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Enjoying Wine and Beer in the Augusta GA area

Beringer Goes Back To The Future With Bourbon Barrels

Beringer Brothers Bourbon Barrel Aged Red Wine Blend 2016, California

Cost: $16-18

Stephen King once wrote, “Sooner or later, everything old is new again.”

That certainly is true in the world of wine. Beringer Vineyards, the oldest continuously operating winery in Napa Valley, has released several wines under the Beringer Bros. label, the original name for the winery.

Staying true to the Beringer heritage they age some of the wine in used bourbon barrels. When the Beringers started nearly 150 years ago it made good economic sense to age their wines in used spirits barrels because those could be bought cheaper than new barrels. That the wine became a little more interesting was just an added bonus.

Though only 20 percent of the wine is aged for 60 days in second-press charred American oak barriques which previously held bourbon, you do get a nice flavor addition. The wine doesn’t really taste like bourbon, but it’s got a little extra zing to it. (For the sauvignon blanc Beringer Bros. uses charred oak barrels which previously aged tequila.)

The Beringer Bros. Red Blend ($16-18) has powerful blackberry and caramel aromas. Petit verdot in the blend gives it an increased concentration of flavors, predominantly black cherry and blackberry, with a hint of toasted coconut. It is a gorgeous inky dark garnet in the glass. The lingering finish highlights a creamy mouthfeel with ripe tannins and integrated acidity.

The wine is 41 percent petite sirah, 21 percent syrah, 18 percent petit verdot, 9 percent cabernet sauvignon, 9 percent merlot and 2 percent other.

The packaging for this wine is much different than the normal Beringer wine. For one thing the bottle is shaped like a whiskey bottle. The label looks like a throwback to the 19th Century.

For even more fun you can download the Living Wine Labels app on your smartphone. Then, when you point the camera at the label, the Beringer brothers start talking to you. The app also works with other participating wineries’ labels.

The new packaging and the friendly price has brought a lot of attention to the brand. Beringer Bros. was the top new brand in the United States last year by dollar sales.

Besides the red blend, Beringer Bros. produces a cabernet sauvignon, a chardonnay and a sauvignon blanc. They’re all worth trying.

Winery: Jacob Beringer left his home in Mainz, Germany for opportunities in the New World, arriving in New York in 1868. The stories he heard about Napa Valley’s rocky hillside soil and fertile valley land convinced him the countryside would be like his native land, so he headed west.

After arriving in California, he became cellar foreman for Charles Krug, one of the first commercial winemakers in Napa Valley. Jacob’s brother Frederick joined him and together they bought 215 acres in St. Helena in 1875. The next year they celebrated their first harvest and first crush, making about 18,000 cases that year.

They were among the first to craft wines from Napa Valley’s finest appellations, planning to make wines that rivaled those from their homeland, Germany.

The family’s pioneering spirit continued throughout the 20th Century, as they made wines from all over the Napa Valley and ventured into other areas such as the Central Coast and Paso Robles. They even made sacramental wine during Prohibition to keep the winery open.

If you have been to Napa Valley you certainly have seen their historic Rhine House, built to resemble a gothic Rhine castle. The winery offers a variety of tastings there, in the Old Winery tasting room and on the porch. You also can tour the Rhine House and the Old Winery and tunnels. Beringer is a must-see on any visit to Napa.

Beringer produces cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, pinot noir, red blends, pinot grigio, merlot, sauvignon blanc, zinfandel and white zinfandel.

Although the winery is owned by Treasury Wine Estates, history has come full circle. Jacob Beringer’s great, great grandson Mark Beringer is now the chief winemaker, ready to create some new traditions.

The winery can point to many historic firsts and much critical acclaim. For instance, its 1994 chardonnay was the first white wine to top Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list, making Beringer the first and only winery to have both a white and a red wine named number one wine of the year.

Goes with: We had this beautiful wine with grilled lamb chops and mashed potatoes. It was a great combination, with the fresh fruit flavors of the wine playing off the savory lamb.

I love lamb partly because every time I eat it I remember the picnics put on by my grandfather’s Czech lodge in Chicago. They would serve beef, pork and lamb for $1 a plate that included slices of meat and a couple of slices of thick bread. With the lamb you could watch someone spit roast it over an open fire.

Now it’s easier to enjoy lamb. I just buy lamb chops, rub herbs and spices into them and roast them on my grill. Sometimes I take rosemary twigs and insert them in the chops to give them more flavor.

One of my favorite ways to fix lamb is get a small rack of lamb, trim off the fat and cut it into individual lamb chops that include the rib bone. These are often call lamb lollipops because you can hold them by the bone and eat the tender, juicy loin portion.

This wine also would pair well with steaks, pork chops, duck, rich beef stews, grilled hamburger or hearty cheeses. It also is good to sip by itself.


If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at dennis@bottlereport.com

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