As someone who aspired to be an officer in the US Air Force in the footsteps of his 37-year air force veteran grandfather, how did Trevor Durling embark on his winemaking journey—and become the fifth chief winemaker of the 117-year old established winery? He chats with us about how the Cabernet Sauvignon came to put California on the global wine map and what he hopes to see in the future of viticulture.
ESQ: Tell us your story of becoming chief winemaker at Beaulieu Vineyard.
TREVOR DURLING: I enrolled in an introduction to winemaking class in university and was immediately enamoured. Winemaking united my love of agriculture, science and cuisine. I started my career at Moon Mountain Vineyard, moved on to Provenance Vineyards and Hewitt Vineyard as assistant winemaker, and succeeded founding winemaker Tom Rinaldi and previous winemaker Chris Cooney in appointment to lead winemaker. In June 2017, I took the mantel of chief winemaker at Beaulieu Vineyard.
ESQ: What is a personal favourite from Beaulieu Vineyard? Why?
TREVOR DURLING: If I had to pick one, I would say Georges de Latour Private Reserve. Early in my winemaking career, I recall trying the 1968 Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon with a family friend. It not only left an indelible impression on me, but it shaped the path of my career and the wines I wanted to create. This is our most iconic wine and extremely important related to the history of Napa Valley in general. It’s first vintage was 1936 and shortly thereafter gained widespread fame, becoming the wine of the White House and helping to put California (and Napa Valley) on the global wine map. We are still using the same core Rutherford vineyards today as they were using all of those years ago.
ESQ: What makes Californian grounds conducive for vinification? For Cabernet Sauvignon especially.
TREVOR DURLING: Overall it is really the terroir (climate, soil, etc.) that makes this region so fantastic for growing world-class wine grapes. The Napa Valley contains more than half of the world’s known soil types which is very fascinating from a geological standpoint and helps to create wonderfully diverse, yet high-quality microclimates in a relatively small area. Rutherford, where Beaulieu Vineyard is located, is best-known for growing iconic cabernet sauvignon with it’s signature sensory notes of “Rutherford Dust.”
ESQ: How old is the oldest vine in Rutherford, or Beaulieu Vineyard Ranch No.1?
TREVOR DURLING: About 30 years old, which is usually how often we re-plant our vineyard blocks.
ESQ: Can you give us an example of how technology integrates with the winemaking traditions of the house?
TREVOR DURLING: At Beaulieu Vineyard we use traditional winemaking methods paired with the utilization of modern technology to maximize wine quality. An example of this is using an optical sorter to ensure that only the best grapes make it into our fermentation tanks, thus creating the best expression of our amazing terroir.
ESQ: How was BV chosen to be served at the White House?
TREVOR DURLING: The great success of Georges de Latour Private Reserve quickly after it’s creation with the 1936 vintage became well-known around the country, with a quality unlike any American wine before it. This probably was quite attractive to the White House at the time who would want to serve an American wine that could rival some of the great wines of the world.
ESQ: Why do you think Beaulieu Vineyard continues its legacy today?
TREVOR DURLING: Exceptional vineyards, wine quality and history are all tremendous assets that we hold dear at Beaulieu Vineyard today, and these things will also help to ensure our success into the future.
ESQ: What do you hope to see for Beaulieu Vineyard or the local wine landscape moving forward?
TREVOR DURLING: Something very important to us at Beaulieu Vineyard (as well as the local wine landscape) is to constantly improve on wine quality while taking measures to positively impact the environment around us. We are always investing in new technology to save water, reduce waste and be truly green-friendly, and much of this technology also raises grape and wine quality.