Beaulieu Vineyard is one of the most important wine producers in California history, and Georges de Latour is one of the most important figures in that history. Without the winery and the work de Latour did there before World War II, the wine business in the U.S. would not be what it is.
Hence, any wine from Beaulieu that carres de Latour's name should be special. Sadly, the winery suffered through a series of problems in the late 1990s and early part of this century -- ordinary wines, scathing reviews, and even wines infected with cork taint. It was as sad as it was surprising.
The good news is that Beaulieu's corporate parent saw that something needed to be done, and invested millions of dollars to do so. The efforts have worked, and Beaulieu's wines are once again, as wine geeks say, showing well. The de Latour ($125, sample) is a well-made and surprisingly traditional style of Napa cabernet sauvignon, which made the Wine Curmudgeon quite happy.
It's a long, long wine from first sniff to finish, with aromas of cedar and dark fruit, more dark fruit in front, a solid middle, some rich oak on the finish and much welcome tannins to balance all. It's not hot despite being 14.8 percent alcohol, though it does need food -- lots of red meat -- to show its best. I had it with prime rib and Yorkshire pudding, a classic pairing.
Decant this wine for an hour or so to get the most out of it. And be glad that someone went to the trouble to save a historic brand. A price note: When I got the sample two years, it was listed at $80; the increase, even during the recession, shows how much Beaulieu has improved.