Rutherford cabernet sauvignon, Napa Valley, $33: A classic Napa Valley cab, with notes of fresh green herbs, black currants and purple plum, and plush tannins. A rich, round, well-managed red.
Beaulieu Vineyard 2014 cabernet sauvignon, Napa Valley, $25: Enjoy this classy, approachable cab for its opulent fruit, which includes oak, blackberry and plum, and perfumy notes with a hint of cigar smoke. It’s all backed by smooth, well-managed tannins and a shake of white pepper in the finish.
Beaulieu Vineyard 2013 Reserve Tapestry, Napa Valley, $55: Bright, ripe, dark fruit is accented by deep aromas of dusty blueberries and raspberries, a hint of toast and a bit of black pepper, all backed by well-managed tannins.
In 1973, Tchelistcheff retired from Beaulieu and launched a consulting business. Among his first clients was none other than Ste. Michelle Vineyards, a fledgling label in Seattle. He helped produce the first vintage in 1976 and remained an active part of the Ste. Michelle winemaking team until his death in 1994.
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Tchelistcheff’s influence runs deep in Washington. He encouraged his nephew, Alex Golitzen, to launch Quilceda Creek in Snohomish County. Rob Griffin worked with Tchelistcheff in Buena Vista in Sonoma before starting Barnard Griffin in Richland. Kay Simon of Chinook Wines in Prosser worked with him when she was running Ste. Michelle in the early 1970s. What they learned from this master years ago still resonates and influences their winemaking decades later.
There are many reminders of Tchelistcheff’s time with Ste. Michelle, including a sign honoring him at Cold Creek Vineyard in the Columbia Valley and a plaque in a conference room at the chateau in Woodinville. But perhaps the best memory is in a fine glass of wine.