Beringer Bros. Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Deep ruby color; black cherry, cedar, chocolate on the nose; black cherry, ripe plum, vanilla, hazelnut, caramel, chocolate, bourbon barrel oak on the palate.

Beringer Bros. Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Dry; smooth, reserved tannins; balancing acidity (3.72 pH). Medium-full body. Soft, ripe, jammy. Blend of 77% cabernet sauvignon, 11% petite sirah, 10% merlot, 2% other. Fermented in stainless steel, then 20% of the wine aged in second-pass charred American oak barriques previously used for aging bourbon; 14.5% ABV.

Beringer has figured out how to do bourbon barrel aging. Pleasing restraint in a category where the gimmick can be overdone. Beringer Bros. is the Beringer Vineyards label for wines aged in barrels once used for spirits—bourbon or tequila. Mark Beringer, the great-great-grandson of founding brother Jacob Beringer is the winemaker. He earned a degree in enology at California State University–Fresno. Mark started his career at Benziger, then joined Duckhorn and became VP of winemaking. He next went to Artesa as VP and winemaker.

Jacob Beringer

In 2015, Mark came back to his Beringer beginnings as chief winemaker to follow in footsteps of Laurie Hook, now winemaker emeritus. “I’m absolutely thrilled to be making wines for the very winery that my ancestor built, and be part of the next chapter in this important story of Beringer and of the Napa Valley,” Mark notes on the winery’s website.

Beringer is a brand of Treasury Wine Estates, an Australian-based global winemaking and distribution operation that traces its roots to Penfolds Wine and Foster’s Group beer brewers. Treasury is a major international player in the wine world, making wine in 12 countries, selling more than 35 million cases of wine a year, and generating more than $2 billion in sales. Labels you may recognize include Sterling, Stags’ Leap, Beaulieu Vineyard, Beringer, Chateau St. Jean, Acacia Vineyard, Blossom Hill, Rosemount, Walking Dead, 19 Crimes, Greg Norman Estates, Lindeman’s, Wolf Blass, and their flagship—Penfolds.

Beringer has a history outside Treasury Wine Estates. It claims to be the oldest continually operating winery in California. Jacob Beringer arrived in California in 1869 and became cellar foreman for Napa wine pioneer Charles Krug. In 1875, Jacob and his brother, Frederick, purchased 215 acres in St. Helena. That property, known as Los Hermanos (The Brothers) became the heart of the Beringer wine operation. In 1876, they produced their first wine, some 18,000 cases. The winery continued making wine during Prohibition by specializing in sacramental wine. The website (link below) provides a detailed and interesting timeline.

Beringer Bros. Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 features rich, ripe red and dark fruits. Jammy sweetness. Very smooth. Restrained and effective use of the current vogue/fad of bourbon barrel aging. I have been put off by several bourbon barrel efforts in the past, but Beringer—and hopefully others—are figuring out how it works. This may be sipped solo as a “cocktail wine,” also paired with comfort food in general—burgers and sliders, meatloaf, pizza. Lacks the heft and tannic punch to be ideal for rich, grilled red meats. Would work with lamb, pork loin, grilled chicken. $15-18

Beringer Bros. website

Laurie Hook–Beringer
Mark Beringer
Beringer vineyard
Beringer Knights Valley Vineyard