I am no fan of White Zinfandel; of the way too many bottles of wine I have in my cellar, nary a one is White Zin. It has been years since I have consumed any, probably well over a decade or two. If I were offered the choice at, say, a wedding, between White Zinfandel and a Bud Light, let’s just say I would probably opt for sparkling water (although at a wedding where those were the only two choices of alcoholic beverages, I doubt they would have any San Pelligrino or Badoit, but that is another issue altogether).
So no, not a fan.
But I will defend its production to any and all who dare try to bash it or degrade it in any way. In fact, I might be the single biggest proponent of White Zin among those that neither produce it nor consume it.
It is fairly simple: the advent of White Zinfandel in the mid-1970’s at Sutter Home in Lodi not only resulted in the saving of countless old Zinfandel vines (many of which are over 100 years old today and producing some fantastic fruit that is going into premium red Zinfandel bottles) and has served as the “gateway wine” for countless aficionados, it also has been an incredible source of financial resources flowing into the California wine industry.
Among other positive outcomes, those resources have enabled several wineries to invest funds in vineyards, machinery, and wineries that may have been impossible otherwise.
Case in point: Beringer Vineyards, the oldest continually operating winery in California. Founded in 1875, the winery has since changed hands a few times (it is currently owned by Treasury Wine Estates), but since the early 1980’s, there has been one constant: Beringer churns out tons of what is arguably the most popular White Zin on the market.
All that pink juice (and its accompanying cash flow) has enabled Beringer to produce some truly remarkable wines, often at prices well below what they could fetch in the market. Beringer recently sent me a smattering of some of their higher end bottlings and with every sip of these fabulous wines, I wondered just how much White Zin “helped” in their production.
No, there was not a bottle of the Private Reserve (one of the icons in Napa Valley) in the box that landed on my front porch. And no single vineyard selections (often better than the Private Reserve in my humble opinion). But. All of these wines were fantastic—likely the best single box of samples I have received in the (nearly) six years of writing this blog.
2015 Beringer Luminus Chardonnay Oak Knoll District: Retail $39. OK, I was not expecting this. What was I expecting? I am not entirely sure, but I certainly did not think that I would be opening one of the better American Chardonnays that I have tasted this year, particularly in this price range. Lemon curd, a bit floral, and a touch of spice accentuate an otherwise rather reserved nose. On the palate, this is simply delightful: fruit, tartness, depth, balance. Really, really nice. In fact, this merits a Whoa. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2014 Beringer Quantum Red Wine Napa Valley: Retail $65. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah, Malbec. One of the titans of Napa Valley, Beringer first started producing wine in 1876, and the iconic winery on Main Street in St. Helena remains one of the top wineries to visit in the Valley. Chocolate covered cherries, tobacco, and a bit of leather are the first impressions; luscious dark berry fruit, vanilla cream, and ample tannins are found on the palate. Drink this now or wait a decade—there is plenty to love today, but no doubt more to relish in time. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2014 Beringer Knights Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: Retail $70. As I have stated before, I am not a big Cabernet guy–I do like a nice Cab, but it is not my go-to wine pretty much ever. On my birthday, however, my wife was out and I was alone for dinner. I opted for a Kobe beef ribeye and this bottle of Cab. Big dark raspberry fruit with vanilla and a bit of dark chocolate on the nose leads to loads of fruit on the palate. There is also plenty of depth–this is a big boy and complemented the rich steak. It’s not just a one hit wonder, thought, as there is plenty of acidity and a touch of tannin on the finish. Very nice. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2014 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley: Retail $60. Wow. I have to admit that on the first day, I was less than impressed, as it was quite closed and rather nondescript. But I sealed it and tried it again the following day. Wow. Dark red berry fruit (boysenberry, cassis), and bits of leather, tar, and even chocolate on the nose leads to a dense, weighty mouthfeel with brooding black fruit, vanilla, and very subtle oak. The ample but not obtrusive tannins encourage a bit more time in the cellar. If you oblige? Whoa. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.