by Fred McMillin
for September 23, 1999


A New Angel


"The best samples [of Zinfandel] are like angels' visits, few and far between."

...From the dust jacket of Angels' Visits by David Darlington, 1991

The Rest of the Story

We have a new angel on the block, by a winery that achieved fame with the legendary Andre Tchelistcheff making Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, not Zinfandel. However, author Darlington tells us Andre, the marvelous Beaulieu winemaker, was well aware of Zinfandel as early as 1950. In fact, the Moscow-born grape genius even specified the best area of the Napa Valley for Zinfandel, the warmer northern end.

Joel Aiken

Joel Aiken

These days, Beaulieu has another highly-respected veteran winemaker, Joel Aiken (see photo). And he's made a spectacular Zin from grapes grown in the northern end of the Valley...St. Helena and Calistoga vineyards.

In making the wine, about 30% of the grapes were NOT crushed. This yields intense raspberry flavors that my students spotted immediately. Then, Joel found three exceptional lots aging entirely in new oak, and used only those three for our new angel. Here it is.

The Wine

1997 Signet Collection Zinfandel
Beaulieu Vineyard, Rutherford, Napa Valley
Composition—100% Zinfandel
Mouthfeel—Great substance in the mouth from 14.6% alcohol and 0.5% sugar. The Two Joels—BV is blessed with two Joels, Aiken the winemaker and Master of Wine Joel Butler. For absolutely anything you need to know about wine, there's no better source...just ask the Butler; phone 1.800.264.6918, x-5270, e-mail at joel.butler@udvna.com
Rating—One of the three best Zins my picky panel has tasted so far this year. EXCELLENT.
Price - $25

Postscript—More About Angels (and Misprints)

The first line of the Darlington book dust jacket explains: "In 1988 a California horticulturist named George Husmann wrote: "The best samples are like angels' visits, few and far between." By 1988 George could give us a first-hand account of angels, since Prof. George Husmann was born in 1827 and joined the angels in 1902!

Note: If the Signet is sold out at your wine shop, try BV's '97 Napa Valley Zin, at a bargain 14 bucks!

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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