By Rick Riozza
YEE-HAW! Stagecoach, California’s largest country music festival is headlining this weekend and goodness! Do I have a western-tinged wine line-up for your consideration.
Most of you wine enthusiasts are well aware of the fast-growing category of “bourbon barrel aged wines”. The wild bunch of millennials are quick to try these new wines on the western horizon, and now, we’re finding the old guard giving the wines a try—and are takin’ a liking to it, as the wine’s popularity increases.
Enter in: The Beringer Brothers. More than 150 years ago the Beringer brothers, Jacob and Frederick, founded a winery and distillery in Napa Valley, bringing forth a pioneering spirit and setting a standard for innovation that has helped Beringer become the oldest continually operating winery in Napa Valley.
Early on, they make some decisions for efficiencies sake, including aging some wine in used spirits barrels. And they made some spirits all the way through prohibition. Well—as they say…the more things change, the more they stay the same.
To honor the founders, Beringer has introduced Beringer Bros. Bourbon Barrel Aged wines, including a Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Red Cuvee aged for 60 days in charred American oak bourbon barrels, and, a just released Sauvignon Blanc aged in Tequila barrels once used to age Reposada Tequila.
Mark Beringer, the great-great grandson of Jacob Beringer, oversees winemaking for the new offerings, bringing the family connection full circle. And while honoring the past, the spirit of innovation continues with the Living Wine Labels app, which brings Jacob and Frederick to life, with a special request to consumers for help in spreading the word about the new wines.
Now you readers know I’m not big on the overly-done marketing when it comes to labels and bottle design—I’m more what’s on the inside. But I’m changing my tune quick when it comes to these bb bottles. The new wines not only feature a historic photo of the Beringer Brothers in front of the old winery distillery sign, but are offered in a traditional spirits shaped bottle using typography and colors common to the late 1800’s. Everything about the bottle and label design are so authentically old western that I do not wish to see another barroom movie set without these wines on the shelves. Hollywood has to pay some homage here!
The verdict is in and wine enthusiasts have come to realize that the unique aging and finishing process that come from used bourbon barrels offer consumers a bolder and richer wine. Since bourbon barrels by law need to be 100 percent new American oak, and heavily charred, there is an amazing amount of flavor remaining in the wood. Thus, we see with all four Beringer offerings a recipe or process that utilizes temperature-controlled stainless steel fermentation of each wine and then 20% is aged and finished for 60 days.
I recently had the pleasure to taste through these wonderful wines and accompany them with certain foods to see how they match up with meals. Also keep in mind that the wines are generally listed at around $16.99, which is a temping deal considering the quality of the wines.
The exciting new wine on the block is the 2017 Sauvignon Blanc. Here we have a unique varietal composition of 92% Sauv Blanc, 4% Albariño, 3% Chardonnay, and 1% Muscat. And to boot, the oak barrel used in this wine was previously aged Tequila! I’m knocked out with this wine. It’s both tasty fresh and complex; it takes Sauv Blanc to a new level with its dynamic richness.
Bursting with aromas of bright citrus, fresh herbs, with a hint of vanilla cream, that merges into the flavor profile. We enjoyed this wine with a chicken salad prepared as you would a tuna salad. The combo brought out fresh peach notes from the cream base.
The 2017 Chardonnay delivers everything that one would wish in a bold butter and oak Chard while maintaining a fresh and crisp quaff. That’s right: it’s the best of both worlds. Further, there’s a light smoky finish that keeps you aware of the barrel influence and how it transforms the typical Chardonnay.
This wine works well as chilled aperitif, and, we really enjoyed the wine with pan fried pork chops.
The 2016 Red Blend is a real crowd pleaser. Everyone seems to desire the bold fruit of the blend and now the bourbon barrel bumps things up. With Petite Sirah, Syrah, Petite Verdot, Cab Sauv, and Merlot, you’ll find the classic aromas of ripe black fruits along with the barrel influence of roasted hazel nuts and caramel.
The full-bodied blend has a creamy mouthfeel with ripe tannins and a well-balanced acidity that keeps things fresh and lively. A great finish of toasted coconut, violets, and black cherry. It can handle barbecue ribs and sausages and the acidity’s a good cleanser.
Lastly, the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon is a delicious treat for cab lovers, especially at the price! Further I love the combination of 77% Cab Sauv, 11% Petite Sirah, and 10% Merlot in the mix. It’s got all the black cherries, dark chocolate, and dark fruit jam flavors mixing in with the vanilla and oak notes from the barrel. The result is a very smooth fruit forward wine for those who desire that style; very tasty with a charred steak which can handle the sweet tone of the wine.
As you can tell, I’m very impressed with this portfolio at the listed prices. Indeed, I’ll be chatting with our corporate wine buyer with hopes that we carry all four wines on our wine aisle. Cheers!