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"Maestro" Honored by Wine Industry

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(Editor's note: This article originally appear in 2002, when the author was privileged to attend a dinner honoring California's greatest winemaker.)

 

by Dan Clarke

 

André Tchelistcheff monument photo EVEN SMALLER Tchelistcheff monument now at BV. Photo by Creative Common.André Tchelistcheff may have been the most significant figure in the history of American wine.

The Russian born and French trained winemaker immigrated to the United States in 1938, beginning a lifelong association with Beaulieu Vineyard (BV). Though he died eight years ago at age 92, friends and colleagues said his presence was still felt at a tribute held in his honor Monday evening, the 5th of August at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, California. Dubbed “the Maestro” by the late Beaulieu executive Legh Knowles, Tchelistcheff served continuously as BV’s winemaker from 1938 to 1973. After some years consulting for other American wineries he returned to conclude his career at Beaulieu Vineyard where he served as mentor to Joel Aiken, now vice president of winemaking for the firm.

Aiken and André’s widow, Dorothy, provided one of the celebration’s many highlights when they unveiled a bronze statue of the legendary winemaker. The likeness will be on display for a year-and-a-half at the culinary school before it is moved a few miles southward to its permanent home at Beaulieu Vineyard in Rutherford. It was created by noted sculptor William Behrends, whose spot-on bronze of Willie Mays concluding his swing greets baseball fans arriving at the San Francisco Giants’ Pac Bell Park.

Following the statue’s unveiling, 125 guests ascended the stairs to partake in a spectacular Barrel Room dinner and enjoy music provided by the Napa Valley Symphony and performers from the Russian National Orchestra and the San Francisco Opera company.

Though Beaulieu is probably best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon wines, in particular the Georges de Latour Private Reserve, the winery has also made wonderful Pinot Noirs and that variety may have been André Tchelistcheff’s favorite. The occasion was chosen as an appropriate time for the debut of the 2000 Maestro Pinot Noir, which was one of eight wines served during the evening.

Andre SMALLAndre draws red wine sample from barrel.

As master of ceromonies for the evening, Joel Aiken introduced a parade of luminaries who spoke of their own memories of the beloved André Tchelistcheff. John DeLuca of the California Wine Institute recalled cementing an early friendship with him, in part because of his State Department background when he had served in the Soviet Union in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Congressman Mike Thompson remembered the high regard his mother had for André during the years she worked as his secretary at BV.

Several of California’s best winemakers from more recent generations including Marco Capelli, Michael Martini, Allison Green Doran, Jill Davis Metzger and Rob Davis, spoke warmly of the nurturing presence André Tchelistcheff had on their careers. Two said that, had it not been for his influence, they wouldn’t have continued their fledging careers as winemakers.

About halfway through the evening a colleague across the dinner table from me commented, “it really doesn’t get any better than this.” At that moment I think he was referring to the food and the wine, but the remark would have been fair comment about any and all aspects of the celebration. It was a very special time. Nothing less would have been appropriate.

 

 

 

A Tribute to André Tchelistcheff

 

Monday, August 5, 2002

 

Culinary Institute of America at Greystone

St. Helena, California

 

 

Smoked Salmon on Buttered Brioche Planks

with Lemon Tarragon Mayonnaise

Prawns Wrapped with Prosciutto

Dried Black Olive and Caramelized Onion Pizettas

Beaulieu Vineyard 1992 Sparkling Brut Reserve

Beaulieu Vineyard 2001 Sauvignon Blanc

 

 

Maryland Crab and Scallop Mousse

Served with Cucumber Ribbons, Melon Cream

and Sweet Basil Oil

Beaulieu Vineyard 2000 Reserve Chardonnay

 

 

Mahogany Glazed Breast of Muscovy Duck

served with a Pinot Noir Reduction Sauce,

Gargantuan White Beans, Rosemary and Olive Oil

Beaulieu Vineyard 1992 and 2000 Maestro Pinot Noir

 

 

Roast Rack of Lamb with Mint Demi Glace

served with a Fine Ratatouille, Mint and Basil

Beaulieu Vineyard 1970 Georges de Latour

Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Beaulieu Vineyard 1994 Clone 6 Cabernet Sauvignon

 

 

Poached Apricots and Apricot Mousse

in an Almond Tuille Basket served with Caramel Sauce

Muscat de Beaulieu

 

 

Menu designed by

Chef Elaine Bell

 

 

Editor's Note: A link to the website of Beaulieu Vineyard, as well as links to all the other Napa Valley wineries, will be found in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. Also in the Directory as links to hundreds of lodging and dining options in the North Coast region.

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