- Rating: 100 out of 100
- Tasting Fee: Free for Beringer Reserve Club Members
- Accepts Reservations: No
- Reservation Required: No, this was a one-time special event
St Helena, CA 94574
It’s a shame that some of my favorite wine experiences are those that leave me unable to take quality tasting notes. Traditionally, those are wine festivals and smaller walkaround tastings. This is an example of the latter. Most wineries offer member benefits to only their winery/brand/label. But because Beringer and Penfolds are owned by the same parent (Treasury Wine Estates), Beringer Reserve Club members had a rare opportunity to explore the full portfolio of Penfolds at no cost. While I can easily point to the Grange as the highlight of the evening, I thoroughly enjoyed tasting the other wines and even purchased some. Bottom line with Penfolds is that they make really good value wines and their premium bottles are priced that way for a reason.
Penfolds is one of the larger Australian wine producers and has a large portfolio that spans the spectrum of quality and cost (that reads eerily similar to my description of Beringer - maybe Treasury Wine Estates just has a type they look for). I’ve read the reviews on Grange before, but besides that wine, I didn’t know much of the Penfolds offering. So when I received the invitation email as a Beringer member and realized I’d be in town that weekend, my heart skipped a bit. As with most private events, I was afforded a +1, so I decided to take one of my co-workers with me.
Normally, I love enjoying the culinary scene of Napa, but I made sure to eat a bland lunch before the tasting. Trust me, the worst thing you can do is eat spicy food before drinking serious red wine. I also made sure to wear a polo and khakis, but it turned out to be unnecessary. Turns out people that like to spend money on wine don’t necessarily like to spend it on clothes, haha. But seriously, the crowd in attendance were serious wine lovers and I was the youngest person there by 15+ years. After checking in and starting with a really nice glass of Riesling, we were led inside to an open space with tables set up on the side that each had 3 bottles to taste.
As expected, my favorite table was the one with the most expensive bottles of the day: The RWT and St. Henri. Both go for $150 a bottle on Penfold’s website, which is pretty steep even by Napa standards, but they still need to be tasted. Although the RWT scored better with critics for being full-bodied, rich, well-rounded and having strong black fruit, I preferred the St. Henri for having a bit of black olive tapenade integrated with the profile in an interesting and delicious way. And full disclosure - I dislike black olives, so the fact it turned out great even in my opinion is pretty remarkable.
The $80 Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon and $100 Bin 389 Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon blend were also quite remarkable. Certain wine regions of Australia boast climatic conditions similar to Napa and therefore produce excellent renditions of Cabernet Sauvignon. While the varietal Cab sported impeccable structure, the blend had a bit of spice and a rounded mid-palate thanks to the Shiraz. At these prices, it’s hard to say I strongly recommend them as the other two bottles mentioned earlier show much more at $50 more.
Which brings us to the end of the tasting when the pièce de résistance was served: the Penfolds Grange. I would absolutely put this wine on the level of First Growths in quality, balance, impact, and finish. That is also likely why it has the price of a First Growth as well ($850 for the 2014 vintage on their website, though you can likely find it for closer to $550 if you look around). I do think that this wine is one of the great expressions of Shiraz/Syrah in the world, alongside Sine Qua Non, the Guigal La-Las, and the greats of Hermitage. Not many can afford a bottle of this wine, but if you can, you owe it to yourself to try it.
Again, I hope to conduct a proper tasting of Penfolds wines at some point (hopefully during a trip to Australia)!! But this initial look at the wines leaves me hopeful for the entire portfolio and has piqued my interest in Australian wines even more. I’ll need to satisfy that urge soon, but will need to wait for a winter trip (to arrive in their summer). But lesson learned - you never know what benefits you may stumble upon as a wine club member, haha. Cheers!!
Rating: 100 out of 100