A Tragedy at French Laundry, the Home of Fine Wine

In December 2014, the French Laundry restaurant was robbed of 110 bottles of wine worth $500,000. Because it was Christmas night, the restaurant was closed, and subsequently, investigators 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 laundry restaurant is famous for its quality wines. It has a private-labeled vintage named Modicum Wine, made exclusively for the restaurant. Its extensive wine list has received awards from Wine Spectator’s Restaurant Award of Excellence annually since 2007. Located in Napa Valley, it is a restaurant known for serving the finest wines and most exquisite delicacies within an unpretentious atmosphere of elegance and warmth.

The French Laundry, one of the few three-star restaurants in America, was the victim of a Christmas Day burglary of great wines, primarily Romanée-Conti, whose value could exceed $300,000.

French Laundry Restaurant

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].

On one side of the restaurant, you can see beautiful vineyards, while on the other side, you can look at Lake Berryessa. This fantastic view gives the French Laundry a touch of elegance, which adds to its already outstanding reputation. It underwent an extensive renovation of $10 million, including a new state-of-art kitchen, extensive landscaping with an added courtyard setting, and a wine cellar with a 16,000 bottle-holding capacity.

The French Laundry Restaurant serves French and Californian cuisine. The menu of the restaurant changes daily. Two nine-course menus are served daily, one Chef’s Tasting and the other Tasting of Vegetables. They mainly consist of seasonal ingredients, with dishes such as hot and sour celery root served with foie gras and black truffle, or persimmon and ginger sorbet to be served with kumquat-cinnamon ice cream. Since its opening, they have received many awards, including three stars from the Michelin Guide in 2007. The restaurant is 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

1994: Thomas Keller purchased the restaurant and opened it on July 19th. Laura Cunningham was his first employee. She was a Berkeley graduate and had experience in Napa Valley restaurants. They worked closely together, and soon, she moved into his house and where they became life partners as well as business partners.

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[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.

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