Typically, when a winery produces several “ranges” of wines, meaning price levels, they will use an alias for their lowest price tier, I suppose as to not besmirch, or cheapen, the image of their main brand. Examples include Concannon, and their budget priced stepchild Glen Ellen, or Frei Bros. and their Cheapskate line, Redwood Creek. Beringer is a bold exception to that thinking. In The Store, as we speak, are Beringer bottles from $4.99 (what I paid for this Cabernet) to $105 for a Private Reserve Cabernet, with many points in between, including a “big stack”, “super buy” Cab at $65.
Beringer is among the earliest of the Napa valley wineries, the oldest in “continuous operation”, in Beringer’s own words. They were started by German immigrant brothers in the latter 1800’s. They also were one of the pioneers in recognizing the tourist value in wine making, and Napa specifically, opening to visitors in the 1930’s. The Beringer family sold to Nestle in 1970, and today Beringer is part of Australian company Treasury Wine Estates. Treasury was the winery owning part of the beverage company Fosters, of Foster’s Lager fame, but Treasury was spun off as a separate entity quite recently.
This particular Cabernet Sauvignon is labeled California Collection by Beringer, and carries the appellation simply California. The higher priced Beringer products are labeled Napa Valley or Knights Valley, which is actually in Sonoma. To achieve the intended price point of the California Collection line, well under $10, the winemakers must allow for getting the best deal on grapes, no matter where they’re grown within California. They may come from an area not prone to achieving the ripeness, or as flavorful a character as, say, Napa. But I feel confident in saying that Beringer can’t buy and produce substandard product. With the Beringer name on the label, they can’t just crank out a wine likely to disappoint. It may be the skills of the winemaker in blending or fermenting that make these inexpensive offerings palatable, but how it’s achieved is really irrelevant here in the Cheapskate range-just whether (or not) they do.
Among the varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon is, to me, the charcoal gray suit in the closet. Not nearly as lively or cool and relaxed as the khaki shorts Pinot Grigio, or denim shirt Shiraz, or blue blazer Zinfandel. But, even if it came from the budget rack, if it fits well, and the fabric breathes, and it’s paired with the right tie, that suit can deliver a comfortable, sophisticated, confident experience. So it is with this Cab. The two bottles of this we picked up laid in the rack for weeks before we opened one. We would reach for the more “colorful” wines on hand, thinking it just wasn’t a Cab night. But a couple evenings ago Wife had a delicious hunk of beef prepared, and Cabernet was the obvious choice. Now, I must admit, I’ve have not ever tasted a $65 Cab or a $105 Cab. So, I can’t comment on this most bottom “range” relative to those from gated neighborhoods. Perhaps those will whisper in your ear as you drink them, or do the dishes after dinner. But this one was very enjoyable. There is a hint of wood, a slight spiciness, and “dark” fruit flavors-date, maybe raisin. Nice. Not as “detailed”, or overtly fruity and colorful as many of the recently consumed varietals and blends, but more subtle and even, like a gray suit. Once in awhile, it feels good to dress up. Once in awhile.