A Tragedy at The French Laundry, the Home of Fine Wine

In December 2014, the restaurant, The French Laundry was robbed of 110 bottles of wine worth $500,000. Because it was Christmas night, the restaurant was closed. Investigators eventually recovered most of the bottles and arrested two of the thieves, Alfred Georgis and David Kiryakoz. Kiryakoz was an experienced criminal in the wine world and was previously part of the group that stole wine from San Francisco’s Fine Wine International worth $290,000 in 2013.

The French Laundry is famous for its extensive collection of quality wines. It has a private-labeled vintage named Modicum Wine, made exclusively for the restaurant. Its extensive wine list has received the Wine Spectator’s Restaurant Award of Excellence annually since 2007.

Did You Know: The French Laundry, one of the few three-star Michelin restaurants in America, was the victim of a Christmas Day burglary of great wines, primarily Romanée-Conti.

The French Laundry

This venue has been around since the 1900s, and its history is just as fascinating as its menu. It was constructed as a saloon in 1900 by a Scottish Stoneman. Later, it was converted into a residence. In the 1920s, the building was opened as a French steam laundry by John Lande, hence the origin of the restaurant’s name. In 1978, it was renovated into a restaurant by Don Schmitt, the mayor of Yountville, and his wife, Sally Schmitt [1].

It underwent an extensive $10 million renovation, including a new state-of-art kitchen, extensive landscaping with an added courtyard, and a wine cellar with a 16,000 bottle capacity.

The French Laundry serves French and California cuisine. The menu of the restaurant changes daily. Two nine-course menus are served, a Chef’s Tasting and a Tasting of Vegetables. They consist of seasonal ingredients, and dishes such as hot and sour celery root served with foie gras and black truffle, or persimmon and ginger sorbet served with kumquat-cinnamon ice cream. Since its opening, it has received many awards, including three stars from the Michelin Guide in 2007. The restaurant was at one point ranked number three in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants by Restaurant Magazine, and Anthony Bourdain called it “the best restaurant in the world.”

Did you know: The French Laundry, is one of the best restaurants in the world, with three Michelin stars, one of only 13 in the United States.

This Day in Wine History

July 6, 1994: Thomas Keller purchased the restaurant and opened it on July 6th. Laura Cunningham was his first employee. She was a Berkeley graduate and had experience in other Napa Valley restaurants. They worked closely together, and later became life partners as well as business partners.

Want to read more? Try these books!

French Laundry, A Tragedy at The French Laundry, the Home of Fine WineFrench Laundry, A Tragedy at The French Laundry, the Home of Fine Wine

References:

1. Mejia, Paula. 2018. “How a Gang of Thirsty Thieves Stole Over $500000 Worth of Wine.” Atlas Obscura. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/french-laundry-wine-stolen.

2. “1974-1994 | Thomas Keller Restaurant Group.” n.d. Www.thomaskeller.com. Accessed October 5, 2022. https://www.thomaskeller.com/1974-1994.

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