Wine Talk

Snooth User: John Andrews

Beaulieu Vineyards Visit ...

Posted by John Andrews, Jan 15, 2010.

I am truly blessed to be a short drive away from one of the premier wine regions of the world. When I moved to California a little over 5 years ago I knew very little about wine. In fact, I can remember a conversation I had with my manager (at the time). He asked me, now that you are in California are you going to become a wine snob. My answer (at the time) was, ‘nah, I’m a beer guy’. Fast forward 5 years and things have changed. I do consider myself a wine guy, I’ve been working part-time at winery for over 3 years and, if all things go well, I’ll be producing my own wine in a year.

This evolution in me has only been possible because of where I am. Prior to moving here I can honestly say I had a curiosity about wine but not a passion. This passion would not have been sparked if I was not so close to Sonoma & Napa. However, that passion, may not have been unleashed if it were not for the pioneers of the California wine country. A little thing called prohibition could have killed that opportunity for me. Luckily for me, there were the early wineries in northern California that survived and then thrived that has made it possible for me to have my passion unlocked and future possible. One of those early survivors was Beaulieu Vineyards or simply (and possibly, more recognized) BV.

It could be argued that without BV there would be no Napa Valley. BV is one of the wineries in Napa that is intertwined in history. BV can trace its history in Napa Valley to 1900 and, like a lot of wineries in Napa, is the result of European interest in the valley. George de Latour of France recognized the greatness of Napa Valley long before others. George recognized greatness and hired Andre Tchelistcheff as his winemaker after the repeal of prohibition. Andre is widely considered the dean of Napa wine making and trained many of the wine makers that would go on to create Napa.

Today, BV has somewhat of a different image. To most BV, is the wine you see in a supermarket. It is part of a conglomerate that, may, treat it as cog in a machine. Or, so this is what I thought. I’ll be honest, as long as I’ve been in California I’ve not wanted to visit BV. I would drive by it and look away as if it did not exist. Then, as I got deeper into the history of California wine I grew to understand the importance of BV and secretly wanted to visit. It wasn’t until I connected with Jill Dever at BV that this became possible. Jill is responsible for the social media aspects of BV. I think she does a great job on Twitter and I follow her ( So when I had the opportunity over the Christmas holidays I made my way into Napa Valley … Rutherford specifically and headed to BV.

To me, it appears if BV is co-located with the Rutherford Grill. It is at the northeast corner of Highway 29 and Highway 128. This is a high traffic area. Unlike some wineries (like the one I work at) where everything is done under one roof, BV is a series of buildings. There is a reserve tasting room and a general tasting room. It can be a little disorientating if you don’t know where you are going but the staff is friendly and helpful. With my friends, I met with Jill for a tasting. Our tasting was conducted in the wine club room which is elegant and inviting. Jill was a great host and it is easy to see her passion for what she does.

The first wine served for us was, for me, the biggest surprise. It was a vintage sparkling wine. Okay, raise your had if you didn’t know that BV made a sparkling wine. I was one of them. Apparently, BV has been making sparkling wine for some time. It was tradition for madame de Latour to great her guests with sparkling wine and, as such, BV has continued to produce one and great their guests to the tasting room (weekends only … I think) with sparkling wine. From there we proceeded to a number of elegant reds. My tasting notes for what we sampled below.

• 2001 Reserve Brut Sparkling Wine Carneros $40 (3.5/5) - Surprisingly nice sparkling wine. Bright and crisp. Crisp aromas of baked bread and green apple. Tart apple and crisp flavors.

• 1970 George de Latour $NA (4/5) - It is not often that I get to taste a wine that i solder than I am. This day I did. Has characteristics of an Old Bordeaux. Still has power to it but fruit is gone left with smoky, spice and leather character. Loved it.

• 2006 Tapestry $60 (3.5/5) - BV’s Bordeaux blend. Big & bright. Lots of red fruit in the nose with some smokiness and spice. Powerful fruit flavors with good acid and long finish. Needs more time to integrate

• 2006 Reserve Maestro Collection Cabernet Sauvignon, BV Ranch No 1, Rutherford $65 (3.5/5) - In between the Tapestry and the Latour in character. Big red fruit nose but more spice and smoke. Red fruit & spice in the flavors but not integrated yet. Like the 06 Tapestry, it needs time.

• 2006 George de Latour $115 (4/5) - Very good wine. Nicely integrated in all aspects. Red and dark fruit with balanced acid and tannins. Great wine in honor of the founder of BV.

As you can see, these are not your supermarket BV wines. BV, like many of the larger producers in Napa Valley (Mondavi & Beringer for example) have multiple lines of business. There are there mass production wines for national distribution. There are there limited production wines which are often only available through the winery or specialty wine stores. And, there are the prestige wines which are a true expression of the winery.

I truly believe that BV has something for everyone. Ones of interest for me that I did not try are the following. All can be ordered directly through the website.

• 2005 Rutherford Merlot $55
• 2007 Rutherford Cabernet $55
• 2006 Malbec $40
• 2006 Cabernet Franc $45

I am impressed with the quality of BV wines. There seems to be a renewed commitment to quality and, as I’ve been told, a stronger focus on vineyard sources. Expect to see BV releases that focus on more granular releases, specific appellations and vineyards.

The more serious I get about wine the more important it becomes for me to understand the history. With many things, we could not be where we are without the things that happened in the past. This is especially true with wine. To truly appreciate a bottle of Screaming Eagle or a bottle of Opus One you may want to start with a humble but proud BV Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon. If it wasn’t for BV, there may not be a Screaming Eagle or Opus One.

Contact Info:

Bealieu Vineyard (

1960 St. Helena Highway
Rutherford, CA 94573

P: 800-373-5896



Reply by JillDever, Jan 15, 2010.

Great review! Love your insight about BV being more than what you see in the super market. Certainly a lot of history & special wines here. Glad you were able to stop in & you are welcome back anytime! Cheers, Jill

Reply by John Andrews, Jan 15, 2010.

Thanks Jill! I hope to swing buy again soon. Are you around this Sunday?

Reply by dmcker, Jan 15, 2010.

Once again, John, thanks for your very insightful visit and tasting notes to an excellent Napa (or Sonoma) winery. Your series is good in parts and will be of even greater value in its whole as it continues.

BV is one of the wineries I cut my teeth on back in the '70s. Would have been hard then to imagine the George de Latour bottles costing such much these days. Was nice to see she served you the '70, too, many of which I had in the late '70s and early '80s. Would be most interesting to do a vertical over a dozen bottles or so, from back then all the way through the acquisition, to the present day.

Also was nice to hear she started you with un petit coup de sparkling blanc. ;-) Quite civilized. Any food before or after at the Rutherford Grill? Haven't been in a few years, but I've had many a pleasant meal there over time...

Reply by rar8888, Jan 15, 2010.

Wonderful review John! Just out of curiosity, are you producing wine for your own consumption or resale next year? Again, thank you for sharing your insight and a piece of Napa history with the rest of us.


Reply by John Andrews, Jan 15, 2010.

@dmcker ... I didn't eat at the Rutherford Grill that day, I was at Bistro Jeanty. Funny, I've never actually eaten there. I do want sooon.

@rar ...this year, the wine is for my own consumption. Well, mine and the people I'm working on it with. Next year though, looking to something different.

"Also, proof-reading is something I am bad at. To be very clear, there are a number of wines that I did not get to try that I WANT to try. So let me rephrase part of my post:

I truly believe that BV has something for everyone. Ones of interest for me that I did not try, AND I WANT TO, are the following. All can be ordered directly through the website.

• 2005 Rutherford Merlot $55
• 2007 Rutherford Cabernet $55
• 2006 Malbec $40
• 2006 Cabernet Franc $45"

Reply by napagirl68, Jan 16, 2010.

THANK YOU for this awesome review! I have not been to BV in ages!.. Guess I will need to meander back..

BTW... LOVE Bistro Jeanty! Such comfort food... but my fav place in down valley is Bistro Don Giovanni (note my avatar!) The food is good, and I like to lunch (vs dinner) at the bar. Many of the local winemakers will be there and willing to chat... have had some very great conversations there...

Reply by napagirl68, Jan 16, 2010.

@HondaJohn- Since you are a local like me, I was wondering if you had heard of Stonefly Vineyards... Cabernet Franc... vintage is murky to me.. prolly a 2002-4. I bought it at the Wine Garage in Calistoga which I used to love immensely (Todd and I have similar palate), but I was not as happy on the last visit :-(

anyway wondering if you had tasted this stonefly cab franc... Was soooo earthy and tobaccoey...yum.

Reply by VegasOenophile, Jan 17, 2010.

I can attest that the Dulcet, Tapestry, Georges de Latour and reserve wines from BV are great and a far cry from the everyday Coastal series. Even their 2006 Napa cab is delightful.

Reply by John Andrews, Jan 17, 2010.

@napagirl68 ... you should definitely head back that way. I was very happy about getting there for a tasting. I haven't had anything Stonefly Vineyards. I'll definitely look out for them.

@VegasOenophile ... completely agree. I almost wish there was more of a branding difference on the labels.

Reply by amour, Jan 18, 2010.

Well guys, I will be celebrating the 70th ANNIVERSARY RELEASE of
NAPA's BEALIEU VINEYARD's GEORGES de LATOUR Private Cabernet Sauvignon.


Reply by amour, Jan 18, 2010.

Beaulieu Vineyards' 70th Release of

The FESTIVAL runs FEB.25-28. 2010.

Thank you.

Reply by Adam Levin, Jan 18, 2010.

Nice article, John. Thanks. I've experienced that same change from not wanting to taste at BV to now wanting to taste there, although I haven't made it yet.

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