2009 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival – Beringer Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Vertical Tasting

beringer_tastingOn Wednesday, I donned a suit and made my way for the first time into the Vancouver Club for the Beringer Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Vertical Tasting. I had really been looking forward to this for 2 reasons. Number 1 was that it seemed like a great way to spend a couple of hours on my birthday. Number 2 would be that I’ve always liked Beringer’s high-end wines, but don’t necessarily feel flush enough to lay out the cash to bring them home. So, a tasting like this lets me fill that desire without killing my wine budget.

Ther Beringer Private Reserve Cabs aren’t what you New World nay-sayers out there may picture. There’s an elegance to their dark fruit. It’s like a regular (insanely tasty) Napa Cab, but put through a stone-laced filter and then wrapped in silk. It’s the more fashionably-dressed cousin to the power-suit wearing Napa Cabs we all know.

Upon entering the room, a rich aroma of Cabernet-produced dark cassis gently embraced my nostrils… I took a seat and was happy to see glasses filled with Beringer’s Private Reserve dating from 1993 – 2004. A few vintages were skipped (due to availability in Canada), but the lineup looked promising. There were 9 in total.

Beringer’s very likeable head winemaker, Laurie Hook took over the room and as well as taking us through the wines, filled us in on stories and the history of the winery and its people.

OK, it’s a busy week, so I’m going to get into the wines.

1993 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: First out of the gates was the oldest wine they brought. The 1993 was still very youthful, with dark cherry, cassis, mint, cedar and a tobacco-like edge to the very tannic finish. It was chewy. I rated it 4.5 (or a 91 for you folks who like things on a 100-point scale – I did that for this tasting because really, was there a lower wine in the bunch?).

1995 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Next up was the 1995. This was again, very youthful, with black cherry, blackberry, nuts, cocoa, herbs, leather and a bit of a floral edge. I rated it 4.5 (or a slightly higher 92).

1997 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: This was a real crowd-pleaser. It had the refinement of the previous 2 with a bit more going on. It came down to whether this or the 2001 was my favourite of the tasting. It was slightly darker in colour and was just plain epic. There was all that dark fruit, cocoa and cherry along with a lasting and balanced finish that reminded me exactly why I love this stuff. Rated 4.5 (or 94).

1998 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: This wine came from what is considered a poor vintage, but drinks incredibly well. It was noticeably more austere and smooth in the mouth. It had fruit that just seemed more “red” as opposed to black. In the mouth, it was silky and complex with a nice herbal edge to the red fruit and mineral. Very elegant. Rated 4.5 (or 91).

1999 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: This one was probably my least favourite of the tasting. On the nose, there was mint and eucalyptus along with cedar and cherry. The flavours were there, but didn’t make me go, “Yum”. It had a bit of a green edge. Rated 4 (88 points).

2000 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Tight. That’s what this wine was… and I’m not 100% convinced it’s going to be one to evolve into a mind-blower. It was good, but right near the 1999 in my mind. There was the dark fruit, along with some cocoa and cherry leading out to a mineral-laced finish. Don’t get me wrong. I’d happily drink it, but it’s not up to some of the other bottles in the tasting. Rated 4 (88 points).

2001 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Yum. According to Laurie, this was a “Christmas morning vintage” – on one of those Christmases you received everything you wanted. They had perfect fruit and great picking conditions, which leads to a great wine. It’s big without being massive and fit my palate to a “T”.  This was a fave of many folks in the room. It had silky licorice-edged cassis and cherry fruit, along with blackberry, cocoa and brambles. Wow. Tasty stuff. Rated 4.5 (or 95 points).

2002 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: After the 2001, I was due for a bit of a coming down, but this held up respectably. The fruit was softer and showed some earthy “red”-ness. The cherry and herbs made for a velvety and elegant wine. Rated 4.5 (or 90 points).

2004 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: The last wine of the day was quite a bad boy bit of juice. It was dark, chewy and complex. I loved it. It may have been my #3 wine of the day. Ripe blackberry, dark cherry, cocoa, and herbs all came together for a heckuva’ tasty bit of juice. Rated 4.5 (or 93).

Apparently some of these are in stores, so if you see one (and have the cash in pocket) I’d really recommend giving some of these a go.

~$160 in LDB stores here in BC.