St. Helena, CA
Founded in 1876 by brothers Jacob and Frederick Beringer, Beringer Vineyards is the oldest continuously operating winery in the Napa Valley. Frederick came to the United States from his home in Mainz, Germany, in 1863. Jacob, who worked in wine cellars in Germany, joined him five years later, but wasn't impressed with city life. So when he heard that the sunny climate of California was perfect for growing wine grapes he headed west, first to San Francisco and then to the Napa Valley. In 1875 Jacob and Frederick bought 215 acres and planted the same grapes found in Europe's great winemaking regions.
The brothers hired Chinese workers to hand-chisel tunnels in the mountainside behind the vineyards. It took many years to complete the tunnels. The average temperature of 58 degrees Fahrenheit made them the perfect place to store and age wines. Today the restored Old Stone Winery is a popular subterranean tourist attraction.
While the winery was being built, Jacob took up residence in a farmhouse on the property that was built in 1848. Today the Hudson House serves as the Beringer Vineyards Culinary Arts Center. Here Beringer proudly offers a wide range of wine and food pairings, and participants learn and experience firsthand how primary tastes in foods (salty, sour, sweet, savory, and spicy) change the way wine tastes. Presentations highlight how the dominant tastes in certain foods react with the wine's dominant tastes.
Today, the 17-room mansion, which Frederick had started to build in 1883 as a re-creation of the Beringer family home on the Rhine River, is the center for Beringer's reserve and library tastings. The "Rhine House" is an inviting spot for guests to enjoy a glass of wine and admire Frederick's old library or the expansive lawns and lush gardens from the adjacent porch.
With a past like this, it's not surprising that in 2001 Beringer Vineyards was designated a Historic District by the National Register of Historic Places. A variety of tours and tastings are available at this truly remarkable estate.
What to buy:
'04 Private Reserve Cabernet Black berries, toasty oak, mint, white pepper, cocoa, vanilla $115
'06 Napa Valley Private Reserve Chardonnay Hazelnuts, honeyed pineapple, poached pears, toasty oak $35
'06 Napa Valley Pinot Noir Cherry, raspberry, strawberry, sweet orange $25
'04 Howell Mountain Merlot Rich ripe black fruit, cedar, roasted coffee beans $75
707.967.4412; Fax: 707.963.8129
2000 Main St.
St. Helena, CA 94574
Tasting Room Open Daily June-Oct, 10-6; Nov-May, 10-5
Take Hwy 29 N to St. Helena Located at the north end of St. Helena on the left.