Editor’s Note: This is part three of our Napa Valley blog series. Follow along as Winederlusting Contributor Giana Pacinelli tours Napa Valley and offers us insight and insider tips on visiting this world-famous wine region. In this article, she discusses wine tasting at Beringer Vineyards within the St. Helena sub-appellation of Napa Valley. Click here to read Part II – Wine Tasting at Castello di Amorosa.
Second Stop: Beringer Vineyards in St. Helena
Background on Beringer Winery
Beringer Vineyards was founded in 1875 and is considered “the oldest continuously operating winery in the Napa Valley” largely due to the fact that is was the only winery that managed to stay open during the prohibition. It is listed under both the National Register of Historical Places and as a California Historical Landmark. On the property is the historic Hudson House, which was constructed in 1852. In 1883, the Hudson House was rolled on Redwood logs from the current site of the Rhine House and remodeled as a residence for Jacob Beringer, co-founder of Beringer Vineyards, who is also responsible for planting redwoods on the property.
The Hudson House was remodeled in 1989 to become the Beringer Vineyards Culinary Arts Center, home of the School for American Chefs. This established Beringer Vineyards as a credible source for food and wine pairings. The Hudson House now serves food to restaurateurs as a thank you for serving Beringer food and wine in their restaurants.
Wine Tasting at Beringer Winery
This was one of our two tours we took of the day – the Taste of Beringer Tour ($50) which included a brief walking tour of the property and demonstration vineyard, ending with a wine and food pairing in the historic Rhine House, with foods prepared by Beringer’s own Hudson House chefs. The tour is only available three times per day, and we took advantage of the 10:30am time slot. Because it was on the early side, our tour guide, Marina, started us off with a chilled Riesling that tasted very fresh and thirst quenching as we made our way through the grounds and learned about the history of Beringer.
- 2014 Private Reserve Chardonnay, Napa Valley, paired with roasted beets and lemon ricotta. Our first glass was ‘corked,’ which allowed us to learn about why restaurants have you swirl and smell your wine before pouring it and how to sniff out corked wine. ‘Corked’ is the term used to say that the cork, and thus the wine, has been contaminated with TCA. TCA is potent, but not dangerous, and can range from an incredibly strong smell (high with TCA) or a barely discernible smell. We opened a new bottle and compared the smells of the two. The ‘uncorked’ wine was light but heavy. It was their only white wine to win Wine of the Year. Although not a beets or lemon ricotta fan, paired with the Chardonnay was very light and enjoyable. *Editor’s Note: — corked wine is not uncommon, and any wine bottle that contains natural cork has a chance of having cork taint.
- 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, paired with flat iron steak with a fennel spice rub and red wine reduction. The Cabernet was very strong with quite a bite. Although odd to be eating steak in the morning, when paired together the bite was gone. There are under 500 cases sold annually of this particular Cabernet.
- 2010 Nightingale, Dessert Wine, paired with ginger cake with orange peel marmalade. This pairing was incredibly sweet, and definitely only used as a dessert wine, it was delicious.
Other Things to Note:
- In the next few weeks, Beringer Vineyards will be opening an edible garden on the property for the public to enjoy on their tour.
- They recently filmed Chopped Grill Masters: Napa edition, on the property, which coincidentally aired during our flight back home. During our tour, we stood where the chopping block had been. In partnership with Chopped, we received a ‘chopped’ inspired flat iron steak food pairing with our tasting.
- Beringer Vineyards goes on tours all over the country.
The wines were great. So great, that I signed up for their wine club (free) and, in doing so, was able to leave with one of their Cabernet’s for $1, although I wasn’t able to take the 2013 that we originally tasted because of its price point. Overall, I was not overly impressed with the tour itself. I think this might’ve been because the tour’s focal point was the pairing and the tour was only an hour long. That’s not to say that they don’t offer other tours that could’ve given me more what I was looking for. I would have preferred to explore the vineyards more than the actual grounds, however, the pairing made for an upscale and informative experience unlike anything else we did. I now have a new appreciation for Beringer wines and food pairings in general. Although I would not return the grounds on my next trip, I would recommend visitors of Napa to learn about Beringer’s affluent history in Napa and to try their food and wine pairings.