Mother Nature is a winemaker's most influential collaborator. A forceful and fickle colleague, year after year her tempestuous changes in mood challenge even the most talented vintners. It is a relationship that requires tremendous patience but all of the angst is worth it when Mother Nature rewards a winemaker's tenacity with an extraordinary vintage. Winemaker Jeffrey Stambor of Beaulieu Vineyard in Napa Valley waited more than two decades for the perfect moment to craft their iconic wine Rarity.
Jeffrey Stambor, Winemaker, Beaulieu Vineyard
The newly released Rarity 2013 represents just the fifth-ever vintage bottling of the Rarities Collection and the first release since 1990. First bottled in 1968 by legendary winemaker André Tchelistcheff (aka "The Maestro"), Rarity is only bottled in remarkable vintage years. A protégé of Tchelistcheff, Stambor joined Beaulieu in 1989 and became director of winemaking in 2009 -- only the fourth person to hold this prestigious position since its founding in 1900.
Beaulieu Vineyard holds a storied position in the history of Napa Valley. 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." De Latour founded Beaulieu Vineyard with the vision of making Napa Valley wines that would rival those of his native France. That connection to France remains intact-- Stambor collaborated with legendary winemaking consultant Michel Rolland to perfect the blend for Rarity 2013. Rolland has also consulted on the blending of Georges de LaTour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon since 2007.
Rarity 2013 clearly has a fascinating legacy but the proof is in the sip and this superb wine lives up to the hype. Cabernet Sauvignon with a kiss of Petit Verdot (10%), Rarity 2013 strikes that desirable balance between power and grace. Stambor said, "This limited release wine celebrates the rarity granted to us by Mother Nature. 2013 was a spectacular vintage, with the earliest onset to harvest that I recall in my 28 years of winemaking at Beaulieu, and gave us some truly special Cabernet Sauvignon. By bottling Rarity only in magnums, we better ensure that this magnificent wine can reach its full potential with bottle aging and can be enjoyed for decades to come." Vibrant and voluptuous, Rarity 2013 has seductive aromas and flavors of blackberry, cassis, dark chocolate, and violet with subtle touches of vanilla and spice. Stambor describes winemaking as "a blend of art and science, and I tend to rely more on the artistic." His artistry is evident in this spectacular wine. Rarity 2013 is a once-in-lifetime wine and the price of $1000 reflects that. Each magnum is individually numbered and delivered in a bespoke box.
For a more accessible, but also superb, taste of Beaulieu Vineyard, I recommend the Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($145). Since its inaugural vintage in 1936, it has been widely recognized as the benchmark Cabernet Sauvignon from Rutherford. A beautiful expression of the exceptional 2013 vintage, it has layers of rich, dark berry and black cherry flavors with hints of bittersweet chocolate and toasted oak spices.
I tasted through several older Georges de Latour vintages with Stambor, including a phenomenal 1970, and was impressed by how elegantly these wines age -- maintaining vibrancy and freshness as they develop the depth of flavor that maturity brings. These wines are investments but Beaulieu wine is a powerful connection to Napa's history that provides an authentic and gratifying wine drinking experience.
If you're planning a trip to Napa, Beaulieu Vineyard welcomes guests for tastings.