Tag Archives: Napa Valley wine

Expensive wine 104: Beringer Vineyards Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Beringer private reserve cabernet sauvignonThe Beringer private reserve cabernet sauvignon is a beautiful wine – the kind that reminds me why I love wine and how lucky I am do this

The Beringer private reserve cabernet sauvignon ($100, sample, 14.5%) is Napa Valley red wine made to showcase the grapes and the terroir, something that is becoming a quaint, old-fashioned notion. That the wine has aged so well also speaks to its quality and the care taken to make it.

There is just the right amount of ripe fruit (black cherry? blackberry?), so that it fills your mouth but doesn’t overwhelm it. The fruit is preceded by a delightful green herb and mint aroma, and complemented by fine grained tannins, just the right amount of acidity, and a chalky sort of finish. Even the chocolate oak in the back is spot on – noticeable but not the wine’s reason for being.

In this, it’s a textbook example of balance – something one expects at a wine of this price but doesn’t see often enough. Beringer has been doing this with the private reserve for four decades, another impressive achievement.

Highly recommended, and if not a value, a fair expression of what a $100 wine should taste like. The 2007 will be difficult to find, but more recent vintages are readily available, though appreciably more expensive.

Expensive wine 93: Robert Biale Black Chicken Zinfandel 2014

Black Chicken zinfandelThe Black Chicken zinfandel takes wine where it’s rarely been before

In some 20 years of writing about wine, I’ve never tasted a wine that was drinkable that didn’t have both tannins and acidity. But there’s a first time for everything, as the Black Chicken zinfandel demonstrates.

That’s because the Black Chicken zinfandel ($43, sample, 15.3%) is all about fruit – luscious, burstingly ripe, sweet and rich and dark black cherry fruit. If you try hard – cock your head to one side and think about it while swallowing, maybe – you’ll taste some black pepper and maybe some baking spice. Let the wine sit for a bit, and there’s even some chalkiness on the back. But it’s hardly worth the trouble, because the Napa Valley fruit is so gorgeous that it demands all your attention.

But tannins? Nope. Acidity? Nope. How winemaker Tres Goetting does this is more than I can understand, but it works. This is a style of wine that makes me crazy, since it doesn’t consider balance worthy of consideration. But it’s worth tasting just to watch Goetting perform his magic.

And I enjoyed the Black Chicken zinfandel, with two caveats: First, though it’s not especially hot on the palate, you’ll feel the alcohol after a couple of glasses, and we didn’t finish the bottle. Second, that it’s more a curiosity than a wine to drink; the Limerick Lane zinfandel from the Russian Rivery Valley is more traditional and almost as pretty.

But if you want to wow your guests at Thanksgiving, and the price is in your range, it’s a fine choice. If nothing else, you can tell everyone you had a black chicken with your turkey.

Expensive wine 80: Grgich Hills Chardonnay 2012

grgich hills chardonnayWant a classic example of Napa Valley chardonnay, with the just right amounts of fruit and oak, a proper mouth feel, balanced alcohol, at a fair price, and that speaks to Napa’s terroir? Then you could do much worse than the Grgich.

This is not damning with faint praise; rather, it says much about how wine is often made in that part of California — score driven, price be damned, and that the consumer will buy the Winestream Media tells them to buy. The Grgich, which has been around longer than I have been writing about wine, takes none of that into account. The 2013 Grgich Hills chardonnay ($42, sample, 13.5%) is no exception.

Look for green apple, a little citrus, and even some peach tucked away in the back. The oak is there, of course, but it’s integrated and part of the wine — not a flavor in and unto itself. Perhaps the most important quality is the wine’s acidity, something most California chardonnays don’t worry about. It helps the wine taste fresh and clean despite its richness.

Highly recommended, and the kind of wine to give as a holiday gift, drink at this time of year, and enjoy anytime.

Expensive wine 21: Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Another reminder why points are worthless.

The Grgich ($60, sample) is a gorgeous, beautiful wine with all elements in balance, and it's only going to get better as it ages. It's a lesson in winemaking — how to produce a Napa Valley cabernet that speaks to the terroir without the excesses (too much oak, too much fruit) that drive so many of us crazy.

So what scores did this wine get? How about 89 points from something called the Connoisseur's Guide? How about 92 from the Spectator? I've got $10 wines that score that well. To add insult to injury, Robert Parker wrote: ".. high acids and high tannin give the wine a monochromatic, clipped, lean character that will not age out. Rather, the wine is likely to dry out."

All of that negativity, of course, is because the Grgich is a gorgeous, beautiful wine without any of the excesses that drive so many of us crazy and that earn the wines with the excesses such high scores. Look for black cherries and a rich, long finish without any of the sweetish fruit that the excess wines display — and, at the risk of offending Mr. Parker, this wine is not going to dry out.

This is a holiday wine for prime rib and Yorkshire pudding, or nuy it as a gift for someone you really like and who will really appreciate it. And, thanks to the recession, it's available for as little as $45 at a variety of Internet retailers.