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The Importance of Rutherford History on Napa Valley Wine Production

Thomas and Elizabeth were given a large tract of land in the northern part of Yount’s Caymus Rancho land grant as their wedding present. The couple spent considerable time and energy throughout their lives growing vineyards and making wine. Over the years, they gained a favorable reputation for their production. Provenance Vineyards currently owns part of this historic property.

After George Yount passed away in 1865, his remaining land was sold to several individuals. Judge Hastings, (Hastings Law School in San Francisco is named after him), purchased a tract, as did U.S. Senator Ewer and Captain Gustave Niebaum. Niebaum went on to found the legendary Inglenook Winery.

Georges de Latour later purchased Senator Ewer’s land and established Beaulieu Vineyard. When phylloxera struck the Napa Valley wine industry during the 1880s and 1890s, Latour imported resistant rootstocks from Europe. He became a leader in replanting many of California’s decimated vineyards.

Georges de Latour also saved his Napa Vineyard from the other major threat of the day: Prohibition. He was able to get coveted contracts with the Catholic Church due to his personal connections with the Arch Diocese of San Francisco. Beaulieu Vineyard produced Sacramental Wine for the Church when Prohibition became law in 1919.

In the years following Prohibition, Georges de Latour’s Beaulieu Vineyard, and John Daniel Jr’s Inglenook (nephew of Gustave Niebaum) became two of the premier wineries in the state. They produced exquisite wines in an era that was largely characterized by fortified and jug wines. Many experts still consider the 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon to be the best wine ever made in California.

Georges de Latour’s protégé, Andre Tchelistcheff would make a variety of critical innovations in California’s wine industry throughout his life. He saw Napa Valley wine through its darkest Post-Prohibition years to its current brilliance when he passed away in 1994.

In short, one cannot study the history of the Rutherford Wine Industry without considering the visionary individuals who dedicated their lives to a passion for quality wine production, even when it was less than fashionable in the United States.

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