Beringer & Sharp
n 2015, after more than 20 years mastering the craft of making world-class wine at renowned California wineries, Mark Beringer literally returned to his family’s roots. Those were the roots his great-great-grandfather planted in 1876, which became Beringer Vineyards. Mark is now head winemaker, and he’s happy to say there’s no place like home.
“People always used to ask me if I was related to the Beringer wine family and then I’d have to tell this long story about how my family sold it and I took my own path and so on,” he says. “But now that I’m back here, it sure cleans up my story, and it’s allowed me to become the bearer of my family history.”
And it’s quite a history. Founded by Jacob Beringer nearly a century and a half ago, at a time when most people headed west to mine for gold, not plant grapes, Beringer is the Napa Valley’s oldest continually operating winery. Now that Mark is intimately familiar with the land, he knows exactly why his great-great-grandfather picked this spot in the valley to make his wine.
“When I walked through the vineyards at Beringer, I realized it’s this confluence of three different soil series that completely came together in this one place, which is very unique,” says the fifth-generation winemaker. “That was kind of my ‘Aha’ moment.”
To Beringer, this unique patch of land isn’t just the family legacy — it’s also the source of all the best qualities of its award-winning wines, such as the iconic Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which rose to fame in 1986 when named best expression of the year by Wine Spectator.
“My focus has always been about allowing the vineyards to speak,” Beringer explains. “It’s about lifting the fruit up and allowing it to express itself, allowing the terroir to show through in the wine. If you put too much oak on the wine or start manipulating it too much, then you can’t see the soil anymore. And I want to make terroir-driven wines that express this place.”
THREE ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS
What’s your favourite pairing?
Everybody naturally goes to red meat and big red wine, which certainly works, but I’ve found that shellfish, especially something rich like a lobster risotto or lobster bisque, is just phenomenal with our Private Reserve Chardonnay. It’s my favourite combination.
What’s the most surprising thing about winemaking in the Napa Valley?
A lot of people are surprised to find out that we don’t just sit around and sip wine all day everyday. I think most of us here have a lot of different interests and tastes. There’s actually an inside joke in the wine business about how it takes a lot of beer to make great wine.
Where would you rather spend your workdays: in the vineyards, or in the winery?
Definitely the vineyards. That’s where it all starts. And we have such beautiful vineyards in our portfolio, just walking through the vines is relaxing and gives you a chance to kind of talk to the vines. And they’ll talk back and tell you what you need to know. You can’t just look at a lab sheet to make decisions — you have to actually go out there and see what’s going on.