2004 Napa Valley Syrah
Syrah •Marston Vineyard
California: Napa Valley
What we say
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Today’s wine is available only at the Beringer Winery in St. Helena. So, how did we manage to procure a small allocation for you today? We could tell you, but, you know…
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Mission Codename: The nectar of the Titan – redux
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to wine colossus Beringer Vineyards and return with another of their excellent and exclusive limited-production wines
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Beringer Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2004 Syrah Napa Valley – Single Vineyard – Marston Vineyard
Winemaker: Laurie Hook
Backgrounder: The Wine Spies tend to focus on missions to small wine producers, but when reports flood in from our field Assets, we listen – and launch missions accordingly. When Central Command kept receiving reports of a particular Winery Direct Only (only available to consumers at the winery or the Beringer website) Single Vineyard Syrah from respected wine producer, Beringer Vineyards, Agent Red was dispatched to the historic winery in St. Helena in California’s Napa Valley. Read the mission report below for full details.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep and inky Burgundy with a nearly black heart. The wine also has a pronounced snappy surface that, when swirled, settles fast, leaving behind skinny, slow-moving and tightly-packed legs that crawl slowly down the glass
Smell – Beautifully and darkly aromatic with deep blackberry, black currant, licorice, tar, dusky earth, cocoa and softly smoky meats
Feel – Ultra-light at first – and ultra-light for a Syrah, this wine starts fast and light across the front of the tongue, then it settles in around the edges, gripping gently with fine tannins
Taste – Delicious layers of youthful flavors, including dark mixed berry, black cherry, licorice, dark chocolate and plum with bakers chocolate
Finish – Bright and lively Juicy and rich, mouth-coating, delicious and elegant, with soft tannins and flavors that start sweet, then go tart as flavors tail off
Conclusion – This unique Syrah stands as an excellent example of just how great a wine from a big producer like Beringer can be! With a supple feel and soft tannins this brightly hewn wine is a delicious Spring Mountain Syrah from the superbly regarded Marston Vineyard, in Napa Valley’s pristine Spring Mountain district. The fruit in this wine, which grows in conditions that are a challenge at best, is youthful and bright, and ready to drink now. We feel that a few more years in bottle will really reward the patient with a wine whose character will only continue to develop and deepen. Decant for an extended period for best results, and pair with nearly anything.
Being good a Wine Spy requires an open mind, a refined palate and great Assets. Without our Assets, made up of confidential informants and other agents wine wine-industry wide, my work would be far more arduous.
When Central Command issued the directive to place a big winery under surveillance, I knew immediately that I should call upon one of my best assets, codename: Malbec.
Malbec himself maintains a network that penetrates deep into the industry. Malbec operates at the locus of of the industry where he maintains connections to top wine producers and wine-drinkers alike. Despite his sinister sounding name, Malbec is well-liked and deeply respected.
On this occasion, Malbec directed me to the Beringer Winery. What I knew about wine-giant Beringer was simple: For a mass-producer of wine, they were able to craft more than a handful of stand-outs each year. What I was soon to learn, was just how stand-out Beringer wines could be.
I rendezvoused with Malbec one rainy Napa day and we headed over to the tasting room. Once there, he asked specifically for their winery-only 2004 Marston Vineyard Syrah. Winery staff happily poured us each a glass and we swirled and sipped away the balance of the afternoon, enjoying the wine and extolling its many virtues. This was a great wine and my conceptions big winery wine was smashed to pieces.
The Marston Vineyard Syrah, which is not available outside of the winery (until today and only today), is a beautiful wine that drinks way above its price. When I inquired about the relative low price of the wine, a senior winery staffer informed me that since the wine is so limited and so exclusive that they could charge what they wanted for the wine. That, and they wanted to give visitors to their winery a special chance to bring home a special wine at a very special price. Pretty special, eh?
While this wine is usually only available directly from the winery, through special negotiations – and with the help of Malbec – The Wine Spies were able to secure a small quantity of this superb wine for you for today only!
This is a rich, elegant, robust but balanced Syrah that hits all of the right spots with us here at Wine spies H.Q. If you love great Syrah, this is a certain don’t-miss wine.
Wine Spies Vineyard and Winery Check:
The location of the Beringer Vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
Beringer Vineyards, Member, Napa Valley Vintners
Awards & Accolades:
“An outstanding effort that exhibits beautiful blueberry, black raspberry, and floral characteristics, less spice than expected, but lovely purity, medium body, and surprising elegance as well as length. It will benefit from 1-2 years of bottle age, and should drink well for 10-12.” – Robert Parker – Wine Advocate
About This Wine:
This wine exhibits a dense opaque purple color, copious quantities of blackberry, mineral, tar, and licorice aromas and flavors, medium to full body, and sweet tannin in the finish.
About The Vineyard:
Volcanic in origin and low in fertility, the soils of this historic mountain vineyard have for decades been highly regarded for both Bordeaux and Rhene varietals, primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Marston Ranch is actually a contiguous, multi-level string of smaller vineyards on the front and back sides of a hill in the Spring Mountain appellation just west of St. Helena.
About The Winery:
Jacob Beringer left his home in Mainz, Germany, in 1868 to start a new life in the U.S., enticed by his brother, Frederick, who had sailed to New York five years earlier and wrote home constantly of the grand opportunities to be found in the vast new world. New York did not appeal to Jacob, however. He had enjoyed working in wine cellars in Germany when he was younger and had heard that the warm, sunny climate of California was ideal for growing wine grapes. So in 1870 he traveled by train from the East Coast, first to San Francisco and then on to Napa Valley . To his delight, he discovered rocky, well-drained soils similar to those in his native Rhine Valley .
The volcanic soil was ideal for growing the same grapes found in Europe ’s great winemaking regions. Best of all, the hills could be dug out to provide storage and aging tunnels that would maintain the constant temperature needed to produce fine wines. Jacob and Frederick together bought land in 1875 and set about making wines that compared to the best in Europe . In 1876, they founded the Beringer Winery.
The tough task of hand-chiseling the tunnels in the mountainside behind the winery fell to Chinese workers who had returned to the Bay Area after helping build the Trans-Continental Railroad. The tunnels took several years to complete but were the perfect place to age and store fine wine.
Even today, the average 58°F temperature inside the tunnels makes them the ideal place for Beringer Vineyards to age fine wines and the newly restored Old Stone Winery, a popular focus for visitors, marks the entrance to this cool, subterranean world.
While the winery was being built, Jacob took up residence in a farmhouse on the property built in 1848, now referred to as the “Hudson House.” Meticulously restored and expanded, the Hudson House serves today as Beringer Vineyards ’ Culinary Arts Center . In 1883, Frederick permanently moved to the Napa Valley and began construction of a 17-room mansion that was to be his home—a re-creation of the Beringer family home located on the Rhine River in Germany . This unique “Rhine House” is the center of Beringer’s reserve and library tastings. It is a place where guests can enjoy a glass of wine while relaxing in the old library or on the same porch that Frederick once sat, overlooking the expansive lawns, lush gardens, and out across the Napa Valley .
Beringer Vineyards is the oldest continuously operating winery in the Napa Valley . In 2001, the estate was placed on the National Register for Historic Places as a Historic District. Jacob Beringer’s foresight in recognizing the quality and potential of grape growing in the Napa Valley is part of the living heritage of Beringer Vineyards . With the present use of state-of-the-art technology applied to age-old traditions, Beringer Vineyards ’ wines continue to reflect a single-minded dedication to the making of memorable wines from great Napa Valley vineyards.
About The Winemaker:
Laurie Hook – Growing up in Sacramento , California , Laurie Hook never dreamed of becoming a winemaker. “I didn’t even know the job existed,” she explains. “But then I found out that my family had owned a French Chateau (Chateau Olivier) before the revolution and it piqued my interest. Also, I loved history, science and agriculture, and the idea of doing something that connected you to the earth. And when I started tasting and reading about wine in college, I realized that winemaking brings all three disciplines together.”
Laurie transferred to the winemaking program at the University of California at Davis , training ground for noted winemakers in California and around the world. After graduation in 1984, she traveled to Australia to work in a small Melbourne-area winery for six months. “I did everything from pruning the vines, driving a tractor and harvesting the grapes to making and bottling the wine and even selling it. I got a real hands-on education as well as great travel. And I had the irreplaceable experience of looking up while pruning one day and seeing a kangaroo in the vineyard.” A harvest at a Sonoma County winery followed.
In 1986, Laurie came to Beringer as an enologist, a job that allowed her to solidify the scientific side of her training. In 1997, she was named Assistant Winemaker to Winemaster Ed Sbragia, and in 2000 was promoted to Winemaker for Beringer Vineyards.
“You can’t make wine only through science,” says Laurie. “ California winemakers learned that in the 1970s and early 1980s, when a highly scientific approach resulted in very clean wines but not necessarily very interesting ones. Of course you need to understand the process by which wines are made, but now we’ve learned to trust our intuition as well. And I’ve learned from Ed that making great wines—wines that are unique—means taking risks.”
While Ed developed the styles for most of Beringer’s wines over his 25-plus years at the winery, they continue to evolve as a result of the teamwork between the two winemakers. “When you’ve worked next to someone for almost 20 years, there’s a trust that builds and our wines benefit from that,” explains Laurie.
Laurie is a member of the American Society of Viticulture and Enology, the Trellis Alliance, and the Napa Valley Wine Technical Group. Outside of the winery, Laurie has a myriad of interests and hobbies revolving around travel, gardening, the study of history, collecting antique and regional cookbooks and funny quotes about wine. She’s also a passionate animal lover.