New Customers Save $30 off $100+* with code SEPTNEW30
New Customers Save $30* with code SEPTNEW30
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Put them all together and you have the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve, a sensational 14,000-case cuvee that is one of the benchmarks for what Napa Valley is capable of achieving. Its dense purple color is followed by copious notes of smoky barbecue, creme de cassis, white chocolate, blackberries, charcoal and truffles. Full-bodied, fleshy and succulent, with sweet tannins in the finish, this 2002 has not yet hit full maturity. Give it another 2-4 years of cellaring, and drink it over the following two decades. I asked the winemaking team what the final blend was for the 2002 Private Reserve, and to the best of their recollection, the largest component was from Steinhauer Ranch (50%), followed by St. Helena Home Ranch (23%) and tiny percentages of Bancroft, Rancho del Oso, Chabot, Marston, and some Cabernet Franc from Howell Mountain.
Ed Sbragia blends this wine from a selection of vineyards primarily on Howell Mountain and closer to the winery in St. Helena. On their own, these vineyards produce distinctive and ageworthy cabernets; Sbragia's selections of Chabot, Marston and Bancroft are among the top wines in the valley. The Private Reserve often blends away some of those distinctions, emphasizing winemaking style instead. To me, it often tastes like a well-heeled wine, glossy and easy to appreciate. This vintage goes beyond those straightforward charms. It starts off warm and fat, with spicy red berry flavors and a touch of bitterness in the tannin, then air begins to meld the fruit and structure, bringing complexity and a meaty richness. Check on it in ten years.
Here is a big, beautifully ripened, definitively varietal opus that is brimming with deep, well-extracted fruit and decked out with a full measure of very sweet oak. Its precise focus and its wholly impeccable balance place it at the forefront of the pack, and it never once hints at heaviness or heat. While fairly tannic, it is not in the least tough, and its essential juiciness perseveres to the end. Those with a taste for young Cabernet will find lots to like even now, but the real beauty of this compelling wine will only emerge with five years of time.
Huge wine, young and tannic, almost bitter now and not offering much relief. But of course you don’t buy Beringer PR tonight. There is indeed enormous Cabernet flavor deep down inside, offering oodles of blackberries and cherries and charry new oak, but there’s also a warning note of prune.
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.
A lesser-known but elite AVA within the larger Santa Barbara district, the Santa Maria Valley AVA runs precisely east to west starting near the coast, allowing Pacific Ocean air to funnel through and cool the vineyards. This allows grapes to ripen evenly and achieve their full potential by harvest time. Combined with minimal rainfall, consistent warm sunshine, and well-drained soils, this creates an ideal environment for grape growing.
Many of the wineries here are small and highly respected, having established a reputation in the 1970s and 80s for producing excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. More recently, Syrah has proven quite successful in the region as well. Many vineyards here are owned by growers who sell their grapes to wineries, so it is common to see the same vineyard name on bottle from different wineries. Bien Nacido is perhaps the best-known and most prestigious.
One of the most difficult yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is commonly referred to by winemakers as the “heartbreak grape.” However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. More reflective than most varieties of the land on which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality, and demands care in the vineyard and lots of attention in the winery. It is an important component of Champagne and the only variety permitted in red Burgundy. Pinot Noir enjoys immense popularity internationally, most notably in Oregon, California, and New Zealand.
In the Glass
Pinot Noir Is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and lively acidity. It ranges in body from very light to the heavier side of medium, typically landing somewhere in the middle—giving it extensive possibilities for food pairing. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount), it can develop hauntingly beautiful characteristics of fresh earth, autumn leaves, and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon, ocean trout, and tuna. Its mild mannered tannins don’t fight with spicy food, and give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry—chicken, quail, and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, it can even match with heavier fare. Pinot Noir is also very vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
Pinot Noir is dangerously drinkable, highly addictive, and has a bad habit of emptying the wallet. Look for affordable but still delicious examples from Germany (as Spätburgunder), Italy (as Pinot Nero), Chile, New Zealand, and France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions.