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© 1998 JDM Enterprises
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by Jerry D. Mead

Beaulieu Vineyard (BV) is one of the old, proud Napa Valley wineries, and the one with the longest consistent track record of great wines. Its BV "Georges de Latour Private Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon is unparalleled as a world class red wine from California with awards and accolades and an auction history dating back many decades.

BV has also gone through its stodgy periods over the years. Tradition is one thing, but under various managements there were periods when virtual stagnation took place.

When BV's winemaker for more than 30 years, the late Andre Tchelistcheff, returned to consult at his old home base in the last years of his life, he was shocked to be told that they were still doing things a certain way because that's the way he had done it 20 years before he had left for other ventures. The legendary, and by then octogenarian, wine master was reputed to have said: "I have changed, why haven't you?"

With the green light from then winery president Richard Walton, and the enthusiasm of "chomping at the bit to do new things" winemaker Joel Aiken, change has been the rule rather than the exception most of this decade.

Nevertheless, BV's history and tradition as a very serious producer still casts a giant shadow over the entire winemaking and marketing team, as I suppose it should. One simply can't imagine BV making White Zinfandel, or making 4-liter jug wine or bag-in-the-box.

But in a history-making first, BV is releasing a new wine on June 1, 1998, that shows BV can have a sense of humor. Don't get me wrong...the wine itself is very serious, but the name should generate a few chuckles.


BV has always used the "Beau" part of its name as a sort of proprietary prefix for many wines. In years past there was "Beaurose," "Beauclair," "Beaufort," and you'll still find "Beautour" on some of its wines.

The story I'm told, is that the winemaking team, giddy with the new found freedom to experiment, decided to create the absolute best red wine possible by blending odds and ends of wines left over from their regular winemaking. The wine they came up with is stunning.

Only problem is that unless blended reds are restricted to a handful of Bordeaux varieties (like Cabernet and Merlot, which is then entitled to be called "Meritage"), they lose their rights to a fancy name...they lose their pedigree...they are mongrels so to speak.

Wineries have two choices when naming such wines. They can call them "red table wine," which lacks any appeal at all, and certainly doesn't tell consumers that there's something special in that bottle. The other choice is to make up a fantasy name, a proprietary, copyrightable name that consumers can identify with.

So that's what the cellar team decided to create, and it was only natural to consider using the historical "Beau" prefix. It was Assistant Winemaker Jeff Stanbor who came up with "Beauzeaux" which the other guys immediately wondered why he wanted to name a wine after a clown. He gently pointed out his more sophisticated French spelling and the obvious fun of the play on words between "Beauzeaux" and "Bozo."

Enough about history and how this new wine came to be. Let me tell you a little more about the release, quantities and the wine's possible future.

Alas! There is only a little more than 600 dozen of this really exceptional bottling. It will first be released into the winery's Napa Valley tasting room on May 1st. Small quantities may eventually reach selected specialty stores and restaurants in a handful of states. If you plan a visit to wine country this spring or summer, picking up a few bottles of Beauzeaux should be a priority. For further information on availability call the winery's hospitality center at (800) 264-6918 Ext 5233.

BV 1996 ($15) If this mongrel had a pedigree the price could be doubled! It offers that kind of quality. It's a blend of six varieties, including nearly 40 percent Zinfandel. There's also Charbono, Grenache, Petit Sirah, Valdigue and Carignane. It's bone dry, of course, and was aged in predominantly French oak for 8 months. Ripe berry, cassis and plum aromas and flavors. Tasted blind I might have guessed it to be a ripe California Zinfandel or an Australian Shiraz. Best one word description is delicious! Tannins are not astringent and the flavors are very long and lush. It is compatible with a wide range of food types, from simple grilled meats, to barbecue and Cajun flavors and fleshy fishes like tuna and salmon. Case purchases highly recommended if anyone will sell you that much. Rating: 94/94

There will never be huge quantities of this wine, but if consumers like it as much as I do, there's talk of making "Beauzeaux" an annual project and even of selling it on a futures or subscription basis because of the necessarily limited quantities. Remember, this is a "Mead On Wine" exclusive, so you have a jump on everyone else.

Oh! And don't miss the winemaker's tasting notes on the back label with its "all circus theme" dialogue such as: "The big, fat fruit is performing a balancing act on the highwire...while riding on a unicycle of tannins..." Well, you get the idea.


Glen Ellen 1996 Sauvignon Blanc ($5 or less) Pleasant, mildly herbaceous aroma on a grapefruit and lemon citrus flavor base. Basically dry (but not tart) perception. Solid, every day, all purpose, white wine. Rating: 85/95


Glen Ellen 1996 Merlot ($7 or less) Big gobs of cherry and cranberry (without the bitterness) fruit flavors in a user-friendly wine that the "wine geeks" might think simple, but that most folks will find simply delicious. Rating: 84/90

Wines are scored using a unique 100 point system. First number rates quality; second number rates value.

© 1998 JDM Enterprises. All Rights Reserved
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