As in past vintages, Ed Sbragia chose to barrel ferment and age the 1999 Sbragia Limited Release Chardonnay for almost ten months in custom toasted, new French Nevers oak barrels to encourage nutmeg and caramel notes. Malolactic fermentation and weekly lees stirring enhanced the wine's inherent buttery aromas and flavors and gave it a creamy, rich, viscous mouthfeel.
Early in the 1999 growing season, Beringer's vineyard manager Bob Steinhauer identifed specific blocks at Gamble Ranch Vineyard near Yountville as looking particularly promising. Each year, Gamble's rocky, alluvial soils produce grapes with incomparable richness and a high intensity of flavors. Bob was quite sure the grapes would at least achieve Private Reserve quality but he was hopeful that they might develop enough opulent, honeyed, ripe fruit characteristics to be chosen for Winemaster Ed Sbragia's Limited Release Chardonnay. As harvest approached, Ed and Bob both agreed that Gamble Ranch would produce the grapes best suited for the rich style of the Sbragia's signature wine.
The 1999 was an exceptionally long, cool growing season. Cool spring temperatures delayed bud break, flowering and fruit-set by about three weeks, and the weather remained moderate throughout the growing season. Ed and Bob waited as long as possible before harvesting, pushing the pinnacle of ripeness in the Chardonnay grapes that showed the best potential for richness and complexity, essential for the Sbragia Limited Release, to allow full development of aromas and flavors. The fruit from Gamble Ranch was handpicked so the clusters would be treated as gently as possible.
No winery or vineyard more thoroughly embodies the timeless appeal and seductive flavor of Napa Valley than Beringer Vineyards, Napa's benchmark producer since the establishment of the vineyard in 1876.
Now in its third century of crafting classic wines from Napa's finest appellations and vineyards, Beringer today is guided by the inspired partnership of celebrated Winemaster Emeritus Ed Sbragia and Winemaker Laurie Hook. Together, they craft Napa Valley wines that speak eloquently of the rich heritage of the Beringer Vineyard, while offering cutting-edge quality and contemporary elegance. The exquisite wines crafted at the Beringer Vineyards display a single minded dedication and pursuit of excellence instilled by its founder, Jacob Beringer.
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It's hard not to think of Napa Valley when thinking of California wines. The region is, after all, the one that brought world recognition to California wine making. The area was settled by a few choice wine families in the 1960's who bet that the wines of the area would grow and flourish. They were right. The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when vineyard lands were scooped up and vines were planted throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, from large conglomerates to small boutiques to cult classics. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux Blends. Whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie smaller sub-AVAs that lend even more character specifics to the wines. Furthest south is Carneros, followed by Yountville, Oakville & Rutherford. Above those two is St.-Helena and finally, just granted an AVA, Calistoga. These areas are situated on the valley floor and are known for creating rich, smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. There are a few mountain regions as well, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs. Those include Howell Mountain, Stags Leap and Mount Veeder. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from more time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country into itself in the wine world, California makes enough varieties and styles to match many European wine countries. It produces a diverse range of wines that span the quality spectrum.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.