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by Fred McMillin
for September 7, 2000

 

Best of the Course


Prologue

This is a standout! It garnered a 94. In my latest Ft. Mason wine course, the best 35 rival table wines could do was an 89.

What was the wine, and first, who made it?

Joel Aiken

Joel Aiken directs the winemaking.


Aiken Brings Home The Bacon

There were 8,500 entries at the last London International Wine Challenge. Fifty-five gold medals were awarded in the Bordeaux-varietal category. The best of the 55? A 1995 Beaulieu Cabernet Sauvignon crafted by the winery's director of winemaking Joel Aiken.

His boss, John Phillips, knows a good winemaker when he sees one. So Joel's just been promoted to Vice President, and will oversee the winernaking of, would you believe...

    Beaulieu, of course
    Glen Ellen Winery
    M.G. Vallejo Wines
    Blossom Hill Wines
    Argentina's Navarro Correas Winery
    France's Le Piat d'Or wines

Some vote of confidence! Now, on to our SUPER...


Wine of the Day

1996 Beaulieu Clone 6 Cabernet Sauvignon, $110
Appellation—Rutherford, Napa Valley
Vineyards—Beaulieu was founded in 1900 in what would prove to be one of the greatest Cabernet districts in the New World...Rutherford. How appropriate that the grapes for this wine were all grown in the three oldest Beaulieu vineyards in the Rutherford district.
Oak—Joel knows something about oak. In fact, his Master's thesis compared the use of French and American oak in aging wines. When he started some 15 years ago, BV winemaking was pretty much wedded to American oak. During the past decade, Joel has eased in the use of more and more French. Clone 6 uses sixty percent French.
Rating—The 15 tasters were dazzled, and gave Clone 6 an astronomical 94. It would have been even higher except one male gave it an 86! Time for a taste-bud tuneup, fella!
Contacts: BV Master of Wine Joel Butler, (707) 967-5270 FAX (707) 967-9149; Pricilla Felton, (707) 967-5209
Food Affinities—Chateaubriand steak (watch for the Sept. 14 WineDay about its origins); James Beard's marinated flank steak.
Price—$110 range (GREAT GIFT!)


Postscript

One of the most astute observers of the Napa wine scene is its resident author James Laube. The importance of Joel Aiken to BV is illustrated by these two quotes.

    a) Early in the '90s Laube wrote, "BV has resisted innovation and clung to traditions that no longer matter to today's wine drinkers...It will have to retool for the future."

    Now let's fast forward to 1999 and another quote:

    b) "The amazing thing about BV is that even with rapid changes in management it is currently making the greatest wines in its fabled history."

We told you Aiken brought home the bacon.

Credits
James Laube writes for the Wine Spectator, which I feel does a fine job. of course, I'm biased since one of my former students was coordinating their large tastings, when I last checked.

 

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 September 2000

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