Pipe and Pint Grape Notes – Vol.1/Ch.6
Let’s take a breather today after the southern Rhone tour and have a sip of something that brings us back to the heart of Napa Valley. Beringer Vineyards is a winery that many of us are probably familiar with and that has been rooted in Napa for a long time. Now the question is whether or not our familiarity is driven by Beringer’s long heritage or by the fact that their selection of wines spans a very, very large range. Does that matter you ask? Well, I recently had someone approach me and ask about a bottle of Beringer Quantum Red that we currently have on display with a small poster above the bottles, advertising a 92 Point rating. “How is it possible that a Beringer wine can get 92 points?” was the question, followed by “I’m familiar with Beringer wines but all the stuff I see is usually sold in grocery stores or sometimes even gas stations for much less than $10”. I proceeded to explain that while Beringer does indeed sport a large retail presence predominantly with its lower-end products, it also produces and in fact built its foundation with many phenomenal and high-quality wines. If you have ever had the chance to taste a Beringer Private Reserve or one of their single vineyard bottles, you will probably agree with me that these wines are about as far away from the $3.99 White Zinfandels that so commonly occupy retail shelves as a Corvette ZR1 is from a base-model Chevy Cruze.
Now just like the Chevy Cruze gets you from point A to point B reliably, the entry-level wines from the big wineries like Beringer (there are plenty of other examples out there such as Mondavi and Kendall Jackson) serve a purpose as low-cost dinner companions for everyday drinking. Granted, these wines are mass produced and won’t wow you with infinite layers of aromas and complexity but keep in mind, they weren’t designed to do that either. While it is debatable whether or not having such a large selection and plenty of low-cost wines is beneficial for the wineries from a branding perspective, don’t let that fact ever hold you back from trying some of the higher quality wines from these producers. Trust me, when I say they definitely know how to make those as well, just like Chevy can make an iconic Corvette.
And that brings me to today’s wine. The Quantum Red Blend is part of Beringer’s Distinction Series of wines which in terms of hierarchy is situated below their top-of-the-line Private Reserve and Single Vineyard wines. It’s a relatively new series of wines that unlike the very traditionally produced Private Reserves and Single Vineyard varieties, grants the winemakers Mark Beringer and Laurie Hook a certain level of, let’s call it, creative expression. In the case of Quantum it is the ability to blend different grape varieties from a variety of Beringer’s different vineyards, with the goal of showcasing the uniqueness of each while at the same time creating something that is bigger than the sum of its parts. Hence the name Quantum! Were they successful at doing so you ask?
The short answer to that question is yes, very much so but let’s take a look at why that is the case. Antonio Galloni of Vinous, the aforementioned wine critic who scored Quantum with 92 points describes it as “a gorgeous wine…silky, nuanced and expressive” and I find “gorgeous” to be an extremely suitable descriptor. Quantum is primarily Cabernet Sauvignon from Beringer’s Howell Mountain vineyards and the core aromas of dark fruits, cherry, raspberry and plum clearly showcase that. Once you get past the fruit, you are treated to a mix of subtle leather, spice and mild tobacco along with some herbal/earthy notes which really add a nice layer of depth. What really wowed me though was the way all of these aromas came together as a whole which made the wine incredibly easy to drink. If you want to pick it apart you can but it will treat you with a balance and completeness even if you don’t. The Tannins are present but the Merlot grapes in the blend really provide a smooth, silky mouthfeel which again is carefully counteracted by a slight hint of minerality and pepperiness (careful use of Petit Sirah). I tasted this both on its own and as a companion to a nice steak dinner and it was able to shine in both settings. There’s just something about a dark ruby wine to go along with a nice piece of meat.
Quantum is definitely not an entry-level priced wine and it shouldn’t be. It’s a higher end wine and a great example of careful grape selection and skillful winemaking techniques that result in a gorgeous, easy to drink wine that you really can’t go wrong with if you are looking for something big and bold with balance. It definitely does the Beringer name justice, in fact much more so than the white Zins and I encourage everyone not to let those ever discourage you from picking up a bottle of Quantum. After all, would you turn down a drive in a Corvette just because of all the Cruze’s on the road? I didn’t think so!