Tuesday, August 24, 2010

2008 Beringer Napa Chardonnay

A fine burgundian nose, toasty vanilla oak, minerally, but a bit of alcohol on the nose that's out of balance with the fruit. Similar on the palate, hazelnut perhaps along with the tropical fruit, maybe apple, peach and pineapple? The finish is dominated by alcohol but it's persistent and not unpleasant. Plenty of acid there and perhaps the alcohol will help preserve it and it will balance out in a few months. Still this is a very good Calif chardonnay, clearly superior to the Grayson which cost $9 on sale at CH Wine--this one is $16 at Harris Teeter and at the winery itself, but $9 (plus 10% tax in DC) from Calvert Woodley. As such it's hard to imagine a better chardonnay bargain. It blows away any Macon I've had in recent years. Maybe the Yalumba 2008 chardonnay was almost as good @ $10 if memory serves.

Anyhow, I'd say Beringer is the highest quality/price producer of chardonnay anywhere, when you consider that their private reserve is always wonderful and costs under $30, a price that can't get you a great chardonnay anywhere else. the Chasseur or Ramey single vineyards, and Newton unfiltered are all as good or better but they cost $50 and up. The Morlet and Peter Michael are $100+. Not to mention Burgundy itself where the entry price for the real villages (not Macon or Pouilly Fuisse) is $40 and the grand cru vineyards are $75+. The 1980 Beringer PR Chard was the first great chardonnay I ever tasted and I remember it clearly to this day; it has remained the most consistent terrific chardonnay you can get for a reasonable price. In 1980 the PR cost $12-14 in DC so 30 yrs later, getting it for $28 as I just did at Pearson's is a bargain given inflation which would make $12 in 1982 equal about $28 in 2010. In other words it hasn't gone up at all in real terms. I will have a review of the Private Reserve shortly.

Meanwhile this $9 baby from Napa will stand up to the Ramey Russian River, for instance, which cost $33 or so.

Here's Parker giving this wine 89 points (that's what I'd say, or maybe 90). I don't see how he can call the oak note "subtle" but he's the expert. Below that are the interesting notes on production from the winery. I swear I just looked at it, after writing the above evaluation. These notes say much of the wine was aged for 8 months in oak.

A sleeper of the vintage as well as a stunning value, the 2008 Chardonnay Napa ranks alongside some of the great bargains in California Chardonnay such as Kendall-Jackson’s Vintner’s Reserve. Orange blossom, lemon oil, peach, and pineapple notes are restrained, but noticeable in this medium-bodied, fruit-driven effort. A subtle note of oak provides structure and delineation. This, too, will drink well for several years.

From Beringer:

Beringer's Chardonnay vineyards span several sub-appellations in southern Napa Valley, where fog from the San Pablo Bay works its way north each afternoon during the growing season, cooling the vineyards and slowing sugar production in the grapes, thus allowing a longer maturation period, and maintaining the varietal's bright acidity. The cooler vineyards to the south produce grapes with crisp apple, pear and citrus characteristics, while vineyards closer to Yountville yield Chardonnay with a rich texture and tropical fruit aromas and flavors. Winemaker Laurie Hook chose complementary lots from each of these vineyards to craft a wine that exhibits bright fruit, richness and complexity, hallmark expressions of Napa Valley terroir.

When making the 2008 Napa Valley Chardonnay, Laurie kept each lot separate and used several different techniques to retain the fruit's brightness while developing its innate complexities. After the grapes were sent directly to press where the juice was gently extracted, half the wine was aged for eight months in French oak barrels (32% new) to enhance its natural richness and roundness. The remaining juice was stainless steel fermented to highlight the crisp, bright citrus and fruit flavors that Chardonnay grapes offer in abundance. Laurie chose to put 58% of the wine through malolactic fermentation, balancing the wine's lush mouthfeel with its bright fruit characteristics.

'Gamble Ranch makes up a third of the 2008 Napa Valley Chardonnay, accounting for the wine's luscious tropical flavors. Our Stanly Ranch vineyard in Carneros is also a large component of the blend, which added bright citrus notes and a lovely minerality. Flavors of roasted pineapple, ripe apples and lemon meringue are accented by aromas of vanilla and sweet citrus. The wine's bright citrus notes and nice acid balance are an ideal counterpoint to its rich, honeyed fruit flavors.'