THE NOTED DEMIMON DAINE and occasional actress Lillie Langtry, during a colorful and certainly controversial career, lent her name to a variety of things——from theater marquees to racehorses and even a 1966 song by The Who. She also gave the name of her husband, the wealthy Edward Lang try, to her daughter, Jeanne Marie, who was most certainly not his offspring but rather that of Prince Louis of Battenberg, the father of Lord Mountbatten. Born to a minister and his wife in the Channel Islands, from which she longed to escape, Lillie married Langtry because he owned the means to do so: a yacht.
The couple landed in London, where she launched her theatrical career in Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer, a prurient if not critical success. Lillie’s best-known performances were on the stage of society, where she conducted a celebrated affair with the future Edward VII; the latter, to extricate himself, pushed her off on his protégé, Louis. In 1887, she became an American citizen and divorced Langtry in California, where she had purchased a 4,200-acre ranch in Lake County on which she planted vineyards. She would posthumously lend her name to this concern, which its present owners have dubbed Langtry Estate.
This property in the Guenoc Valley has continued to produce outstanding wines since the days when Lillie harvested her first vintage of “claret.” Indeed, Langtry has gained a reputation for its Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as its Sauvignon Blanc. Yet a lesser-known varietal, Petite Sirah, perhaps best captures the spirit of the estate’s namesake. The 2004 Langtry Estate Serpentine Meadow Vineyard Petite Sirah ($40) is grown near the estate’s house in magnesium-rich soil. This particular terroir, according to the owners, softens the typically hard tannins of this grape, enabling more delicate flavors to show through. The wine’s bouquet is dense with voluptuous black berry, sweet tobacco and fragrant spice, which gives way on the palate to a combination of fruit, spice and sultry smoke that is as round, sensual and irresistible as Lillie herself.
Langtry Estate, 800-987-2385, langtryestate.com.
Brett Anderson is senior vice president, editorial, for CurtCo Publishing.