A sensational 14,000-case cuvee that is one of the benchmarks for what Napa Valley is capable of achieving. Its dense purple color is followed by copious notes of smoky barbecue, creme de cassis, white chocolate, blackberries, charcoal and truffles. Full-bodied, fleshy and succulent, with sweet tannins in the finish, this 2002 has not yet hit full maturity. Give it another 2-4 years of cellaring, and drink it over the following two decades. I asked the winemaking team what the final blend was for the 2002 Private Reserve, and to the best of their recollection, the largest component was from Steinhauer Ranch (50%), followed by St. Helena Home Ranch (23%) and tiny percentages of Bancroft, Rancho del Oso, Chabot, Marston, and some Cabernet Franc from Howell Mountain. (RP)
Blackcurrant, cherry and cedar aromas mix with an earthier tertiary notes of leather and damp forest floor. Surprisingly bright and youthful, the tannins are soft and complex with balanced acidity and a long mature finish. This is the top wine of the Beringer estate, which was founded in 1876 and maintained operations through the Prohibition. It boasts and enviable set of vineyards from Howell Mountain to the floor of the Napa Valley. (RS)
(14.2% alcohol; 2% Chabot, 23% St. Helena, 7% Bancroft, 8% Marston, 5% Rancho del Oso, 48% Steinhauer and 7% Cabernet Franc): Good deep red. Very ripe, slightly roasted aromas of sweet fruit pastry and coffee liqueur. Huge and sweet if still a bit monolithic, with a wave of plush berry fruit washing over the palate. Finishes with substantial granular tannins and serious palate-staining length. This wine appears to be going through a closed stage today and still needs time in the cellar. (ST) 93+
Here is a big, beautifully ripened, definitively varietal opus that is brimming with deep, well-extracted fruit and decked out with a full measure of very sweet oak. Its precise focus and its wholly impeccable balance place it at the forefront of the pack, and it never once hints at heaviness or heat. While fairly tannic, it is not in the least tough, and its essential juiciness perseveres to the end. Those with a taste for young Cabernet will find lots to like even now, but the real beauty of this compelling wine will only emerge with five years of time. *Two Stars*
Ed Sbragia blends this wine from a selection of vineyards primarily on Howell Mountain and closer to the winery in St. Helena. On their own, these vineyards produce distinctive and ageworthy Cabernets; Sbragia's selections of Chabot, Marston and Bancroft are among the top wines in the valley. The Private Reserve often blends away some of those distinctions, emphasizing winemaking style instead. To me, it often tastes like a well-heeled wine, glossy and easy to appreciate. This vintage goes beyond those straightforward charms. It starts off warm and fat, with spicy red berry flavors and a touch of bitterness in the tannin, then air begins to meld the fruit and structure, bringing complexity and a meaty richness. Check on it in ten years.
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