More Wineries and Tasting
Napa Wine Country with the Watsons -- April 26-29, 2001

(Posted April 30, 2001 © Herbert E. Lindberg)

After the tram ride at Sterling Vineyards we drove back into St. Helena for lunch. Then we headed back north a bit on Main Street (Route 29) to visit the Beringer Vineyard. The beautiful German-style home below is now a gift shop, and what was the dining room is now a tasting room.

Original home of Frederick or Jacob Beringer.

The main attraction of Beringer is their beautiful home and gardens, which have been turned into a virtual Disneyland since our last visit in the 70's. After looking briefly at the marvelous woodwork in the home we enjoyed the gardens for a half hour while waiting for a tour at 3:00 p.m. I took the picture below from the house veranda.

Gardens between the home and wine storage tunnels.

Our tour guide was a gentleman about 55 years of age with a quiet sense of humor. As always, the tour ended in the tasting room, where we had three wines, all mediocre. I don't know when Beringer wine went down hill, but their current owners (Fosters of Australia) haven't done much to improve the quality.

During the tour the guide told us that Richard Beringer came from Germany first and made a fortune in New York selling propane. He convinced his brother, Jacob, to also come to America. Jacob was more interested in wine making and came across an opportunity to buy 10,000 acres in the Napa Valley. The price was right but Jacob couldn't raise it so he made a deal with Richard to own half the vineyard if he would buy the land while Jacob worked it. Eventually, both build homes on the property that stand today.

Picture of Richard Beringer in tasting room.

I took these pictures of the Beringer brothers because Richard, the wheeler dealer, looks a bit like Len Schwer. Jacob, below, looks more reserved.

Picture of Jacob Beringer in tasting room.

As the house was built, two stained glass windows with images reminiscent of each brother were placed near the main entrance to the house in the living room. Here's Richard, a.k.a. Len Schwer:

Stained glass image of Richard Beringer in living room window.

From Beringer we headed back to the Ink House for (guess what?) wine tasting, presented by Donna of Sawyer Vineyards. Then we were off to a gourmet dinner at the Pinot Blanc in St. Helena. After three days of drinking and eating, I could hardly get out of my chair to drive back to the Ink House.

The next morning we packed to leave. Here are Mary and Sandy waiting in the living room while I brought down the last bags.

Ink House living room from stairs to second floor rooms.

We had time enough to visit two more vineyards before driving the return trip. We stopped first at Grgich, about a half mile south on Route 29. They're famous for their Chardonnay, with pictures on their walls of Clinton, Gore and other celebrities drinking away. Mary and I agreed that we liked our local Chardonnay just as well or better, at substantially less than the $18 for a bottle of Grgich. Their other wines jumped up to $32, $50 and beyond. My general impression of Napa Valley is that their wines can be excellent, but most are overpriced by 50% or more.

Then we were off to Sawyer to see Donna. She gave us a nice, friendly tour of their vineyard and wine cellar. Here she is below, tapping off tastes from a fermentation tank. Their oak aging tanks are in a cellar below the concrete floor. They grow all their own fruit on 40 acres, sell most of it, and make excellent wine with about 10 acres of it. We bought wine, a Christmas ornament, and a wine book. Then we were off home to Lake Wildwood.

More wine from the "barrel," at Sawyer Vineyards.

The new Prius performed well, averaging 48 mpg over the entire 358-mile trip.

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