Friday, March 22, 2013

Beringer Vineyards – A Historic Monument in St. Helena, California

This past weekend I ventured out into the Napa Valley again in hopes of taking more pictures of Mustard Flower laden vineyards. But, it seems they’ve all been mowed, plowed under or most the golden weeds have died. This is unusual for most wineries and vineyards wait until the end of March to do so. So, I decided to revisit the very first winery I ever visited in the Napa Valley back in the year 2000 - Beringer Vineyards. That was before I started journaling my wine country travels and doing photography.


When first-time visitors to the Napa Valley ask me for recommendations, Beringer Vineyards is usually in the top five – especially for people who are somewhat new to wine tasting. My reason for recommending Beringer is because of its historical significance, the opportunity to learn about wine during a tour and it is a higher production winery that consistently maintains high quality wines. in the Nap Valley back in 2000 - Beringer Vineyards. Having been to 223 wineries since then it was a real joy to see and taste this one again! I ever visited in the Nap Valley back in 2000 - Beringer Vineyards. Having been to 223 wineries since then it was a real joy to see and taste this one again! I ever visited in the Nap Valley back in 2000 - Beringer Vineyards. Having been to 223 wineries since then it was a real joy to see and taste this one again!

Beringer Vineyards was founded in 1875 by German emigrants Jacob and Frederick Beringer who crossed the Atlantic in 1868. Recognizing the valley’s potential for making premium wines, Frederick and Jacob built a gravity-flow winery and steam-powered grape crusher, then enlisted the help of Chinese laborers to hand-dig tunnels within the hills of Napa Valley.  Today, these caves continue to be used to cellar and age wine in a stable ideal temperature 58-degree environment and relative humidity.  

The Beringer family sold the Beringer name and winery to Nestlé in 1971. This well-known candy producer then sold off the company in 1996. The winery was then owned by Foster’s Group from 2000 to 2011.  Currently it is owned by Treasury Wine Estates, an Australian based company, who also own other well-known Napa Valley wineries such as Etude, St. Clement, and Stags Leap.


Today Beringer Vineyards is the oldest continuously operating winery in the Napa Valley and is registered as a California Historical Landmark. One of the tasting rooms is located the landmark Rhine House Victorian home and visitors can also take a tour of the wine-aging tunnels and Old Stone Winery that was built in the late 1800’s. 

While visiting I sampled the following wines:


My first sample was the 2011 Private Reserve Chardonnay. The wine when poured was way too cold which really hampered the aromas. So, after a lot of swirling and cupping of the glass to warm it up I picked up pronounced aromas of green apples, pears, marshmallows and a hint of butter and nuts. On the palate it is medium bodied with crisp (medium+) acidity, it is well balanced and has a prolonged marshmallow and nutty finish. This is a Classic California Chardonnay and usually I find that wines that match this profile to sell for around $45, but this one sells for $38 a bottle so I brought one home.

My second pour was the 2007 Single Vineyard Rancho del Oso Cabernet Sauvignon. On the nose this wine exudes big fresh bing cherries, boysenberries, blackberries, and a just hint of graphite, cloves and oak. On the palate it is fruit forward, medium bodied and very approachable with supple velvety tannins and medium (+) acidity. Everything in this wine is well balanced with no one trait dominating the other. This is definitely a “drink now” wine and I doubt it will improve much with age. It sells for $100 a bottle so if I were to buy one I would want to have a special occasion on my calendar in mind to open it soon. But I think there are many comparable wines in the valley in the $50 - $60 range.

The third wine I tasted was the 2006 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This Cab is radically different than the previous one. Whereas the Rancho del Oso was a no-brainer easy-drinking wine this one causes you to stop and think about it. On the nose I picked up multi-layers of earth, smoke, beef-jerky, teriyaki and it has the umami thing going on. After more swirling the fruit aromas appear with notes of blackberries, cassis, dark cherries and a hint of mocha. Even though it is a year older than the previous Cab, on the palate the tannins have more grip and the wine feels full-bodied and there are additional notes of black licorice. While think the average consumer might prefer the previous wine, I enjoyed this one more as it was a lot more thought-provoking and it had a lot of character.   At retail this wine sells for $135 for a 750 ml bottle but was on sale at 50% off. They also currently have ½ bottle 375 ml bottles that are on sale for $32.50. I was really tempted to pick one up.


The final pour was the 2007 Nightingale, a Sauterne-style wine that is a blend of 67% Sémillon and 33% Sauvignon Blanc. To make this wine they introduce Botrytis in an artificially controlled environment to simulate the natural conditions of Sauterne France. On the nose I picked up aromas of apricots, honey, graham crackers, orange blossoms and honeysuckle. It is medium bodied with a slight oily viscosity and yet it isn’t syrupy as it has good acidity and finishes clean. A very delicious wine that is well balanced and a really good facsimile of a Sauterne, but it doesn’t quite have the same acidity and prolonged finish of the genuine article. This wine sells for $40 a bottle.


To see more pictures, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:

To visit or for more information:

Beringer Vineyards

2000 Main Street

St. Helena, CA 94574

Phone: 1-707-967-4412; 1-866-708-9463

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