Beringer Chardonnay from Napa Valley, California.
Sometimes itís easier to taste upscale wines myself rather than getting a bunch of people together around a fancy meal. While thereís more for me, thereís less conversation and the chance of missing out on something perhaps a bit hidden in the wine. As youíll see, todayís wine was hardly hidden.
Jacob Beringer left Germany in 1868, first for New York City and then later to Napa Valley in northern California, where he found the soil similar to that back home near the Rhine. Beringer is the oldest continuously operating winery in Napa Valley. Napa Valley land is probably the most expensive agricultural land in the United States. The Beringer estate is on the National Registry of Historic Places, and the winery is proud of its state of the art technology. This wine carries the name of the winemaker emeritus, Ed Sbragia, who is very well known in winemaking circles. The present winemaker, Laurie Hook, can trace her origins to a chateau-owning family in pre-Revolution France. On a perhaps discordant note, I reviewed a Beringerís White Zinfandel in my weekly $10 wine column about a year ago. Todayís companion wine is a very inexpensive Chardonnay from the hopefully up and coming region of Abruzzi in central Italy.
Letís start by quoting the marketing materials. Tasting Note†: Ultrarich and full-bodied, with deep, ripe pear, apple, and spicy hazelnut notes that turn smooth and creamy, gaining depth and focus on the finish. Drink now through 2012. Score Ė 92 (James Laube at the winespectator website, June 30, 2009). And now for my review.
Napa Valley vineyards, the most expensive agricultural land in the US.
At the first sips this wine was very subtle and multi-layered with burnt oak. A little went a long, long way. The first meal was a honey and garlic barbecued chicken breast. This Chardonnay tasted of toast. It had light acidity and was very mellow. When accompanying potatoes roasted in chicken fat, the Chardonnay gained strength. It had lots of oak but was by no means oak juice. Actually, as the meal went on I started to resent the wineís oak. The other side dish was Moroccan style carrots with cumin and sliced green olives. The wine had pleasant acidity but too much oak. With dessert, fresh pineapple slices, the oak was somewhat muted but frankly, there wasnít much else.
The next meal was a broiled Atlantic salmon filet marinated in a nectar made from the juice of the agave (cactus) plant. The wine presented toast and caramel, lemon and caramel but as the meal progressed the oak came back. When paired with broiled brown mushroom caps the wine was long with some fruit. But in the face of okra in tomato sauce with coriander, once again oak predominated.
My final meal started with puff pastry and spinach appetizers. This Chardonnay presented round acidity, honey, caramel, and oak. The main dish was a broiled shoulder veal chop covered in thyme. Caramel was perhaps on the plus side. Can you guess what was on the negative side? The accompanying tomato, onion, green pepper, artichoke, and jalapeno, lime salsa was almost powerful enough to deal with the oak. Almost. With fruit juice candy everything was muted, even the oak.
Before tasting the two cheeses, I started with schmaltz herring in oil which tamed the oak and I got caramel and fine acidity. My first cheese was a marbled cheddar. Maybe the oak has left this ďold bottle.Ē With a more interesting Swiss cheese there was no oak and thatís good. There wasnít much of anything else and thatís bad.
Final verdict. Do you have to ask? I simply canít understand the rave reviews. I donít buy many bottles in this price range and would not buy this wine again. I donít think it was a bad bottle, simply a disappointing bottle. My supplier offers dozens and dozens of wines from Beringer. Maybe Iíll taste an inexpensive or moderate priced one somewhere down the line. But Iím not rushing.
One additional point: We would love to hear and publish your opinion
about this wine.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would
rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario
French-language community college. His wine websites include
www.theworldwidewine.com and http://www.wineinyourdiet.com
Visit his website devoted to Italian travel www.travelitalytravel.com
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