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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for August 2, 2000


A Beautiful Story


"Which do you like more, wine or women?"

"It depends on the vintage."

The Rest of the Story

Lillie Langtry  
Let me tell you about probably the most gorgeous vintner of the 19th century, whose radiant beauty endured for at least 30 years. Here she is in London at age 24.

1876—Artist William Graham Robertson noticed a young lady walking toward Hyde Park. "At first glance it seemed a very young and slender girl, and dowdily dressed in black, wearing a small close-fitting black bonnet (pictured),...then, as I drew near the pavement the girl looked up—and I all but sat flat on the road. For the first time in my life I beheld perfect beauty."

Let's fast-forward 26 years to the 1902 vintage.

December 1902—As she arrives in New York, a member of the press writes that "she is still the most beautiful woman in the world."

Her secrets included plain food and plenty of exercise, even jogging for two miles early in the day.

It must have worked, for 14 years later (1916), Somerset Maugham noted that she still had a fine figure (at age 64).

Her name was Lillie Langtry. She founded the Guenoc Vineyards and Winery north of Napa County in 1888. She sold her wine in San Francisco, wisely including her picture on the label. So, a Langtry is our...

Wine of the Day

1998 Langtry Meritage White Wine
Guenoc Valley, Lake County, CA
Awards History—A quick check shows 174 awards in seven years, including Best of Show, Platinum, Double Gold, Five Stars, etc.
Winemaking—78% Sauvignon Blanc, 22% Semillon, all-new French and American oak, 6 months on the lees.
Food Compatibility—Delicious with a spinach salad tossed with generous amounts of goat cheese, pine nuts and high-grade olive oil, assembled by my bride of 43 years.
Rating—The beginners on my panel gave it a GOOD, the seasoned tasters gave it a VERY GOOD.
Price -$23


Good Timing—Lillie sold her estate in 1906 just days before the huge earthquake, which would have made the sale a bit more difficult, no matter how beautiful the owner.


  • Frank Prial, New York Times, 6-19-94
  • Quotes from a beautifully-researched book by Joan Parry Dutton, They Left Their Mark, Illuminations Press, St. Helena, CA, 1983
  • Regarding good olive oil, watch for a new book by Dr. Judith Taylor. Like Joan Dutton (& Lillie) Dr. Taylor also was born in England. The Olive in California, The History of an Immigrant Tree, $24.95. Endorsed by the California Historical Society.

    Related WineDays

    Guenoc makes the Langtry wines. For more read:

  • "Waiting for Verdot", May 19, 1997
  • "The Langtry Pedigree", Oct. 11, 1997
  • "How To Fool The Tasters", Nov. 23, 1998
  • "Our Winery of the Year", Dec, 31, 1999

    About the Writer

    Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.


    This page created August 2000