© 1997 JDM Enterprises
BV EVEN BETTERby Jerry D. Mead
Last year I reviewed Beaulieu Vineyard wines seriously for the first time in at least a decade. What inspired the new look was a new BV. For the first time in as long as I can remember, management had given the winemaking team "carte blanche" to experiment and investigate. Given his head, winemaker Joel Aiken produced BV's first Zinfandel, experimental lots of several other varieties and incorporated French oak where only American had prevailed for decades.
I am pleased to say that in a follow-up tasting of new releases and vintages, things are just getting better and better.
BV 1996 Pinot Noir Vin Gris ($10) Supposed to be a rose, but more a chillable picnic red. It's a perfect introduction to red wine flavors for someone graduating from white or pink, with loads of strawberry-cherry fruit. Dry but not austere. Drink it with salmon, cold fried chicken or even a ham and Swiss sandwich. Rating: 90/88
BV 1996 "Napa" Sauvignon Blanc ($9) Stylish and a stylistic change for BV. Softer and richer than previous vintages, with noticeable oak influence. Dry and food compatible; melon fruit, mildly herbaceous. Rating: 87/87
BV Beautour 1995 "California" Chardonnay ($10) Citrus and tropical flavors; lighter style. Nicely oaked...very good value. Rating: 85/88
BV 1995 "Carneros" Chardonnay ($12) Lean, cool climate fruit. Crisp underpinning...almost flinty. Apple fruit with toasty, smoky complexity. Not only a "Best Buy," it's actually underpriced. Rating: 90/94
BV 1995 Carneros Reserve" Chardonnay ($15) I won't devote very many words to this one. One of the big wine magazines already raved and it's basically sold out. Very rich, very toasty, but still lean and crisp. Great depth of flavor. Rating: 92/90
BV 1995 "Carneros" Pinot Noir ($13) More character than your average Carneros Pinot. Ripe plum and black cherry fruit. Smoky notes from heavy char oak casks. Velvety smooth. A great salmon or tuna wine. Rating: 88/88
BV 1995 "Carneros Reserve" Pinot Noir ($25) Big, aggressive Pinot. Very intense black cherry fruit, with earthy, smoky, tarry complexity and very long after-flavors. Rating: 95/85
BV Beautour 1994 "Napa" Cabernet Sauvignon ($10) A serious Cabernet for a little bit of money. Blackberry and black cherry flavors; medium to full body; firm backbone without harshness. "Best Buy." Rating: 88/95
BV 1995 "Napa" Petite Sirah ($14) One of those very successful experimental wines, containing small portions of Zinfandel and Carignane in the blend. A gentle giant. Big ripe plum and berry flavors and plenty of spine...but with round, inoffensive tannins. A brilliant debut. Alas! For sale only at the winery. Rating: 92/88
BV 1993 "Reserve" Tapestry ($20) A Meritage type wine, featuring a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Earthy, dusty, very complex red wine, with mostly berry fruit. Also smoky-toasty with very Bordeaux-like complexities. Rating: 93/85
BEST BUY WINE OF THE WEEK
BV wines have broad national distribution, but "Reserve" and other limited production wines can be difficult to find. For information on nearest retail outlet: Beaulieu Vineyard, P.O. Box 391, 1960 S. St. Helena Hwy., Rutherford, CA 94573 (707) 939-6209.
In a world of mail order and Internet sales of every imaginable kind of product, it's difficult to conceive that interstate wine sales are banned by most states, even wine-oriented states like California, Washington, Oregon and New York. Texas doesn't even permit its own wineries to ship to consumers within its own borders. You can legally purchase prescription narcotics and drugs by mail from another state, but not, in most instances, a bottle of fermented grape juice.
States like Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky have recently made such shipments from merchants in other states a felony, punishable by penalties not unlike those usually reserved for violent criminals. These felony states claim to be concerned about failure to collect sales and excise taxes from out of state sales and possible delivery to minors. In reality, they are protecting the monopoly currently enjoyed by each state's wholesalers and retailers.
The Louisiana law, patterned after a proposal by the Coalition for Free Trade in Licensed Beverages and negotiated by Wine Institute, answers the state's needs by charging an annual licensing fee, requiring the payment of all applicable taxes and requiring adult signatures on all deliveries.
It all also allows Louisiana consumers to order limited production wines direct from vintners, permits wineries too small to attract wholesaler representation to survive via consumer direct sales, and opens up the possibility of getting a bottle of wine along with your Omaha Steak or Cheese of the Month Club shipment. If common sense comes into play, more states will follow the Louisiana model and no more will follow the pattern set by protectionist states with felony laws.