Although its not much compared to the long histories of some of the old vineyards and chateaux of Europe, Beaulieu Vineyard is the longest continually operating winery in Napa Valley. Beaulieu Vineyard or BV as many call it was founded in 1900 by George de Latour, who upon seeing the area in Rutherford that became home to his winery exclaimed "beau lieu" which is French for beautiful place. After some early success, de Latour signed contracts with the Catholic church in 1908 to provide them with sacramental wine, which ended up being a key move for the survival of the winery. Being a key supplier to the church allowed him to keep the winery in full operation through the Prohibition.
The winery not only survived but expanded through Prohibition times, and not long after Prohibition, de Latour hired Andre Tchellistcheff, a native Russian who learned the craft in France, to be his winemaker. Tchellistcheff was a key figure in the development of Napa Valley and brought many innovations to all of Napa Valley at the time. Some of the things he introduced to the fledgling Napa Valley wine industry include cold fermentation of white wines and malolactic fermentation for red wines, which became industry standards. Much of Napa's success is owed to the expertise that Tchellistcheff brought to the valley.
Today BV is still making very many good wines. I recently had the occasion to try their 2008 Carneros Chardonnay on a lazy spring afternoon with an assortment of cheese. The wine is golden straw color in your glass, and the nose brings elements of peach, pear, and a bit of vanilla. In your mouth you get beautifully pure pear fruit with well balanced oak and very nice acidity for a California Chardonnay. The finish is really enjoyable and has a little bit of length to it.
Overall, this is a very nicely done Chardonnay that has full body, some oak, and plenty of fruit without being too over the top like so many other offerings from Napa and Sonoma. Its also one of the few Chardonnays I've seen in the high teens price wise. Usually you see the $13 and under stuff and then jump right to the mid $20's. For about $5 more this is giving you a lot more balance and finesse then you see from the huge pack of California Chardonnays in the $10-$15 range. Drink this with fish, shellfish, or chicken. It would go especially well with lobster tails.