By L. PIERCE CARSON
Register Staff Writer May 27, 2004
Beringer Vineyards first opened its doors to public tours and tastings in 1934.
The oldest continuously operating winery in the Napa Valley will mark its 70th season of summer tours with an expanded new effort designed to appeal to all segments of the wine market.
Now through October, visitors to Beringer Vineyards — an integral part of the large Australia-based Foster's beer and wine empire — will be able to sign up for one or more of five programs that incorporate not only tours and tastings but also feature seminars and food-related events.
Beringer's long-standing tradition of wine education and hospitality blossomed in the 1930s during the tenure of the winery's third winemaker, Fred Abruzzini. A tireless marketer with incredible people skills, Abruzzini turned Beringer Vineyards into a tourist destination through creative and innovative marketing techniques. Under his leadership, Beringer became a popular stop for Hollywood stars, most notably the WWII-era visits of Clark Gable, Carole Lombard and Charles Laughton.
Thanks to Beringer's sixth winemaker and its current winemaster, Ed Sbragia, Beringer, in 1984, became the first Napa Valley winery to offer reserve wine tastings to visitors.
And several structures on the Beringer property — all built before the turn of the 20th century — the Rhine House, Hudson House, Old Stone Winery and the wine-aging caves and tunnels — are officially recognized as part of an historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.
"We've learned a lot in 70 years," notes Diana Burkdoll, Beringer's hospitality manager. "Whether you are a first time visitor to the Napa Valley or a long-time St. Helena resident, odds are that there's something for you at Beringer Vineyards.
"Each of the tours and seminars (scheduled this summer) offers a different perspective on wine, from intimate classes on wine and cheese pairing principles to vineyard walks and cave tours focused on the history and heritage of Napa Valley's wine culture."
This summer's offerings at Beringer include:
Introducing Beringer — offered daily on the hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., this 30-minute tour incorporates a visit to the Old Stone Winery and aging tunnels and includes a tasting of a pair of current release wines. Cost is $5.
Vintage Legacy Tour — offered daily at 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., this 90-minute tour begins with a glass of Beringer Private Reserve chardonnay in the St. Helena Home Vineyard, part of the original winegrowing estate. Guests then proceed to the Old Stone Winery for a barrel tasting of pre-release wine, followed by a tasting of three current release wines. Reservations are recommended as a maximum of 14 people are permitted on this tour. Cost is $30 per person.
Wine and Cheese Seminar — offered by reservation only for groups numbering six to 12, visitors will learn the principles behind wine and cheese pairing at this sit-down seminar. Tasting will include five wines and four artisan cheeses. Cost is $30 per person.
Historic District Tour — offered daily at 10:30 a.m. for up to 20 people, guests will gain a unique perspective on the various historical sites on the property, including wine-aging tunnels, gravity flow winery built in 1877 and the landmark Rhine House which was completed in 1884. Following this look back at life in the late 1800s, the tour concludes with a tasting of four wines. Reservations are recommended. Cost is $18 per person.
Picnic at Beringer — offered at 12:30 p.m. Saturdays in July, August and September, this two-hour wine country picnic includes a vineyard tour and barrel tasting in the caves, followed by a three-course alfresco lunch in the Redwood Grove prepared by David Frakes, Beringer's executive chef. Reservations are required by Wednesday prior to the Saturday of choice. Picnics are scheduled for a maximum of 14 and the cost is $65 per person.
For tour information or to make reservations, call Beringer at 963-8989, extension 2222.