Winemaker, Renaissance Man, Legend
After becoming the historic third head winemaker at Beaulieu Vineyard in Rutherford starting in 1985, Joel Aiken produced a remarkable series of world-class wines that left lasting impressions on the palates of wine consumers around the globe. Behind the scenes, he led the winery into the 21st century by integrating stainless-steel vessels and smaller French oak barrels in the cellar and the completion of a ten-year Cabernet Sauvignon trial that became the blueprint used in the re-planting phase that spread throughout the valley in the late 1990s. To further spread the seeds of success, he became a founding member of the Rutherford Dust Society, a local non-profit organization designed to educate members of the trade and promote local wines to a broader audience. After leaving BV in 2009, Aiken continued his renaissance journey by using his winemaking skills and relationships he built over the last three decades with the owners of prime vineyard sites to craft an impressive string of world-class wines as a consultant.
For the past decade, through his firm, Aiken Wine Consulting, Joel has helped a number of established clients reach new goals by producing highly regarded, award-winning wines. His latest project with Gary and Chris Morisoli, fourth and fifth-generation family members of Morisoli Vineyard, represents the birth of an exciting new brand and the first commercial release from a family that has been stewards of the vines planted on their Rutherford property west of Hwy 29, for more than 100 years.
Although the vineyard is located on the gentle slopes of the celebrated “Rutherford Bench” at the base of the Mayacamas Range, Aiken said the concentrated flavors found in the fruit cluster he used to make the inaugural release of the brand’s 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon remind him of pure mountain fruit. “I appreciate the way these rocky, gravelly soils with low yields allow us to create a bold, full-bodied wine with intensive flavors, rich texture, and firm tannins that is both pleasurable and age-worthy,” he said.
Before working with Gary and Chris Morisoli, Aiken used the high-quality fruit from the property to craft a series of limited-release bottlings for his personalized brand, Aiken Wines and Scattered Peaks Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon, a special winemaking project in collaboration with wine industry icon Derek Benham.
“Through the years, the Morisoli family has been best known for selling high-quality grapes to top wineries. Therefore, I feel honored that they have asked me to help them take the next step,” said Aiken. “With more than thirty-five years of experience as an insider with wine, to have the opportunity to use my skills to help build new brands and raise the bar for others always gets me excited.”
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Story By: Chris Sawyer // Photos by Geoff Hansen @napavalleyimages