It was not until the mid 1930s that he began studying viticulture and enology. Soon after, Tchelistcheff met Georges de Latour in France. De Latour recruited the young man to come work for him at Beaulieu Vineyard in the Napa Valley.
Tchelistcheff had an extensive knowledge of planting certain varietals according to the terroir of a specific plot of land. This was a time when most production consisted of undistinguished jug wines with generic names or overly alcoholic and often poorly made fortified wines.
He was an early advocate of planting Cab in Napa. His first wine was the 1938 Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. BV’s owner passed away the following year.
Tchelistcheff also pioneered controlled cold fermentation which allowed him to make crisp white wines. He also experimented with controlled malolactic fermentation and was an expert with vineyard management techniques. Like his contemporary John Daniel Jr, Tchelistcheff realized the hazards of contamination in the winery and insisted on meticulously clean facilities.
Tchelistcheff did not limit his services to Beaulieu Vineyard. Throughout his career he served as a consultant and ambassador for the advancement of high-quality wine production throughout California Wine Country. In spite of his influence, Tchelistcheff remained a very humble man who was reluctant to take credit for his monumental accomplishments.
In a famous interview with James Laube, he insisted that it was John Daniel Jr, not himself who was the better winemaker. While this question could incite endless debate, his modesty was remarkable.
After influencing countless winemakers and Napa Valley Wineries, Tchelistcheff passed away in 1994 at the age of 92. His nephew, Alex Golitzin currently owns Quilceda Creek Winery in Washington State.