Napa Valley is famous the world over for its wines, and Beringer is the most famous of its wineries. When immigrants Jacob and his brother Frederick Beringer made their way to Napa Valley for its rocky hillside soil and fertile valley floor — so similar to the vineyards back home in Germany — little did they know that their passion for wine would still be alive and well nearly a century and a half later.

Napa Valley

Beringer, apart from being one of the first wineries in Napa Valley, has also established many “firsts” in the wine industry. It was one of the first gravity fed facilities and among the first to operate using hand-dug caves and cellars. It was also the first to give public tours in 1934, starting a Napa Valley hospitality tradition. Beringer is the first and only winery to have both a red and white wine named #1 Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator Magazine.

Filipinos are quite familiar with Beringer. It is available nearly where all wines are distributed after all. But ubiquity is not a mark against its quality. All the wines in Beringer’s acclaimed portfolio, from the famous White Zinfandel to its Private Reserve, are of high quality, pleasing to the palate, and they’re just delicious to drink.

Last November 28, Beringer hosted an intimate lunch at Blackbird for the media to meet with Mark Beringer, the Chief Winemaker of Beringer Vineyards. The wines highlighted at the luncheon came from Beringer’s Founder’s Estate and Regional Estate alongside Blackbird’s exceptional food.

The first course was served with a flight of white wines: Beringer’s Founder Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Founder Estate Chardonnay, and Regional Estates Napa Valley Chardonnay. Each one has its own distinct taste of citrus and fruitiness. The Founders Estate whites are crisp and acidic, but the Regional Estate Chardonnay has a more rounded flavor, surprisingly creamy, with hints of lemon meringue and toasted almonds!
Regional Estates Napa Valley Chardonnay
The Beringer whites were paired with Blackbird’s Pumpkin Agnolotti, Sweet Onion, and Sage Soubise
The second course came with a flight of reds: Founders Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Regional Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and Regional Estate Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The reds each have their own interpretation of the rich scarlet flavors of dark fruits. The Founders Estate Cab is rich with toasted oak and spice; Napa Valley is full-bodied, with the aromas of boysenberry with notes of leather and dark chocolate; Knights Valley has soft and silky tannins with raspberries and black cherries with a touch of licorice and mocha. They had a surprise addition with is the 2014 Quantum Napa Valley, a blend that highlights the outstanding terroir of Beringer’s many Napa Valley Vineyards.
The reds paired perfectly with Grilled Flat Iron, Horseradish Potato Galette, Thyme-roasted Mushroom, and Red Wine Jus; The menu finishes with a palate cleanser–White Chocolate Panna Cotta, Strawberry Sorbet, Milk Crumbs, and Marinated Strawberies
Mark Beringer, Beringer’s Chief Winemaker and the great-great-grandson of the founding brother Jacob Beringer

Wine at any time of the day inspires great conversation. We got to chat with Mark about being a Beringer, and what he recommends having when one just tasted too much wine:

What’s it like to grow up in a winemaking family?

Well, my family sold the winery back when I was a young child. I was only three years old when they sold it. So, finding my way back into the wine business was almost backward, I came back to it. I grew up working in wineries because it was the area that I grew up in. But I didn’t really come back into the company until three years ago.

What was the earliest memory you have about wine? When did you first taste it?

It was probably in the Thanksgiving holiday Dinner, and I was about seven or eight years old. I always remember wine being around, but it was the first time that the adults let me have my own glass of wine. It was a small glass, but they didn’t put water in it or anything. And I remember going to bed early that night.

Do you still remember what you thought about it?

I remember it being a white wine and being sweet, and it was with the turkey and everything. I remember thinking it was really good. I kept drinking it and drinking it, and they kept giving it to me. And it was probably the first time I had too much wine!

You have to have really good palate to be able to distinguish the different flavors in the wine. Do you think that it runs in the family or it’s something that could be developed over time?

I think there is some hereditary piece to it that you have to have the tools, the palate — just as people could have a good sense of smell. So it’s something you are kind of born with. But on top of that, it’s like being a musician. You have to practice. You can’t just pick up a guitar and play; you have to practice. It’s the same way with wine. Repetition is important. We taste a lot of wines every week. During harvest, every day. We taste a hundred wines. It’s that process that makes you very tuned and very precise.

Do you ever get tired of drinking wine?

There are some days when I get to my limit. When you taste over a hundred wines, you kind of get tired of it. But you give it a little break, and you get back to it.

So what do you drink on your break?

Because I taste so many big red wines all the time, especially during like the harvest season we just finished, I love coming home and having a nice crisp Chardonnay. It kind of breaks it up. It’s refreshing. It gives a crisp acidity. It cleans the palate to be able to get back so I can taste red wines again.

Which one’s your favorite among the Beringer wines?

Right now, it’s probably our Private Reserve Chardonnay. I just had a bottle the night before to came here with my wife. And we had it with a little bit of caviar, and I had a great night with my wife before I hit the road for a couple of weeks.

If someone is just starting with wines, which one would you recommend?

I recommend starting with the lighter whites. Our Founder’s Estate Chardonnay we had today is refreshing. It’s a little bit sweet, nice and fruity, an excellent introductory wine. If you’re getting past the sweet wines, you know. A lot of people start with the White Zinfandel, or something like that, the sweet pink wines. But if you go past that to the dry whites, the light whites, until eventually Chardonnay.

Winemaking has been around for centuries, do you see any innovation coming up?

There are a lot of innovative technology in the winery and vineyards, but really, what we try to do the most is to preserve the vineyard, the soil, and the wine, and try not to tinker with that too much. So it’s very traditional, in the sense. That’s really the key. But with innovation, we do see a lot of technology coming up in being to monitor fermentations in real time and being able to control it in a more refined way. As winemakers, we have a lot more control over every single piece of the puzzle.

Stef Juan is a freelance writer, whenever-there’s-time blogger, and mother of floofs. She currently holds the title of Tita of the Year. Stef is always game to try new drinks, no matter how weird or scary-sounding they may be. She loves the concept of the aperitivo (mainly because she also loves to eat) and would love to explore more aperitif twists out there.

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