I’ll Drink to That: Dorothy Tchelistcheff

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Episode 308 of I’ll Drink to That! has been released and it features Dorothy Tchelistcheff, the widow of reknowned Napa winemaker André Tchelistcheff.

Dorothy Tchelistcheff is 91. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this interview is how readily she recalls details from 50 years ago. She started work at Beaulieu Vineyard in Napa Valley 1958. She remembers the Brix numbers of grapes that were picked for wine in the 1960s. But really this story begins much earlier, as she is the widow of André Tchelistcheff, a man who changed the course of wine history in America as a whole, especially in the Napa Valley. André began at BV in 1938, an émigré who had escaped Russia after being mistaken for a dead man by Cossacks and nursed back to health by nuns. A meeting in France with the owners of BV brought him to the United States at a crucial time: Prohibition had ended, but the Second World War had not begun. There was a need for wine expertise in America, and André signed on to consult, assuming that he would be back in Europe in a year. But the outbreak of the war meant that André would change his course, and spend the rest of his life living in Napa. André died in 1994, almost witnessing the entire 20th century, as he had been born in 1901, and he worked in winemaking right up until his death. After leaving BV in the late 1960s, he consulted for a range of wineries that loomed large in the creation of the reputation for fine wines that the Napa Valley enjoys today. The wineries he worked with read like an all star roster. And he also got out of Napa, helping wineries that were pioneering wine production in Oregon and Washington State. He was even in Tuscany for the founding of Ornellaia. In these travels and in his work, Dorothy was his companion, and it is clear that she respected the man as much as she loved him. There are several moving reminiscences included within this conversation. It is, in the end, a reminder of how much is still with us from American wine’s pioneer past.

Listen to the stream above, or check it out in iTunes.

I’ll Drink to That is the world’s most listened-to wine podcast, hosted by Levi Dalton. Levi has had a long career working as a sommelier in some of the most distinguished and acclaimed dining rooms in America. He has served wine to guests of Restaurant Daniel, Masa, and Alto, all in Manhattan. Levi has also contributed articles on wine themes to publications such as The Art of Eating, Wine & Spirits magazine, Bon Appetit online, and Eater NY. Check out his pictures on Instagram and follow him on Twitter: @levi_opens_wine