St. Clement and Beringer

1 Jun

Today we had two appointments, at St. Clement and Beringer, both with the same owner. Their cabs were included in an all cab event at Pairins (see previous Blog, Good Wine is Where You Find It). We were surprised by the wines, how good they are without being over the top…lots of balance, integration with oak, and persistence…even minerality and acid for big reds. As a warm-up for the cab tasting, Michael Meagher brought a Sauvignon Blanc from St. Clement, which we love and brought into the store (though supply is limited). So for this trip we wanted to find out more about them first hand (this extends to Etude and Stags’ Leap tomorrow).

St. Clement is in a beautiful house, and on the small

St. Clement

side in terms of volume, with only 5 of their 13 labels distributed. You’ll have to go to the tasting room to taste and possibly purchase the other 8 wines. The Sauvignon Blanc we have at the store is not available for tasting or purchasing at the tasting room, a first in our experience (you have a good chance of finding it at Pairings, although we can’t always get it…tropical fruit, rather than citrus, is dominant for this wine…the type we like the best….but many people prefer the citrusy style of their other SB (Bale Lane), which we tasted during the visit.

Mariah was very gracious and friendly during our visit…a wine and food aficionado like ourselves. The Napa Valley Chardonnay (Carneros) is found in many restaurants, delicious and long – well balanced – 20% new oak, 80% used, and 8 months in the barrel.

Interestingly, all the reds see 19 months of oak, but the proportions of new and old oak vary among the wines. The merlot, which is distributed, has wonderful aromas, red raspberries and is nicely balanced on the palate. The 2009 Cabernet, also available in stores, is excellent. The 2008 Oroppas, which we have at Pairings, is a special wine, deep and complex, with blueberry jam, clove, cinnamon, etc. – drinking very well now. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon, it has a bit of merlot, cab franc and petit Verdot. The name is Sapporo backwards (from the oriental beer company that used to own St Clement). We also tasted 3 wonderful single vineyard cabernet sauvignons (100%), finishing up with the Steinhauer Ranch from Howell Mountain that was too good to dump (to explain…in order maintain ourselves, Lori and I spit and dump almost all the time, but some wines are just too good….).

Philipe hosted Lori and I in a scheduled private visit to Beringer. He’s been in the business a good while, with experience in various different jobs. Originally from France, we got to practice speaking French a little.

Philipe took us on a tour, in the old caves (now only a museum). Back in the day the winery got started by the Beringer Bros, one very into wine and the other who became rich as an industrialist and funded the winery. This allowed them to concentrate on quality, without having to worry about finances. Their approach was to use the best of everything. Many of you know Beringer primarily for their white zinfandel, which is a big financial success (which we have in the store because of customer requests but didn’t taste). In addition, they make several superb wines, which is the reason for the visit.

Later on, they were the first in CA to open up the winery to the public and promote Beringer with tourism. The brothers were originally from Germany, and built the Rhine House (see picture) in a German style….where we had a private tasting. Because they are known for their cabs, the surprise of the tasting was an excellent Pinot Noir, made in a true Burgundian style, elegant and spicy, balanced and complex. We re-tasted the Knights Valley and Private Reserve Cabernets, which are at Pairings. Both were featured in an all Cabernet tasting at Pairings. We finished up with Nightingale, a Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc botrysized dessert wine, a delicious alternative (at lower cost) than sauternes (which also is at Pairings).

Today’s activity was a hike in Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, located a little north of St. Helena. If you have a chance, hike up to Coyote Peak for views of Napa Valley as well as huge redwoods on the hike. We were happy not to see any dangerous wildlife this time.


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