The oldest and one of the best wine producers in the Napa Valley, Beringer derives its wines from the fruit of 16 distinct vineyards managed by Robert Steinhauer. A few of the best known are Bancroft Ranch, Knights Valley, and Chabot. However, the star of the future may be the relatively new Tre Colline Vineyard, located on Howell Mountain and acquired and planted in 1991. The wines produced from this vineyard are awesomely concentrated. At an elevation of 1800 feet, it’s above the fog line that sometimes covers the Valley below.

The Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon label began with the 1977 vintage under the leadership of legendary winemaker Myron Nightingale, and Assistant Winemaker, Ed Sbragia. The grapes were from Chabot Vineyard, which was known as Lemmon Ranch at that time. The wine was aged for two years in French oak barrels. After Myron’s retirement in 1984, Ed Sbragia took over the reins as winemaker, taking the Beringer Private Reserve wines to new heights.

The fruit from several different vineyards go into the Private Reserve blend, including Bancroft, Chabot, St. Helena Home and State Lane. The exact blend is Ed’s secret. Beringer does produce a limited quantity of single-vineyard designated wines that are sold at their Fall and Spring Wine Openers held each year at the winery. Tickets to the event are usually sold out as soon as the event is announced. The 94s being released at the upcoming Spring Opener will include Bancroft, Tre Colline, Marston and Chabot. They are sold only at the Rhine House during and immediately following the "wine opener" events. The 1997s will be sold in 2002.

The Barrel Samples reviewed below provide clear evidence that the 1997 Private Reserve and single-vineyard wines from Beringer will be exceptional.

1997 Knights Valley (Sonoma County) Cabernet Sauvignon, Barrel Sample, 90-94 pts, C4+N3?F4A3T4E3?: This wine is always bottled on its own and is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is not used in the Private Reserve, as Knights Valley is a designated viticultural area in Sonoma County. The vineyard was replanted in 1989. The wine is a deep red color and shows an herbal nose. It possesses richness, but its components are unresolved at this time. It has excellent potential if the chemistry comes together. The Knights Valley will be bottled in March 1999. Tasted 1/99.

1997 Tre Colline, Howell Mountain (Napa Valley), Barrel Sample, 96-100 pts, C5N4+F5-A3T4E4+?: This is one awesome wine! The 48-acre vineyard was acquired and planted in 1991 so the fruit is from 6-year-old vines. The intensity and power for such young vines is amazing. The color is opaque, saturated red with some purple. The nose offers up aromas of coffee, smoke and cassis with a touch of cedar. The very rich fruit muscles the substantial tannins, and the wine shows incredible structural integrity. Intense flavors dominate the soft mouth-feel. The chalky young tannins should soften with age. One of the best young vine wines I’ve ever tasted. Will probably be blended with 2-3% Cabernet Franc. Tasted 1/99.

1997 Bancroft Ranch Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Barrel Sample, 92-96 pts, C5-N3+?F4A3T4+E3+?: Jim Bancroft, a San Francisco attorney, owns the 90-acre vineyard, which is planted to Cabernet and Merlot. Beringer has a 30-year lease on the property and first used the fruit from this vineyard in 1986. Most was replanted in 1989. The exceptional 1988 Bancroft Ranch Merlot is the last pre-phylloxera Merlot from this vineyard.

The color is an enticing opulent, clean red/purple. The nose is mostly closed and dominated by cedar with detectable underlying fruit aromas that will develop with time. This is a rich but tannic wine with bright classic cab fruit. The flavors are distinct from Tre Colline. Lots of potential but tannins need to soften so that fruit becomes the main event. Tasted 1/99.

 

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