2005 Leaning Oak Cabernet Sauvignon
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 II
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to our friends at Beringer, and secure an exclusive wine that, until now was only available through the Beringer tasting room
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Beringer Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2005 Leaning Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker: Laurie Hook
Backgrounder: Napa Cabernet Sauvignon continues to dominate as the leader in California red wine. For good reason, too, as Napa produces some of the richest and most delicious examples on the planet. Today’s wine is a perfect blending of 40% St. Helena Cab and 55% Chabot Cab, 4% Steinhauer Cabernet Franc and 1% Malbec. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report for the full briefing
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark burgundy, with deep concentration of color to its edges and right through the dark heart of the wine. When swirled, this wine appears tight and bouncy and it settles fast. When it does settle down, it leaves behind thin legs that take a long time to emerge, before they run slowly down the glass
Smell – Lush and layered with deep aromas of smoky mixed dark berries, dark plum and black cherry with vanilla, soft cedar, spice, chocolate dust and just a hint of green pepper
Feel – Light and soft on entry, this wine starts bright and light, then becomes slightly grippy on the mid-palate as fine tannins grip the edges of the tongue
Taste – A happy interplay of balanced light and dark flavors, this wine first shows off bright fruit of raspberry, current, cherry, and cassis – followed by dusky earthen plum, dark cranberry and spice. These are complimented by an under-layer of cola, chocolate and softest green pepper
Finish – The wine starts bright and fun, then finishes darker as flavors take a long and lingering time to taper off
Conclusion – This is a standout wine that showcases the finer winemaking ability of Beringer’s winemaking team! Delivering a fantastic array of aromas and flavors, this balanced wine is really fun to drink. We enjoyed sipping it on its own and discussing the myriad characteristics of the wine. It should be pointed out that the brightness of the wine makes it an outstanding compliment to a fine meal. Where many a Napa Cab might tend to overpower a meal, this wine is fine enough and bright enough to pair easily with most foods.
What follows is the retelling of one of our previous missions to Beringer, in which Agent Red describes how he is able to procure winery-only exclusives from this great Napa Valley icon. The following text refers to a Beringer Syrah. Today’s wine, their 2005 Leaning Oak Cab, is an even better wine – and that’s really saying something:
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 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
About This Wine:
The 2005 Leaning Oak Cabernet is a blend of 40% St. Helena Cab and 55% Chabot Cab, 4% Steinhauer Cab Franc and 1% Malbec. Reflective of the superior vintage, the 2005 Leaning Oak Cabernet shows notes of black cherry and spice with a hit of vanilla on the nose that leads to layers of rich black fruits and spice. Beautiful now but will benefit from bottle aging.
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.
Winery Tier: Leaning Oak
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Napa Valley