by Fred McMillin
for January 29, 1999

 

Winery of the Week

The Dark Horse Cometh


Prologue

1993—The de Conincks' Napa Valley Beauconon winery is something of a dark horse. It will be interesting to see if it aspires to a higher profile in the future.

...Critic James Halliday in his California Wine Atlas

1998—Our tasting room is located just south of St. Helena and overlooks the barrel aging facility. The winery is ready to welcome visitors seven days a week.

...Director of Marketing Marc Kauffman


The Rest of the Story

Sounds like that dark horse is ready to break into a gallop. What's taken so long? Well, co-owners Louis de Coninck and his sister, Chantal, come from a Bordeaux family that's been in the wine business for 250 years. Louis, who doubles as the Beaucanon winemaker, grew up in the vineyards of Saint Emilion learning how dad did it. So, coming to California he carefully started buying choice Napa Valley parcels, beginning with 65 acres in 1987. It soon grew to 250 acres, providing a variety of soils and microclimates. Then there was replanting with phylloxera-resistant rootstock, clearing and planting new tracts, etc.

Jacques de Coninck Production was in the modest 20,000 cases a year range, as Louis tested his estate grapes... which were limited to three Bordeaux types, Cab Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. One Burgundian varietal was permitted, Chardonnay. Here's what the critics said about Louis' handiwork.

I think we can get into a food fight over whether the Chardonnays or the Cabernet Sauvignons are the better. Halliday says the first Cabs "have aged gracefully, retaining sweet fruit." Author James Laube says the '90 "shows polish and finesse." Subsequent vintages garnered Golds at the Florida State Fair and the Los Angeles County Fair.

Chardonnay backers will point to several Golds, a Best Buy selection and a Wine of the Year award. The obvious solution is to try one of each!


Just the Facts

Name—Beaucanon, Napa Valley
Owners—Sister and brother Chantal and Louis de Coninck
Location—Just south of St. Helena next to the Grgich-Hills Winery.
Production—Originally 20,000 cases annually. Now headed toward 50,000.
Contact—Office of Mark Kauffman, phone (707) 967-3520.
Grape Sources—They grow their own.
Winemaker—Bordeaux-born Louis, who says he makes his wines "with a French touch."

So, be sure to reach out and touch a Beaucanon. Good wines at a good price (most are under $15).

Postscript

The family's Chateau Bellvue-Figeac fortunately is not the same as Chateau Figeac; that one has been burnt down twice!

 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 
 

WineDay Annex

More articles by
Fred McMillin

 

Welcome to WineDay, the electronic Gourmet Guide's daily update. Monday through Thursday, WineDay presents a wine profile. Then on Fridays we present the Winery of the Week to take you through the weekend.

 

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