Everyone knows Beringer Vineyards wines from their presence on chain store shelves everywhere. Mass market industrial plonk, right? Well, sort of, but Beringer is huge and does much more than just vin ordinaire. It is the oldest continuously operating winery in Napa Valley and was in private hands until 1971 when the Nestle corporation purchased it. Ed Sbragia made wines there for a total of thirty-two years starting in 1976 and served as head winemaker there since 1984. The company has now been purchased by its fourth publicly traded owner so for as long as he worked there Ed Sbragia only knew the corporate culture.
"Sbragia" is an Italian name. Ed's grandfather was a winemaker who emigrated from Tuscany to America at the turn of the last century settling in northern California. Specifically the Dry Creek area became home for the Sbragia family and Ed developed lasting relationships with peers in the industry so when Dry Creek's Lake Sonoma Vineyards became available in 2004 he jumped on the opportunity to start his own Sbragia Family Vineyards. Though still employed at Beringer in 2004 Sbragia purchased fruit from others to supplement what he grew at Lake Sonoma Vineyards before completing his winery purchase in '06. While he terminated his full time status at Beringer in '08 he remained a consultant for them for several years thereafter. Ed now operates the estate with his son, Adam, the fourth generation Sbragia in the industry.
At Beringer Ed Sbragia was known for the great reserve wines they produced, in particular his Chardonnay was received by both the critics and the public with acclamation. Today all ten Sbragia Family Vineyards wines are designated "single vineyard" with juice coming from nine vineyards which include fifty acres owned by the family. Sbragia sources high elevation Cabernet Sauvignon from both sides of the Mayacamas mountain range at Monte Rosso vineyard on the Sonoma side and Mount Veeder on the Napa side. He sources Chardonnay from Napa's Gamble Ranch and all other types from vineyards in Dry Creek and Alexander Valley.
"Bold, classic, intensely personal wines" says their website and while both the Home Ranch Chardonnay and Andolsen Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon sold equally well at our weekly store tasting, my vote goes to the Cab. As we said above Sbragia may be best known for his Beringer Reserve Chardonnays but his current circumstances may open all kinds of creative avenues for this acclaimed wine maker.
On Thursday the 14th at 5pm at our weekly tasting Ted Fields will present three from Rioja, Spain and a 2008 (!) red from southern Italy. Ted is a former college professor so expect to get a real wine education that night. Please join us!